Wheelchair Accessibility

Wheelchair Accessibility

Wheelchair accessibility is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. This act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

What does it mean to be “wheelchair accessible?”

Put simply, wheelchair accessibility implies that people who are in a wheelchair can easily and safely enter a place of business, residence, government facility, public transportation, etc. and/or use the facilities and services provided.

What are businesses required to provide, by law?

There are architectural standards set for new construction and building alterations that state and local governments are required to follow. If their services are housed in older (inaccessible) buildings, they are required to relocate programs or otherwise provide access to those services.

New vehicles purchased by public transportation services, such as city buses, subways, Amtrak, etc., must be wheelchair accessible, and when purchasing or leasing used vehicles, they must make “good faith efforts” to get accessible vehicles. Additionally, unless it would result in an “undue burden,” they must provide paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems - pick up and drop off individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently, due to physical or mental impairment, at their destinations.

Like state and local government buildings, public accommodations such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, etc. must comply with specific requirements related to new buildings and renovations. They must also make “reasonable modifications” to policies and procedures to accommodate people with special accessibility needs. You can read the code of building regulations here: http://www.ada.gov/adastd94.pdf

Landlords or owners of housing facilities are required, under the Fair Housing Act, to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space and common use areas. Housing owners are not required to pay for the changes, however. The Act also requires that new multifamily dwellings, with four or more units, be built to provide access to common use areas, doors that are wide enough for wheelchairs, accessible kitchens and bathrooms, and other accessibility features.

Useful Resources

For questions or complaints about accessibility provisions in public accommodations or state and local government facilities:

(800) 514-0301 (voice)

(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

For questions or complaints about accessibility in public transportation:

(888) 446-4511 (voice/relay)

For questions about the accessibility provisions of the Fair Housing Act:
(888) 341-7781 (voice/TTY)

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