The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Its purpose was to break down the barriers people with disabilities faced on a daily basis. While Title I of the ADA prohibits employers to discriminate against a person with a disability and Title II of the ADA requires public entities be accessible to people with disabilities, Title III focuses on accessibility in spaces of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and private entities that are offering courses and exams.
Title III: Who Must Comply
Places of public accommodation must comply with Title III of the ADA. Places of public accommodation refers to private entities that have facilities that are opened and/or visited by the general public. This can include: schools, retail shops, restaurants, healthcare offices, and many more examples.
Think of all the places you visit in any given week. A trip to the grocery store, the early morning coffee run, the late night dinners, the favorite clothing store, a quick trip to the doctors office, the movies; all of these destinations are considered places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA. The list is endless… for your convenience, we have supplied a complete list of public accommodations under the “Key Terms” section, provided, below.
Commercial facilities, i.e. warehouses and factories are required to comply with architectural standards outlined for alterations and new constructions. Private entities that are providing education and examinations in education and for certifications must also comply.
Title III: How to Comply
To comply with Title III, places of public accommodation are prohibited from discriminating against people who have disabilities. Discrimination includes unequal treatment, segregation, and exclusion of their services.
Places of public accommodation need to ensure that their policies and procedures do not contain barriers for people with disabilities as well as their goods and services. Discrimination encompasses beyond the physical building of the place of public accommodation. All aspects of the places of public accommodation must not contain barriers, so that they are fully accessible. This is the crux of the argument for those individuals and advocacy groups filing suits of discrimination as it pertains the lack of equal access to digital services and electronic information technology (see: Rising Number of ADA Title III Lawsuits.
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Title III also mandates that all places of public accommodation provide and take steps to ensure that people with speech, vision, and hearing are able to communicate with places of public accommodation. For example, closed captioning to all of the videos that are displayed in the place of public accommodation or distributed by the place of accommodation. If a video is playing in a place of public accommodation that does not have closed captioning, it is not providing equal access. Individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf are unable to know what is being said in the video.
Title III: Non-compliance
The ADA is enforced through a complaint process. Any individual who has been discriminated against may file a complaint through the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Individuals may also file complaints on behalf of others. The Civil Rights Division receives, overviews, and investigates complaints. After investigation into the complaints, the DOJ proceeds with a lawsuit or settlement agreement based on their findings. Title III can also be enforced through private suit in Federal Courts.
Title III: Key Terms
Qualified Individual with Disability: “…an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity.”
Private entity: “…any entity other than a public entity.”
Public entity: “…any State or local government; any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government; and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and any commuter authority.”
Public Accommodation: includes, “an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor; a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink; a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition entertainment; an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering; a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment; a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment; a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation; a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection; a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation; a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education; a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.”