Public infrastructure should be accessible to all people, including people with disabilities. As issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion come to the forefront of discussion, many organizations are taking a renewed interest in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA compliance. WithersRavenel is here to give a brief overview of the ADA and help answer your questions about compliance.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
It also requires state and local governments and private companies that own or operate public accommodations to meet accessibility requirements for their facilities and programs, regardless of whether they receive federal funding.
In addition, covered employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations are considered “reasonable” if they do not create an undue hardship or a direct threat.
Who is required to comply with the ADA?
- Employers with 15 or more employees
- State and local governments
- Businesses and nonprofit service providers who own or operate public accommodations
- Telecommunications providers
What is a public accommodation?
A public accommodation is a public or private facility that is used by the public. Examples include retail locations, restaurants, recreational facilities, private schools, and service centers.
What are the compliance requirements?
Covered employers must provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others.
State and local governments must take the following steps:
- Follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings and the provision of public transportation services
- Relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings
- Communicate effectively with people who hearing, vision, or speech disabilities
- Make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination
Businesses and nonprofit service providers who own or operate public accommodations must comply with the same rules as state and local governments listed above. They must also remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources.
Telecommunications providers must provide telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. They must also establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
View the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design
How is state and local government compliance evaluated?
State and local governments can undergo an ADA Compliance Survey, which catalogues the location and condition of all horizontal and vertical infrastructure governed by the ADA.
Horizontal infrastructure includes sidewalks, crosswalks, paths, routes to public facilities, and rights-of-way. It is evaluated using Public Rights-of-Way Guidelines (PROWAG) methodology.
Vertical infrastructure includes buildings and their entrances, exits, stairwells, elevators, and emergency routes. It is evaluated using ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) methodology.
How can state and local governments correct compliance issues?
Preparing an ADA Transition Plan is the first step in addressing compliance issues. (Note: While the ADA applies to all employers with at least 15 employees, only public agencies with at least 50 employees are required to create a transition plan.)
An ADA Transition Plan is a formal document that outlines an organization’s compliance with the ADA. It includes the findings of the ADA Compliance Survey, and it also includes a capital improvement plan.
The capital improvement plan is a prioritized list of improvement projects, such as resurfacing sidewalks or replacing ramps. Projects are ranked using a risk-based approach. It may also incorporate an analysis of available funds and opportunities for additional funding from outside sources.
How can WithersRavenel help with ADA compliance?
WithersRavenel’s Transportation Team can perform an ADA Compliance Survey and prepare an ADA Transition Plan. They can also assist in evaluating potential funding sources for capital improvement projects.
Contact Client Success Manager Keith Pugh, PE, PWLF to get started on ADA compliance today!
This post was originally published on August 26, 2020, and was updated on June 23, 2022.