Chapter 8: Legal Rights and Legal Assistance Resources
Section 1: Disability Laws and Complaint Procedures
Subsection A: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information and Technical Assistance Sources
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability-based discrimination in employment, state and local government programs, transportation which serves the public, public places (such as businesses and commercial establishments) and telecommunications (largely telephone services). Title II of the ADA applies to state and local government programs and thus applies to public schools and to many colleges and vocational schools.
This webpage will show you which free publications you can order or view on-line. Call the phone number above to order the publication you need. Publications are available in standard print as well as large print, audiotape, Braille, and computer disk for people with disabilities. The general categories for publications include:
- ADA Legal Documents;
- General ADA Publications and Information;
- Business and Non-Profit Service Providers: Technical Assistance Manuals and Publications; and
- State and Local Governments: Technical Assistance Manuals and Publications
This program provides up-to-date information and technical assistance to any interested party. Whether its a small business owner, a corporation or a person with a disability. Through the ADA Information Line you can receive information relating to ADA requirements or order free publications. The ADA Materials promotes compliance to all entities, small business, non-profit, or corporation and state and federal governments. The ADA Speakers Bureau provides expert speakers at selected national and regional conferences and training sessions.
Employers with 15 or more employees may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, compensation, benefits, or any other conditions of employment.
"Qualified" means that the applicant or employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations. Generally, employers must provide reasonable accommodations - equipment or modifications that allow a person to perform the job - unless an undue hardship to the employer would result.
Employers may not discriminate against a qualified employee or applicant because of the disability of a person with whom the applicant or employee has an association.
ADA does not require employers to hire or retain employees who pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others in the workplace.
Title I is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Charges may be filed in person, by mail or by telephone by contacting the nearest EEOC office. If there is not an EEOC office in the immediate area, call toll free 800-669-4000 or 800-669-6820 (TDD) for more information. To avoid delay, call or write beforehand if you need special assistance, such as an interpreter, to file a charge.
Time requirements for filing a complaint of employment discrimination: Timelines for filing ADA employment discrimination complaints are the same as those for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Charges must be filed with EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. However, in states where there is an antidiscrimination law and an agency authorized to grant or seek relief, a charge must be presented to that state or local agency. Also in such jurisdictions, you may file charges with EEOC within 300 days of the discriminatory act or 30 days after receiving notice that the state or local agency has terminated its processing of the charge, whichever is earlier. It is best to contact EEOC promptly when discrimination is suspected, so that timelines are met and your complaint can be considered.
Individuals who allege employment discrimination based on disability can go to court, but only after they have gone through the appropriate administrative complaint process and have been issued a "right to sue" letter by EEOC.
Title II prohibits disability-based discrimination in public transportation services run by state and local governments. Newly purchased public transit buses must, in most cases, have wheelchair lifts. Transit systems must provide paratransit (or site to site transportation) for persons whose disabilities prevent them from using the fixed route bus system. Standards for accessible transit vehicles and paratransit vehicles are developed by the Access Board.
Although paratransit must at least be "comparable" to fixed route service, ADA does not actually require public transit systems to provide more transportation to people with disabilities than they offer to the general public. In communities with meager public transit, ADA requirements may not produce good transportation access to the community.
Title III covers transportation provided by private entities, such as intercity bus companies. Businesses such as hotels, which also operate transportation services, are subject to Title III.
Transportation provisions enforcement: ADA Assistance Line for information, questions and complaints
800-877-8339 TDD: use relay service
Transportation - documents and questions
TTY: use relay service
Transportation - legal questions
TDD: use relay service
Or write to:
Director, FTA Office of Civil Rights
East Building - 5th Floor, TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
Title II applies to state and local governments and also to public transportation services provided by these governments. The U.S. Department of Justice enforces the state and local government provisions except for transportation, which is handled by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Title II provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination by a department, agency, special purpose district or other instrumentality of a state or local government."
Under Title II, state and local government facilities, services and communications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Employment discrimination by these government entities is also prohibited.
Services must be provided in an integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity.
State and local governments must eliminate unnecessary eligibility criteria or rules that deny people with disabilities access to needed services, unless such rules are justifiably necessary to provision of a program or services.
Rules that tend to screen out disabled individuals - such as requiring a driver's license for identification - must be eliminated. Entities must modify policies and procedures as needed to assure citizens with disabilities equal access, unless doing so would fundamentally change the program involved.
State and local governments must conduct their programs so that, when viewed in their entirety, they are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
Title II of ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are overlapping laws, but complaints for either can be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice. Note: Justice enforces three sections of ADA: Title I: employment with state and local government; Title II: programs, services and activities of State and local government; and Title III: public accommodations and commercial facilities.
How to File an ADA Title II or Section 504 complaint: You can print the complaint form from the Internet by going to: http://www.ada.gov/t2cmpfrm.htm. The form should be completed and sent to:
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Disability Rights - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530
Title III prohibits disability-based discrimination by private businesses which are considered to be public accommodations, and by commercial facilities. These include businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, doctors' offices, theaters, hotels and other lodging, day care centers, parks, professional offices and other businesses which serve the public. Many places of recreation, entertainment, education and public gathering are covered by Title III. Licensing and testing practices are subject to Title III provisions as well. Warehouses, factories and offices are considered commercial facilities and are affected by Title III. Private transportation is a public accommodation and subject to Title III but enforcement and complaints related to private transportation are handled by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Private clubs and religious organizations are excluded from ADA's public accommodation definition.
ADA requires that newly constructed public accommodations and commercial facilities be accessible, but provides some leeway for older facilities to make their services accessible without having to meet all the standards of new construction. If barrier removal or correction is readily achievable, then a business must make the modification needed.
Businesses must make reasonable changes to their policies if this is needed to give customers with disabilities equal access to goods and services. They may also be required to provide auxiliary aids and services - such as TTYs, assistive listening systems, or braille or a reader for a blind person - so that such individuals can have an equal chance to participate or benefit. Service animals may accompany their owners on public accommodation premises.
How to File a Title III Complaint: If you feel that you have been discriminated against by an entity covered by Title III, send a letter with this information to the address below:
- Your full name, address, telephone number and the name of the person discriminated against (if different);
- The name of the business or entity you believe has discriminated;
- A description of the acts of discrimination, the date or dates of the discriminatory acts, and the name or names of the individual(s) you believe discriminated; and
- Any other information you think is necessary to support your complaint.
- Also send copies of relevant documents. Do not send originals, but keep them for later use.
Sign and send the letter to:
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530
Under Title III individuals may bring private lawsuits to obtain court orders to stop discrimination. A person can also file a Title III complaint with the Department of Justice, which may, after attempts to settle the dispute, file suit in federal court to end the discrimination and to obtain money damages and penalties. Penalties for Title III violation are capped at $50,000 for a first offense and $100,000 for a subsequent offense.
If you want your complaint to be resolved through the Department's ADA Mediation Program, write "Attention: Mediation" on the envelope.
For more detail on how to file a Title III complaint go to: http://www.ada.gov/t3compfm.htm
ADA Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. Title IV requires that telephone companies provide telephone relay service, both within states and nationally. Standards for relay services are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- For Documents call 202-418-0260 Voice or 202-418-2555 TTY
- For Questions call 888-835-5322 FCC Toll Free TTY Number or 202-418-0976 Voice or 202-418-0484 TTY
FCC Disabilities Rights Office
Information on closed captioning, video description, telephone hearing aid compatibility, telecommunications relay services, E911-TTY compatibility, web site accessibility, state relay and equipment distribution programs, Section 508 of the Rehab Act and Telecommunications Act. To visit their website follow this link.
The ILRU Southwest ADA Center is the Southwest's leading resource on the Americans with Disabilities Act and related disability rights laws. The Center is part of the ADA National Network funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the Department of Education.
The Southwest ADA Center serves a wide range of audiences who are interested in or impacted by these laws, including employers, businesses, government agencies, schools and people with disabilities. Expert staff members are available to provide training and publications and to respond to your inquiries via the toll free hotline 800-949-4232!
The Access Board is an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. Created in 1973 to ensure access to federally funded facilities, the Board is now a leading source of information on accessible design. The Board develops and maintains design criteria for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment and for electronic and information technology. It also provides technical assistance and training on these requirements and on accessible design and continues to enforce accessibility standards that cover federally funded facilities.