Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities in places of public accommodations, commercial facilities, and private entities that offer certain examination and courses related to educational and occupational certification.
In order to comply with Title III of the ADA, commercial facilities are only subject to the requirement that new constructions and alterations conform to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Similarly, private entities offering examination or courses only have to offer an accessible place and manner or alternative accessible arrangements for individuals with disabilities. However, public accommodations have much deeper requirements in order to fully abide by this act.
Accessibility of Public Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities
The ADA defines public accommodations as private entities that own, operate, or lease places of public accommodation. Examples of public accommodations include stores and shops, restaurants and bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreation facilities, private museums and schools. In order to comply with the ADA accessibility guidelines, public accommodations must:
- Provide goods and services in an integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity.
- Eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the goods and services of a place of public accommodation.
- Make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless a fundamental alteration would result in the nature of the goods and services provided.
- Furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.
- Remove architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities where readily achievable.
- Provide readily achievable alternative measures when removal of barriers is not readily achievable.
- Provide equivalent transportation services and purchase accessible vehicles in certain circumstances.
- Maintain accessible features of facilities and equipment.
- Design and construct new facilities and, when undertaking alterations, alter existing facilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.
”Individuals with Disabilities
The civil right protections provided by the ADA offers comprehensive protections for individuals with disabilities. An “individual with a disability” is a person who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or
- Has a record of such an impairment, or
- Is regarded as having such impairment.
According to Title III of the ADA, some examples of physical or mental impairments include, but are not limited to, contagious and non-contagious diseases and conditions, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental retardation, emotional illness, specific learning disabilities, HIV, tuberculosis, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Furthermore, the ADA defines a “major life activity” to include such functions as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Enforcement of the ADA and its Regulations
Private parties that believe they have been discriminated against due to a disability may bring lawsuits under Title III of the ADA to obtain court orders that will stop the discrimination. Although no monetary damages will be available in this type of suit, reasonable attorney’s fees may be awarded.
Individuals with disabilities that have been discriminated may also file complaints with the Attorney General. The Attorney General is authorized to bring lawsuits in cases of general public importance or where a “pattern or practice” of discrimination is alleged. In suits brought by the Attorney General, monetary damages and civil penalties (not exceeding $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation) may be awarded.
Individuals with disabilities have a right to be free from discrimination under Title III of the ADA. If you feel that you or a loved one have been discriminated because of a disability, contact an experienced disability lawyer to learn about your rights under the ADA.