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FAQs: Business Groups

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a civil rights law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination and provides for equal access and opportunity. Former President George Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.

The ADA applies to situations in these five areas:

  1. Employment [Title I]
  2. State and local government [Title II]
  3. Public accommodations (private businesses) [Title III]
  4. Telecommunications [Title IV]
  5. Transportation and miscellaneous provisions [Title V]

Definition of Disability under the ADA

The ADA prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability. Specifically, the ADA protects three categories of individuals:

  1. Individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
  2. Individuals who have a record of a physical or mental impairment.
  3. Individuals who are regarded as having an impairment, whether they have an impairment or not.

The ADA does not include a list of covered disabilities under the law. Therefore, to determine if you are covered under the law, you need to determine if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

The definition of disability does not include simple physical characteristics, common personality traits, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages.

The ADA also excludes coverage for individuals who currently use illegal drugs, certain sexual disorders and preferences, and compulsive gambling, kleptomania, and pyromania.


FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions on ADA National Network

What is the ADA National Network?

The ADA National Network consists of ten (10) regional centers funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under the U.S. Department of Education.

The ADA National Network (formerly known as DBTAC - Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center) is the leader in providing information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet your needs. Its mission is to:

  • Facilitate voluntary compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
  • Conduct research to reduce and eliminate barriers to employment and economic self-sufficiency and to increase the civic and social participation of Americans with disabilities

What services does the ADA National Network provide?

The ADA National Network consists of ten (10) regional centers and is the leader in providing information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels. Each regional ADA Center offers the following core services:

  • Technical Assistance:Highly trained specialists are available to answer your questions about the ADA, including advice and information on what is required, who is covered, and how to work through ADA-related questions.Call the national toll free hotline at 1-800-949-4232 [voice/tty]. All calls are strictly confidential.

  • Education and Training: Provide customized training and distance education opportunities (i.e. Webcourses, Webinars, Podcasts, and National ADA Initiatives) about the ADA and disability-related laws to disability organizations, State and local government agencies, and private businesses.

  • Materials Dissemination: Distribute publications with accurate information about the ADA. Provide up-to-date ADA information via websites, social media, email, discussion lists, newsletters, and printed materials.

  • Information and Referral: Provide referrals to local organizations for advocacy assistance or issues outside of our work scope.

  • Public Awareness: Promote the ADA in a positive manner in media outlets.

  • Local Capacity Building: Work closely with business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to assist with ADA efforts in your State and local communities.

How do I contact the ADA National Network?

If you have questions, need resources or want training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contact your ADA Center for information, guidance, events, and various materials and online tools to make your efforts easier, as well as help you brainstorm and develop solutions for your customers.

  • Call National Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-4ADA [voice/tty] (1-800-949-4232)
    or complete the Questions and Help on the ADA [online form].

    All calls and contacts are strictly confidential. Highly trained specialists who have over 20 years of experience are available to answer your questions about the ADA, including advice and information on what is required, who is covered, and how to work through ADA-related questions.

  • Training on the ADA
    Find various Events & Educational Materials, including FAQs on the ADA and National ADA Initiatives to learn about the ADA and disability-related topics.

    Experienced staff and training specialists are available to help you design and/or conduct a customized workshop or presentation for your target audiences. Contact your ADA Center or call the National Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-4232 [voice/tty].

  • Visit website: ADA National Network

Southeast ADA Center


Business Groups & the ADA

What businesses are covered under the ADA?

Title III of the ADA covers public accommodations, commercial facilities, examinations and courses related to licensing or certification, and transportation provided to the public by private entities. Title III became effective on January 26, 1992. Public accommodations are private entities that own, operate, or lease to places of public accommodation. A place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following 12 categories:

  1. Places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels) (except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms);
  2. Establishments serving food or drink (e.g., restaurants and bars);
  3. Places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g., motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums);
  4. Places of public gathering (e.g., auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls);
  5. Sales or rental establishments (e.g., bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers);
  6. Service establishments (e.g., laundromats, 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);
  7. Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation);
  8. Places of public display or collection (e.g., museums, libraries, galleries);
  9. Places of recreation (e.g., parks, zoos, amusement parks);
  10. Places of education (e.g., nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools);
  11. Social service center establishments (e.g., day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies); and
  12. Places of exercise or recreation (e.g., gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses).

Commercial facilities that are privately owned, non-residential facilities involved in commercial activity, such as a factory, warehouse, corporate office building, or other facility in which employment may occur have obligations under Title III of the ADA covering nondiscrimination in policies, practices, and procedures, effective communication, and barrier removal.

What are the ADA requirements for businesses?

Places of public accommodation have four specific requirements under the ADA:

  1. Remove barriers to make your goods and services available to and useable by people with disabilities, to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so- in other words, to the extent that needed changes can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense.
  2. Provide auxiliary aids and services so that people with sensory or cognitive disabilities have access to effective means of communication, unless doing so would fundamentally alter your business' operation or result in undue burdens.
  3. Modify any policies, practices, or procedures that may be discriminatory or have a discriminatory effect, unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodation of your business.
  4. Ensure that there are no unnecessary eligibility criteria that tend to screen out or segregate individuals with disabilities or limit their full and equal enjoyment of you business.

More FAQs

  1. What obligations does an employer have if an employee discloses his or her HIV status?

  2. What is a reasonable accommodation for a person with HIV?

  3. To what extent does the ADA require that Internet web pages be accessible to people with visual disabilities?

  4. What is the relationship between requirements of the FMLA, the ADA, and Title VII?

  5. Are all employees who are protected by Title VII or the ADA also entitled to leave under the FMLA?

  6. Is there a conflict between the FMLA provision allowing employers to ask for certification that an employee have a serious health condition and ADA restrictions on disability-related inquiries of employees?

  7. Does title II of the ADA prohibit public schools from conducting drug and alcohol testing of students or employees?

  8. Does the ADA cover the Federal government?

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