Find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your ADA rights and businesses. Just click on a question below to read the answer or scroll down to read them all.
How does the Americans with Disabilities Act define public accommodations?
To be covered as a public accommodation under Title III of the ADA, a building must fall within at least one of the following 12 categories:
- Places of lodging (for example, inns, hotels, motels) except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms
- Establishments serving food or drink (for example, restaurants and bars)
- Places of exhibition or entertainment (for example, cinemas, theaters, concert halls, stadiums)
- Places of public gathering (for example, auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls)
- Sales or rental establishments (for example, bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers)
- Service establishments (for example, coin-operated laundries, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals)
- Public transportation terminals, depots or stations (not including airports or related places)
- Places of public display or collection (for example, museums, libraries, galleries)
- Places of recreation (for example, parks, zoos, amusement parks)
- Places of education (for example, nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate private schools)
- Social service center establishments (for example, day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies)
- Places of exercise or recreation (for example, gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses)
Can a facility be considered a place of public accommodation if it does not fall under one of these 12 categories?
No, the 12 categories are an exhaustive list.
Do both a landlord who leases space in a building to a tenant, and the tenant who operates a place of public accommodation, have responsibilities under the ADA?
Both the landlord and the tenant have full responsibility for complying with all ADA Title III requirements applicable to that place of public accommodation.
Are religious entities covered by Title III of the ADA?
No. Religious entities are exempt. A religious entity, however, would be subject to the employment obligations of the ADA (Title I) if it has 15 or more employees.
Are private clubs covered by Title III of the ADA?
No. Courts have been inclined to find private club status in cases where:
- Members exercise a high degree of control over club operations
- The membership selection process is highly selective
- Substantial membership fees are charged
- The entity is operated as a nonprofit
- The club was not founded specifically to avoid compliance with federal civil rights laws
Private clubs lose their exemption when nonmembers use them as places of public accommodation.
How is public accommodation discrimination defined under Title III of the ADA?
People with disabilities may not be denied full and equal enjoyment of the “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations” offered by a place of public accommodation.
Must a public accommodation make changes for people with disabilities?
Yes. A public accommodation must reasonably modify its policies, practices or procedures to avoid discrimination, unless making those modifications would be a fundamental alteration.
What kinds of aids and services does the ADA require to ensure effective communication with people with hearing or vision impairments?
For people with hearing impairments, services and devices may include:
- Qualified interpreters
- Assistive listening devices
- Note takers
- Written materials
- Real time captioning
For people with vision impairments, services and devices may include:
- Qualified readers
- Taped texts
- Brailled or large-print materials
Are there any limitations on the ADA’s auxiliary aids requirements?
Yes. The ADA does not require provision of any aid that would result in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the goods or services provided by a public accommodation. However, the public accommodation must furnish an alternative auxiliary aid, if available, if it would not result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden. For example, a mechanical lift may be an undue burden for a small convenience store to install. However, if a ramp would provide access, the store may be required to install that as an alternative.
What does the ADA require in new construction?
The ADA requires that all new construction of places of public accommodation be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in buildings under three stories or with less than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is:
- A shopping center or mall
- The professional office of a health care provider
- A terminal, depot, or other public transit station
- An airport passenger terminal
What does the ADA require of existing buildings?
Public accommodations are required to remove barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities.
Are there any limitations on the ADA’s barrier removal requirements for existing buildings?
Yes. Barriers must be removed only when it is “readily achievable” to do so, which means “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”
What are the ADA requirements for altering buildings?
All alterations that could affect the usability of a building must be made in an accessible manner to the maximum extent feasible.
How will the public accommodations provisions be enforced?
Private individuals may bring lawsuits in which they can obtain court orders to stop discrimination. They may obtain attorneys’ fees if they win the case. People may also file complaints with the U.S. Attorney General, who is authorized to bring lawsuits in cases of general public importance or where a pattern or practice of discrimination is alleged. In these cases, the attorney general may seek monetary damages and civil penalties.
- View our Businesses Resources page
- Read about our case work involving disability discrimination by businesses
- Get legal help
Last updated: September 03, 2020