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ADA Title III - Public Accommodations

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress in 1990 and included five separate titles. This law protects individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against in employment, transportation, communication, and access to public accommodations. The principles that underlie the nondiscrimination requirements of Title III include: equal opportunity to participate, equal opportunity to benefit, and receipt of benefits in the most integrated setting appropriate. [1] The Title protects individuals from discrimination in 12 general categories of public accommodation: lodging, food/drink, exhibition/entertainment, public gathering, sales/rental, service establishments, public transportation, public display/collection, recreation, education, social service centers, and exercise/recreation. [1] There are three kinds of entities exempt from Title III: religious entities, state/local governments (covered under Title II), and private membership clubs. [2] Regulations for Title II and III and Standards for Accessible Design were revised in 2010 responding to public comments on the original rules. [3]



From Title III, public accommodations are required to: [4]

  • Provide goods and services in an integrated setting.
  • Eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards.
  • Make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities.
  • Furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication.
  • 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.

Modifications in policies, practices, or procedures

Modifications in existing practices must be made to permit the use of guide dogs and other service animals. [4] In general, exclusions to this modification requirement can occur if the person’s participation would cause a direct threat to the health or safety of others. The public accommodation must determine that the risk cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by modifications. For example, an amusement park could be permitted to establish height requirements for some roller coaster rides. These restrictions must be based upon actual risks, and not speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations. [1]

Auxiliary aids and services

Auxiliary aids and services include a wide variety of options such as closed captioning, telecommunication devices, interpreters, taped texts, and speech synthesizers. It could also include much simpler things such as written versions of spoken tours and telephone handset amplifiers. Although public accommodations must provide some equipment and services to people with disabilities, they are not required to provide personal or individually prescribed devices (wheelchairs, eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc.). [1]

Architectural barriers

Existing facilities constructed before 1993 and new construction are treated differently under Title III. Newly constructed facilities must be "readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." Existing facilities need only remove architectural and structural barriers where removal is "readily achievable." [5]

Existing facilities

The Department of Justice has recommended a priority order for the removal of barriers: [6]

  1. Accessible approach and entry
  2. Access to goods and services
  3. Access to public restrooms
  4. Access to other items (water fountains, public phones, etc.)

Examples of barrier removal include: installing ramps, making curb cuts, rearranging furniture, widening doorways, and installing grab bars in restroom stalls. [4]

If unable to remove barriers, the public accommodation must provide alternatives for individuals with disabilities. Examples of alternative measures include: providing goods/services at the door or curb, providing home delivery, retrieving merchandise from inaccessible shelves, and relocating activities to accessible locations. [4] When alterations are made to a primary function area, an accessible path of travel must be made accessible. To the extent that added accessibility costs are not disproportionate to the overall cost of the alteration. [4]

New construction

Newly constructed places of public accommodation must be accessible except when structurally impractical. Only when the unique terrain prevent the incorporation of accessibility features. Elevators are not required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than 3000 square feet per floor, unless it is a shopping center, health care provider office, or public transportation station. Some examples of requirements for new construction to comply with ADA Accessiblity Guidelines are:[4]

  • At least 50% of public entrances must be accessible.
  • Every bathroom must be accessible. Only one stall must be accessible, unless there are six or more stalls , in which case two stalls must be accessible.
  • One TDD must be provided inside any building with four or more public pay phones.
  • Dispersal of wheelchair seating in theaters is required where there are at least 300 seats.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3, Disability Rights.
  2., Public Accommodations.
  3., Revised ADA Regulations 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5, ADA Title III Highlight.
  5. Daily Recorder, Title III Compliance.
  6., ADA Checklist.