The Americans with Disabilities Act seeks to ensure equality for people with disabilities—in employment; access to public entities and transportation; access to public accommodations and commercial facilities; and in the opportunity to utilize and take advantage of telecommunications services. While the law provides a wide array of protections, it can be difficult to decipher. With so many businesses and facilities still in violation of the law’s provisions, many of its protectees often find enforcement difficult to pursue and harder to achieve.
Fortunately, www.ADA.gov was developed as a resource to demystify the ADA and help people understand how the law contributes to accessibility in the world around them. This resource, administered by the United States Department of Justice, will connect persons with disabilities to advocates, government attorneys and mediators to assist you in the enforcement and protection of your civil rights.
ADA.gov offers a wealth of information and resources, a few of which I would like to outline below.
Definitions & Regulations
The website contains a large repository of information explaining the Americans with Disabilities Act and its implementing regulations. The raw text of Title II and Title III of the ADA can be read online, or downloaded in PDF format.
Having this information at your fingertips can be valuable when facing discriminatory behavior. With the law in hand, or accessible via your smartphone, you’ll be able to answer questions about accessibility and better understand your rights? Is that sidewalk supposed to have a curb cut? Is the design of your hotel’s difficult-to-use roll-in shower ADA compliant? Is that complimentary shuttle service actually equivalent? Are the seating accommodations at the movie theater acceptable? You’ll have answers to these questions and many more close at hand, 24 hours a day.
Guidance Materials for Businesses
The Department of Justice regularly produces documents outlining ADA requirements for the benefit of businesses and government entities. While these are distributed widely, many businesses remain unaware of their existence and, by extension, their responsibilities under the law. These Technical Assistance Materials explain the ADA in more direct language and cover a wide range of areas, including guidance for parking lots/spaces, swimming pools, polling stations, sidewalks and curb ramps, law enforcement, hotels and more.
When facing a violation, it’s a good idea to share the relevant guidance documents with the person responsible for or in charge of the organization. As an example, when I encounter hotels without a wheelchair accessible shuttle, I share this link with the hotel’s manager. It clearly outlines the requirements for complimentary shuttle services and makes clear that most shuttles without a wheelchair ramp or lift violate the ADA.
File A Complaint
Should you encounter an ADA violation, it’s important to submit that in the form of a complaint to the Department of Justice. You can file a complaint directly through ADA.gov, by clicking “FILE AN ADA COMPLAINT” from the website’s homepage.
As of writing, there is no backlog of complaints and new submissions are generally reviewed within one to two weeks. A large majority of these submissions are directed to an attorney for review and action, or to a mediator who will seek to resolve the complaint between the parties involved (that’s you and the violator). A small number are returned without action (you’ll be notified a month or two later via postal mail), which typically occurs when the reported violation is minor or when there is not enough to successfully pursue legal action.
Complaints are easy to file and take only a few minutes to complete, so I strongly urge you to do your part and take advantage of the resource that is offered. The U.S. Government is ready and willing to enforce the law and protect your rights. And the next customer with a disability is counting on you to stand up for accessibility and report the discriminatory behavior you encounter. We’re all in this together, so let’s do our part and stand up for equality and accessibility!
Have you visited ADA.gov before?
Have you submitted an ADA complaint?
Let me know in the comments below!