This guide presents an informal overview of some basic ADA requirements
for small businesses that provide goods or services to the public. It
omits many of the "legal" terms that are found in the ADA and
its regulations. But because it would be misleading to separate any
explanation of ADA requirements from the law, references to key sections
of the regulations or other information are included.
To get answers to questions about the ADA or to learn more about the law
Department of Justice ADA Information Line,toll-free
(1-800-514-0301 voice and 1-800-514-0383 TDD).
photo - street scene showing the fronts of three small businesses with a
short ramp at each entrance - a cleaners, a frame shop and a restaurant
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal civil rights law
that prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from everyday
activities, such as buying an item at the store, watching a movie in a
theater, enjoying a meal at a local restaurant, exercising at the local
health club or having the car serviced at a local garage. To meet the
goals of the ADA, the law established requirements for private
businesses of all sizes. These requirements first went into effect on
January 26, 1992, and continue for both for-profit and non-profit
For small businesses, compliance with the ADA is not difficult. To help
businesses with their compliance efforts, Congress established a
technical assistance program to answer questions about the ADA. Answers
to your questions about the ADA are a phone call away. The Department of
Justice operates a toll-free ADA Information Line (800- 514-0301 voice
and 800-514-0383 TDD). In addition, tax credits and deductions were
established that can be used annually to offset many costs of providing
access to people with disabilities.
In recognition that many small businesses can not afford to make
significant physical changes to their stores or places of business to
provide accessibility to wheelchair users and other people with
disabilities, the ADA has requirements for existing facilities built
before 1993 that are less strict than for ones built after early 1993 or
modified after early 1992.
Private Businesses that Serve the Public Public
Private businesses that provide goods or services
to the public are called public accommodations in the ADA. The ADA
establishes requirements for twelve categories of public accommodations,
including stores and shops, restaurants and bars, service
establishments, theaters, hotels, recreation facilities, private museums
and schools and others. Nearly all types of private businesses that
serve the public are included in the categories, regardless of size.
If you own, operate, lease, or lease to a business that serves the
public, then, you are covered by the ADA and have obligations for
existing facilities as well as for compliance when a facility is altered
or a new facility is constructed. Existing facilities are not exempted
by "grandfather provisions" that are often used by building
This booklet focuses on businesses that provide goods and services to
These businesses may be large or small and can be for profit or
two photos -- both showing the entrances to a small business. Each has
one step at the entrance
Many business facilities were built without features that accommodate
people with disabilities, including people who use wheelchairs. This
lack of accessibility makes it impossible for many people with
disabilities to take part in everyday activities such as going to work,
eating in a restaurant or shopping in a store. The ADA recognizes that,
for people with disabilities to participate in the everyday activities
in their communities, they need to have access to the goods and services
provided by businesses
While it is not possible for many businesses, especially small
businesses, to make their facilities fully accessible, there is much
that can be done without much difficulty or expense to improve
accessibility. Therefore, the ADA requires that accessibility be
improved without taking on excessive expenses that could harm the
If you own or operate a business that serves the public you must remove
physical "barriers" that are "readily achievable,"
which means easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.
The "readily achievable" requirement is based on the size and
resources of the business. So larger businesses with more resources are
expected to take a more active role in removing barriers than small
businesses. The ADA also recognizes that economic conditions vary. When
a business has resources to remove barriers, it is expected to do so;
but when profits are down, barrier removal may be reduced or delayed.
Barrier removal is an ongoing obligation -- you are expected to remove
barriers in the future as resources become available.
barriers are physical features that limit or prevent people with
disabilities from obtaining the goods or services that are offered. They
can include parking spaces that are too narrow to accommodate people who
use wheelchairs; a step or steps at the entrance or to part of the
selling space of a store; round doorknobs or door hardware that is
difficult to grasp; aisles that are too narrow for a person using a
wheelchair, electric scooter, or a walker; a high counter or narrow
checkout aisles at a cash register, and fixed tables in eating areas
that are too low to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or that have
fixed seats that prevent a person using a wheelchair from pulling under
Removing Architectural Barriers
In evaluating what barriers
need to be removed, a business should look to the ADA Standards for
Accessible Design as a guide. These standards are part of the ADA Title
III regulations. Seeking input from people with disabilities in your
community can also be an important and valuable part of the barrier
removal process because they can help identify barriers in your business
and offer advice on what solutions may work.
When a business removes barriers, it should follow the design
requirements for new construction in the ADA Standards for Accessible
Design (Standards). In some cases, existing conditions, limited
resources or both will make it not "readily achievable" to
follow these Standards fully. If this occurs, barrier removal measures
may deviate from the Standards so long as the measures do not pose a
significant risk to the health or safety of individuals with
disabilities or others.
three photos -- first shows a car parked in a parking space that is
designated as accessible but that lacks an access aisle. Caption - These
parking spaces are too narrow and lack a wide access aisle so people who
use wheelchairs cannot get out of their vehicle
second photo shows an entrance to a restaurant with three steps. Caption
- Any step at the entrance can stop people from visiting your business
third photo shows a ramp in front of a store that runs parallel to the
front of the store. An awning is located above the ramp but it is too
low. Caption - The awning and awning support over the walk to the
Priorities for Barrier Removal
When deciding which barriers to remove first, we
suggest that you first provide access to the business from public
sidewalks, parking, and public transportation and then provide access to
the areas where goods and services are made available to the public.
Once these barriers are removed, you should provide access to public
toilet rooms (if toilet rooms are provided for customer use). When these
barriers have been removed, it may be necessary to remove any remaining
barriers including those that limit use of public telephones and
The following examples illustrate common barriers and suggest solutions
that may be readily achievable. Each business must decide on a
case-by-case basis what constitutes "readily achievable"
barrier removal for their business.
When parking is provided for the
public, designated accessible parking spaces must be provided, if doing
so is readily achievable. An accessible parking space must have space
for the vehicle and an additional space located either to the right or
to the left of the space that serves as an access aisle. This aisle is
needed to permit a person using a wheelchair, electric scooter, or other
mobility device to get out of their car or van. A sign with the
international symbol of accessibility must be located in front of the
parking space and mounted high enough so it is not hidden by a vehicle
parked in the space.
Accessible parking spaces should be the spaces closest to the accessible
entrance and be located on level ground. If it is not readily achievable
to locate accessible parking in the closest spaces due to sloped
pavement or other existing conditions, then the closest level area
should be selected. An accessible route must be provided between the
access aisle and the accessible building entrance. This route must have
no steps or steeply sloped surfaces and it must have a firm, stable,
Van accessible spaces must have an access aisle that is at least
eight-feet wide and be designated by a sign with the international
symbol and "van accessible." There should be a vertical
clearance of at least 98 inches on the vehicular route to the space, at
the parking space, and along the vehicular route to an exit.
Photo - Car parked in an accessible parking space that has an eight foot
wide access aisle located next to the car. Caption - A Van Accessible
Parking Space (1 of 8 of all accessible parking spaces, but at least
one, must be van accessible. Although designated a van accessible space,
cars may use the space too.)
Notes for the photo -
Provide a parking space that is at least 8 feet wide. There should be at
least a 98 inch high clearance at the parking space, the adjacent access
aisle and along the vehicular route to the space and vehicular exit.
Install a sign with the international symbol of accessibility and
"van accessible" and mount it high enough so it is not hidden
by the vehicle parked in the space.
Locate parking space and access aisle so that they are relatively level
(1:50 maximum slope in all directions is recommended if readily
Provide an access aisle that is at least 8 feet wide next to the van
parking space to permit a person using a wheelchair or scooter to exit
or enter a van with a side-mounted lift.
Provide an accessible route to the accessible entrance(s) to the
building - a marked crosswalk may be needed if route crosses vehicular
Parking Space Aisle's
Accessible parking spaces for cars
must have an access aisle that is at least five-feet wide. The other
features are the same as for vans, except that the sign designating the
parking space only has an international symbol of accessibility, and
there is no requirement for a minimum vertical height.
The number of accessible parking spaces that should be provided is based
on the total number of parking spaces that you provide. For example, if
your parking lot has 25 or fewer spaces, then 1 should be an accessible
parking space. If it has 50 or fewer spaces, it should have 2 accessible
If you provide only one accessible parking space, it also must be a van
accessible space. In facilities where more than one accessible parking
space is required, one of eight accessible parking spaces must be van
Where parking is provided in several locations near building entrances,
the accessible parking should also be dispersed, if doing so is readily
achievable. Since van accessible parking spaces are provided in limited
numbers, it is often not possible to disperse the van accessible parking
Photo -- An accessible parking space with a five foot wide access aisle
located beside the parking space. Caption - An Accessible Parking Space
Notes for photo
Note: locate accessible parking spaces as close as possible to the
accessible entrances and on an accessible route to the building.
Install a sign with the international symbol of accessibility and mount
high enough so sign is not hidden by a vehicle parked in the space.
Locate parking space and access aisle on relatively level ground (1:50
maximum slope in all directions)
Two parking spaces may share a common access aisle (van or car).
Install curb ramp where an accessible route crosses a curb - note: curb
ramp does not extend into the access aisle.
Note: Accessible parking spaces for cars must have an access aisle that
is at least five feet wide.
Providing physical access to a facility from
public sidewalks, public transportation, or parking is basic to making
goods and services available to people with disabilities. Having only
one step at the entrance can prevent access by a person using a
wheelchair, walker, or cane and can make entry difficult for many other
people with mobility disabilities.
Where one or two steps exist at an entrance, access can be achieved in a
variety of ways -- for example, by using an alternate accessible
entrance, adding a short ramp, modifying the area in front or to the
side of the entrance to eliminate a step, or installing a lift.
When a business has two public entrances, in most cases, only one must
be accessible. The shop shown in the photo (bottom right) has a street
entrance and is also served by an accessible entrance from the building
lobby at the other side of the store. Using the lobby entrance provides
access to the store. When one entrance is not accessible and another
entrance is accessible, a sign must provide direction to the accessible
entrance. The alternative entrance must be open during store hours. If
the alternative accessible entrance is not left unlocked due to security
concerns, you must provide an accessible way for notifying staff to open
the door, such as a buzzer or bell. If used, the buzzer or call bell
must be located on an accessible route and mounted at an accessible
height (generally not more than 48 inches above ground).
When a ramp is added to provide an accessible entrance, the slope of the
ramp should be as shallow as possible but not more than 1:12. It is also
important to provide handrails whenever the slope is more that 1:20 and
the vertical rise is greater than 6 inches (a slope of 1:20 means that
for every 20 units of horizontal length there is one unit of vertical
rise or fall). It is best to grade the area that is adjacent to the ramp
to avoid an abrupt drop-off. If a drop-off exists, then a barrier such
as a raised edge or railing must be installed. Edge protection is very
important because it prevents people from accidentally rolling off the
edge of the ramp. The ramp that is shown (page 6, top right ) uses
railings and edge protection. Edge protection could also be provided by
a lower railing installed parallel to the ramp surface.
photo - A front view of a store showing a ramp with handrails. The ramp
runs parallel to the front of the store. Caption - A new ramp with edge
protection, handrails and a wide
landing outside the entrance provide access to this business
notes on photo - Edge protection prevents people from rolling over the
edge of the ramp.
Wide landing accommodates turns needed to enter or exit the store.
photo - A front view of a store with an entrance that is below sidewalk
level. Three steps lead down to the entrance. A sign is provided to
direct customers to the accessible entrance. Caption - Signage provided
at an inaccessible entrance provides direction to another entrance that
note on photo - Example of a sign that directs customers to the nearest
accessible entrance. (sign has an international symbol of accessibility,
an arrow and accessible entrance in Walnut Street Lobby)
The photo (upper right) illustrates
another way to modify an entrance to make it accessible. A level landing
area is provided in front of the entry door so a person can pull the
door open. The area adjacent to the landing is graded flush with the
landing so no drop-off exists between the landing and the grass area
eliminating the need for railings. The earth is also graded flush with
the ramp surface to eliminate a drop-off.
photo (upper right) - Front of a hair salon with a ramp and landing
located at the entrance. Caption - A new landing, ramp and lever door
handle provide an accessible entrance to this business.
Lever handle added to or in
place of round door knob.
Landing extends 18" minimum beyond the edge of door and 60"
minimum out from door.
New landing and ramp eliminates step at entrance.
Earth is graded up to landing and ramp to eliminate drop off.
Ramp slope max. 1:12 and width is 36" minimum
Another approach to providing access at an entrance is to use a platform
or folding lift. Lifts are mechanical devices that can be used to
transport a person using a wheelchair or scooter up or down several
feet. A lift may be a preferred solution where little space exists for a
ramp or when an entrance serves more than one level. For example, had
the bookstore shown in the photo (page 6, bottom right) not had an
alternate entrance that was accessible, a lift could have been
installed. Lifts require periodic maintenance and must meet safety codes
but are worthwhile considerations when a ramp is not feasible.
Photo - view of the entrance to a restaurant which has three steps. A
sign on the front has we deliver and the telephone number. Caption -
Home delivery, take-out, curbside delivery or other alternate service is
required, if readily achievable, when you cannot make an entrance
When it is not readily achievable to provide an accessible entrance, the
goods and services must be provided in some other way, if doing so is
readily achievable. For example, if a restaurant has several steps at
the entrance and no accessible entry is possible, providing home
delivery or some alternative service may be required. In other cases, it
may be possible to receive an order by telephone and to have a clerk
bring the order to the customer outside the store or business. If
alternative service is provided, it is important that it be publicized
so a customer knows how the goods and services are offered.
Doors at Entrances to Businesses
Most entrances to stores and businesses use 36
inch wide doors that are wide enough to be accessible. However, some
older doors are less than 36 inches wide and may not provide enough
width (32 inch clear width when fully opened). Door openings can
sometimes be enlarged. It may also be possible to use special
"swing clear" hinges that provide approximately 1 1/2 inches
more clearance without replacing the door and door frame.
Inaccessible door hardware can
also prevent access to the business. For example, the handle shown below
requires the user to tightly grasp the handle to open the door. Many
people with mobility disabilities and others with a disability that
limits grasping, such as arthritis, find this type of handle difficult
or impossible to use.
Illustration - view of panel-type door handle on an entry door and a
hand tightly grasping the handle. Caption - This panel-type handle is
not accessible because it requires the user to tightly grasp the handle
to pull the door open.
Other types of door hardware,
such as a round door knob (which requires tight grasping and twisting to
operate) or a handle with a thumb latch (see above -- center) are also
inaccessible and must be modified or replaced, if doing so is readily
Illustration - view of hand using a loop handle with a thumb latch.
Caption - This handle with a thumb latch is not accessible because one
must grasp the handle and pinch down on the thumb latch at the same
Changing or adding door hardware
is usually relatively easy and inexpensive. A round doorknob can be
replaced with a lever handle or modified by adding a clamp-on lever. In
some cases, a thumb latch can be disabled so the door can be pulled open
without depressing the latch or the hardware may be replaced. A flat
panel-type pull handle can be replaced with a loop-type handle.
Illustration - view of a lever handle mounted on an entry door with a
hand pushing down on the lever. Caption - A lever handle is accessible
because it can be operated without tight grasping, pinching or twisting.
Illustration - view of a loop-type handle with a hand slipped around the
handle. Caption - A loop-type handle is also accessible because it can
be used without grasping, pinching or twisting.
Turnstiles and Security Gates at Entrances
Businesses with narrow revolving turnstiles located at the entrance
exclude people with disabilities unless accessible gates or passages are
provided. Standard narrow turnstiles are not usable by wheelchair users
and by most people who walk with crutches, walkers, or canes. Whenever a
narrow turnstile is used, an accessible turnstile, gate or opening must
be provided, if doing so is readily achievable.
Illustration - view of a turnstile with three rotating bars. Caption -
This type of turnstile is not accessible to most people with
If an inaccessible
turnstile is located at the entrance to the business and no accessible
gate or entry is provided, it must be replaced or removed or an
alternative accessible entrance provided, if doing so is readily
achievable. For most businesses, removing or altering the turnstile is
not difficult. For some businesses, providing an alternative accessible
entrance may be an acceptable solution if the business has two or more
doors that could function as entrances. For example, a store that has an
inaccessible turnstile at the entrance but also has an exit door (with
no turnstile) located near the cash register may be able to use the exit
door as an alternative entrance. It may be readily achievable to add an
accessible door handle to the outside of the exit door, install a sign
that designates this door as the accessible entrance, and permit people
with disabilities to enter through the exit door.
Eliminating the barrier caused by a turnstile may be accomplished by
simply removing the turnstile and leaving the opening. To assure passage
of people using wheelchairs, or crutches, the opening must be at least
32 inches wide. If it is not readily achievable to provide a minimum 32
inch wide opening, then the opening should be as wide as possible. If a
security gate is required, then the turnstile may be removed and
replaced with an accessible gate, if readily achievable. Where a
business wishes to retain its standard turnstile, it may provide an
accessible gate adjacent to the turnstile.
Illustration - view of an open passage that is at least 32 inches wide.
Caption - Removing the turnstile to provide an accessible passageway.
Illustration - view of an accessible swinging gate (opening 32 inch
minimum width) . Caption - An example of an accessible gate.
Illustration - view of an accessible gate provided next to a
conventional turnstile. Caption - An accessible gate provided adjacent
to a turnstile.
Shelves and Maneuvering Space
After ensuring that its entrance is accessible, a
business must consider how people with disabilities will get to the
items that are sold or provided. When sales items are displayed or
stored on shelves for selection by customers, the store must provide an
accessible route to fixed shelves and displays, if doing so is readily
If the maneuvering space adjacent to shelves and displays is too narrow,
the space should be widened. In general, a 36 inch wide accessible route
is needed with a slightly larger space provided at corners. If a 180
degree turn is needed to exit an area, then a 60 inch diameter turning
space or a 36 inch wide "T" is needed. The space for a
"T" turn requires at least 36 inches of width for each segment
of the T and it must fit within a 60 inch by 60 inch area.
Some businesses will have difficulty providing enough maneuvering space
between all displays and shelving without a significant reduction in
selling space that may substantially affect the profitability of the
business. This fact can be considered in determining if it is readily
achievable to provide access to all sales areas. If access is not
provided to all sales areas, then alternative services such as having
staff available to retrieve items, must be provided,
if doing so is readily achievable. This also applies when merchandise is
located in areas served only by stairs.
photo - woman using a wheelchair with a child on her lap and one
standing beside maneuvering between displays in a bookstore. caption -
Provide a 36 inch minimum width route between displays and shelves if
Sales items may be located at any height
but sales staff should be available, on request, to reach items for
Provide at least a 3' by 3' turning space at a corner for a 90 degree
Sales merchandise, displays and other items can block access and should
not be placed in narrow aisles. These books block the 3'-0"
3'-0" minimum width to move between shelves, displays and
It is not necessary to locate all merchandise within reach of people who
use wheelchairs. Items can be placed at any height but staff should be
available to assist customers who may have difficulty reaching or
photo - view of staff assisting customer using a wheelchair. Caption -
Sales staff retrieving items for customer.
Staff assist customers by retrieving merchandise from shelves and
Staff should provide information about an item by reading labels for
people with a vision impairment.
Sales and Service Counters
When sales or service counters are provided, the
counters must be accessible, if doing so is readily achievable. This
access is an important part of receiving the goods and services provided
by a business.
At counters having a cash register, a section of counter at least 36
inches long and not more than 36 inches above the floor will make the
counter accessible. This provides a lowered surface where goods and
services and money can be exchanged. An alternative solution is to
provide an auxiliary counter nearby.
photo - view of an accessible counter with a cash register. Person using
an electric scooter is pulled parallel to the counter and the cashier is
exchanging money with the customer. Caption - An accessible sales
counter at a cash register.
Accessible counter is at least 36" long and no more than 36"
above the floor
Provide a 30" by 48" space in front of the sales or service
counter to accommodate a wheelchair or electric scooter
At sales and service counters, such as ticketing counters, teller
stations in a bank, registration counters in hotels and motels, and
other counters where goods or services are sold or distributed a counter
that is at least 36 inches long and that is not more than 36 inches
above the floor will make the counter accessible. It is also possible to
provide an auxiliary counter nearby or to use a folding shelf or area
next to the counter, if doing so is readily achievable.
In addition to having a maximum height of 36 inches, all accessible
sales and service counters must have a clear floor space in front of the
accessible surface that permits a customer using a wheelchair to pull
alongside. This space is at least 30 inches by 48 inches and may be
parallel or perpendicular to the counter. It is also connected to the
accessible route which connects to the accessible entrance and other
areas in the business where merchandise or services are provided.
If you cannot provide an accessible sales or service counter or
auxiliary counter nearby, such as a table or desk, you may provide a
clip board or lap board for use until a more permanent solution can be
Checkout aisles, such as in a grocery store, have different
requirements. An accessible checkout aisle should provide a minimum of a
36-inch-wide access aisle and it should be identified by a sign with the
international symbol of accessibility mounted over the aisle. The
counter adjacent to the accessible checkout aisle has a maximum height
of 38 inches. If a lip is provided between the counter and the checkout
aisle, its maximum height is 40 inches.
The number of accessible aisles that is needed depends on the total
number of checkout aisles provided. For example, if one to four aisles
are provided, then at least one should be accessible. If more than five
to eight aisles are provided, then two accessible aisles are needed.
Each type of checkout, including express lanes, must have an accessible
The ADA Standards for Accessible Design provide detailed information on
the requirements for checkout aisles and for sales and service counters.
Where food or drinks are served at
counters and the counter height is more than 34 inches above the floor,
providing a lowered section of the serving counter at least 60 inches
long and no higher than 34 inches will make the counter accessible. If
it is not readily achievable to make the counter accessible, a business
can serve the items at nearby accessible tables, if readily achievable.
When it is not readily achievable to provide an accessible counter or
bar area or service at accessible tables in the same area, then a
business should provide service in an alternative manner, if doing so is
readily achievable. This may include offering to assist the customer by
moving items to an accessible counter or to their table in another area.
photo - staff serving items on a lowered counter. caption - Lowered
serving counter provides an accessible space to select and receive food
Door under counter can be opened to provide required knee clearance when
customers eat at the counter.
Self-service restaurants with a food service line must provide adequate
maneuvering space for a person using a wheelchair to approach and move
through the line, if doing so is readily achievable. A minimum width of
36 inches should be provided with a 42 inch width preferred, if readily
achievable. If the line changes direction, such as a 180 degree turn, an
extra wide turning space is needed. An alternative solution, in an
existing facility, is to provide an accessible route around the queuing
If self-service condiments, utensils, or tableware are provided, then
they should be located no higher than 54 inches if a side reach is
possible or 48 inches for a forward reach (see Section 4.2 of the ADA
Standards for Accessible Design). If it is not readily achievable to
provide these items in an accessible location, a business can provide
staff assistance, if doing so is readily achievable.
photo - person using a scooter pulled alongside a shelf that has been
installed to provide accessible condiments. Caption - Lowered shelf
provided for condiment items.
Lowered shelf was added to provide an accessible surface for preparing
Fixed Seating and Tables
If tables are provided, such as in restaurants and
snack bars, and the tables are attached to the wall or floor (fixed),
then 5% of the tables or at least one (if less than 20 are provided)
must be accessible, if doing so is readily achievable. Accessible
seating must be provided, if doing so is readily achievable, at each
accessible table to accommodate people using wheelchairs. Movable chairs
can be used for these tables and the movable chairs can be removed when
customers using wheelchairs use the table(s).
The same requirements apply to fixed tables in outdoor areas such as
picnic areas, playgrounds or patios.
When fixed seating or fixed tables are provided, accessible seating must
be provided, if readily achievable.
An accessible table has a surface height of no more than 34 inches and
no less than 28 inches above the floor. At least 27 inches of knee
clearance must be provided between the floor and the underside of the
table. An accessible route provides access to each accessible table and
a clear floor area 30 inches by 48 inches is provided at each accessible
seating location. This clear floor area extends 19 inches under the
table to provide leg and knee clearance.
If it is not readily achievable to provide the minimal number of
accessible tables in all areas where fixed tables are provided, then the
services must be provided in another accessible location, if doing so is
readily achievable. However, these alternate location(s) must be
available for all customers and not just people with disabilities. It is
illegal to segregate people with disabilities in one area by designating
it as an accessible area to be used only by people with disabilities.
photo - two people using electric scooters eating at a fixed table.
Caption - Accessible seating positions at a permanently-mounted table
Table height 34" maximum, 28" minimum
Knee clearance 27" minimum (from floor to bottom of table surface)
Clear floor area of 30" by 48" needed at each seating area
Knee clearance extends at least 19" under the table
Policies and Procedures
Businesses must review their policies and
procedures for serving customers and change those that exclude or limit
participation by people with disabilities. For example, if a store has a
policy to exclude all animals, the policy should be changed to permit
people who use service animals, such as "seeing-eye-dogs" and
"hearing-assist-dogs" to enter the store with their service
animals. A store that has a special accessible entrance that remains
locked during business hours will need to change the policy and keep the
door unlocked when the store is open. If security is a problem, an
accessible call box or buzzer (identified by a sign and mounted in an
accessible location and height) should be installed to enable people
with disabilities to call staff to unlock the door. A restaurant that
restricts seating of people with disabilities to one area must revise
the policy to permit the range of choices enjoyed by others.
Communicating with Customers
Customers who have hearing or speech disabilities
may need to communicate with sales staff without using speech. The
method of communication will vary depending the abilities of the
customers and on the complexity of the communications that are required.
For example, some people who are deaf are able to use speech but unable
to understand words spoken by others while other people who are deaf are
not able to communicate with speech. People with speech or hearing
disabilities may require extra time to complete their message or extra
attention by staff to understand what is being said. When communication
by speech is not possible, simple questions, such as the price of an
item, may be handled with pen and paper by exchanging written notes or a
mixture of speech and written notes. Staff should be aware of the need
to use notes or both speech and communication with pen and paper. It is
appropriate to ask the customer what is their preference for simple
When more complex or lengthy communications are needed, it may be
necessary to provide a sign language interpreter in, for example,
negotiating the purchase of an automobile or home. But most business
communications with customers involve only simple communications that
can be done using pen and paper.
Many people with hearing or speech disabilities use a telecommunications
device for the deaf (TDD) instead of a standard telephone. This device
has a keyboard for entering messages and a visual display to view the
content of a conversation from another person using a TDD.
To make it easy for people who use a TDD to communicate with businesses
and individuals who do not have a TDD, the ADA established a free
state-by-state relay network nationwide that handles voice-to-TDD and
TDD-to-voice calls. Customers who use a TDD to make telephone calls may
telephone your business using a relay network. The relay consists of an
operator with a TDD who translates TDD and voice messages. For example,
a caller using a TDD calls the relay operator who then calls your
business. The caller types the message into the TDD and the operator
reads the message to you. You respond by talking to the operator who
then enters your message into the TDD.
Tax Credits and Deductions
To assist businesses with complying with the ADA,
Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a tax credit for small businesses and
Section 190 of the IRS Code allows a tax deduction for all businesses.
The tax credit is available to businesses that have total revenues of
$1,000,000 or less in the previous tax year or 30 or fewer full-time
employees. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access expenditures
in a year up to $10,250 (maximum credit of $5000). The tax credit can be
used to offset the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations
to improve accessibility; providing accessible formats such as Braille,
large print and audio tape; making available a sign language interpreter
or a reader for customers or employees, and for purchasing certain
The tax deduction is available to all businesses with a maximum
deduction of $15,000 per year. The tax deduction can be claimed for
expenses incurred in barrier removal and alterations.
To learn more about the tax credit and tax deduction provisions, contact
the DOJ ADA Information Line (see Information Sources for the numbers).
New Construction and Alterations
The ADA requires that newly constructed facilities, first occupied on or
after January 26, 1993, meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the
ADA Standards for Accessible Design (Standards). Alterations to
facilities, spaces or elements (including renovations) on or after
January 26, 1992, also must comply with the Standards. If you build a
new facility or modify your existing one, (for example, work such as
restriping the parking area, replacing the entry door or renovating the
sales counter), make sure to consult the Standards and the title III
regulations for the specific requirements. Renovations or modifications
are considered to be alterations when they affect the usability of the
element or space. For example, installing a new display counter, moving
walls in a sales area, replacing fixtures, carpet or flooring, and
replacing an entry door. However, simple maintenance, such as repainting
a wall is not considered an alteration by the ADA.
Many communities also have State or local accessibility codes enforced
by local building inspectors. When a local accessibility code exists,
you must follow both the code and the ADA requirements.
ADA Information Sources
Department of Justice
ADA Information Line
The ADA Information Line is available during weekdays to provide
technical assistance on the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and
other ADA provisions applying to businesses, non-profit service agencies
and state and local government programs. It also provides a 24 hour
automated service for ordering ADA materials.
To download information by computer:
Electronic Bulletin Board
Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs)
The ten regional centers are funded by the Department of Education to
provide technical assistance on the ADA. One toll-free number connects
to the center in your region.
800-949-4232 (voice & TDD)
Offers technical assistance on the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC offers technical assistance on the ADA provisions for
employment which apply to businesses with 15 or more employees.
Technical assistance materials including the title III regulations that
apply to businesses have been distributed to 15,000 libraries
nationwide. This collection, is known as the ADA Information File.
Contact your local or regional library to find if it has the ADA
Information File and where it is located. You may also contact the
regional DBTAC (800-949-4232) to obtain the name of a local library that
has the ADA Information File.
Small Business Information Source
Small Business Administration
(800-U ASK SBA)
The ADA Home Page
last revised - July