ADA Frequently Asked Questions

The ADA is a comprehensive Federal civil rights law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the areas of employment, state & local government services, places of public accommodation, telecommunications and transportation.
The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The non-exhaustive list of major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working. It also includes major bodily functions such as, functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin, normal cell growth, digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions. The law also prohibits discrimination against individuals with a record of impairment, such as cancer patients in remission, and those regarded by others as having an impairment, such as individuals with severe facial scarring.
Title I: Employment
The ADA Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Employers may hire, fire, and promote the most qualified individual, regardless of his/her disability. Title I covers all aspects of the hiring process, including posting of available positions, interviewing, job offers, and hiring. It requires all employers to make necessary reasonable accommodations for known disabilities of a qualified applicant or employee, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way a job is performed that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. There are three categories of "reasonable accommodations":
  1. Changes to a job application process
  2. Changes to the work environment or to the way a job is usually done
  3. Changes that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment (such as access to training).
The individual must let the employer know that he/she needs an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. An individual may use "plain English" and need not mention the ADA or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation." Requests for reasonable accommodation do not need to be in writing, though an employer may choose to write a memorandum or letter confirming the request.
When the disability and/or the need for accommodation are not obvious, the employer may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability and functional limitations. The employer and the individual with a disability should engage in an informal process to clarify what the individual needs and identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation. The employer may ask the individual questions that will enable it to make an informed decision about the request. This includes asking what type of reasonable accommodation is needed.
The employer may choose among reasonable accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is effective (i.e., it removes the workplace barrier at issue). The employer may offer alternative suggestions for reasonable accommodations to remove the workplace barrier in question. If there are two possible reasonable accommodations, and one costs more or is more difficult to provide, the employer may choose the one that is less expensive or easier to provide, as long as it is effective.
An employer should respond promptly to a request for reasonable accommodation. If the employer and the individual with a disability need to engage in an interactive process, this too should proceed as quickly as possible. Similarly, the employer should act promptly to provide the reasonable accommodation.
Yes. This includes:
  1. shifting responsibility to other employees for minor job tasks that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability;
  2. and altering when and/or how a job task is performed.

If an employee is unable to perform a minor job task because of a disability, an employer can require the employee to perform a different minor job function in its place.

Yes, absent undue hardship, providing unpaid leave is a form of reasonable accommodation. However, an employer does not have to provide more paid leave than it provides to other employees.
If an employee with a disability needs additional unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, the employer must provide the employee with the additional leave even if it has a "no-fault" policy. An employer, however, does not need to provide leave if:
  1. it can provide an effective accommodation that allows the person to keep working, or
  2. it can show that granting additional leave would cause an undue hardship.
Yes, if the employer's proposed reasonable accommodation would be effective and eliminate the need for leave. Accordingly, an employer may reallocate minor job tasks or provide a temporary transfer instead of leave, so long as the employee can still address his/her medical needs.
Yes, absent undue hardship. A modified schedule may involve adjusting arrival or departure times, providing periodic breaks, altering when certain job tasks are performed, allowing an employee to use accrued paid leave, or providing additional unpaid leave.
Yes. For example, granting an employee time off from work or an adjusted work schedule as a reasonable accommodation may involve modifying leave or attendance procedures or policies. However, reasonable accommodation only requires that the employer modify the policy for an employee with a disability. The employer may continue to apply the policy to all other employees.
Yes, unless the employer can show that it would be an undue hardship. The following criteria apply to reassignment:An employee must be "qualified" for the new position. This means that s/he:
  1. satisfies the skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position, and
  2. can perform the primary job tasks of the new position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
The employer does not have to assist the employee to become qualified.
An employer does not have to bump other employees or create a position.
Nor does an employer have to promote the employee.
Reassignment should be to a position that is equal in pay and status to the position that the employee held, or to one that is as close as possible in terms of pay and status if an equivalent position is not vacant.
No. The ADA may, however, require that supervisory methods, such as the method of communicating assignments, be altered as a form of reasonable accommodation.
  • An employer does not have to eliminate a primary job responsibility.
  • An employer is not required to lower production standards that are applied to all employees, though it may have to provide reasonable accommodation to enable an employee with a disability to meet them.
  • An employer does not have to provide personal use items, such as a prosthetic limb, a wheelchair, eyeglasses, hearing aids, or similar devices.
No, because this usually amounts to a disclosure that the individual has a disability. The ADA specifically prohibits the disclosure of medical information except in certain limited situations, which do not include disclosure to coworkers.
If an employer knows that an employee has a disability, it may ask whether s/he needs a reasonable accommodation when it reasonably believes that the employee may need an accommodation. An employer also may ask an employee with a disability who is having performance or conduct problems if s/he needs reasonable accommodation.
An employer never has to provide any reasonable accommodation that causes undue hardship, meaning significant difficulty or expense. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but also to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

Every request for reasonable accommodation should be evaluated separately to determine if it would impose an undue hardship, taking into account:
  • The nature and cost of the accommodation needed;
  • The overall financial resources of the business; the number of persons employed by the business; and the effect on expenses and resources of the business;
  • The impact of the accommodation on the business.

If cost is an issue, an employer should determine whether funding is available from an outside source, such as a state rehabilitation agency, to pay for all or part of the accommodation. In addition, the employer should determine whether it is eligible for certain tax credits or deductions to offset the cost of the accommodation. Also, to the extent that a portion of the cost of an accommodation causes undue hardship, the employer should ask the individual with a disability if s/he will pay the difference.

An employer cannot claim undue hardship based on employees' (or customers') fears or prejudices, or because providing a reasonable accommodation might have a negative impact on employee morale. Employers, however, may claim undue hardship where a reasonable accommodation would be unduly disruptive to other employees' ability to work.

Title II: State & Local Governments
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of state or local governments. It clarifies the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for public transportation systems that receive Federal financial assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public transportation, whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance.
Yes. A public entity does not have to take any action that it can demonstrate would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens. The head of the public entity or his or her designee can only make this determination. The determination that undue burdens would result must be based on all resources available for use in the program. If an action would result in such an alteration or such burdens, the public entity must take any other action that would not result in such an alteration or such burdens but would nevertheless ensure that individuals with disabilities receive the benefits and services of the program or activity.
No. A public entity must make only "reasonable modifications" in its policies, practices, or procedures to avoid discrimination. If the public entity can demonstrate that a modification would fundamentally alter the nature of its service, program, or activity, it is not required to make the modification.

For example, where a municipal zoning ordinance requires a set-back of 12 feet from the curb in the central business district and, in order to install a ramp to the front entrance of a pharmacy, the owner requests a variance to encroach on the set-back by three feet, granting the variance may be a reasonable modification of town policy.
A state or local government must eliminate any eligibility criteria for participation in programs, activities, and services that screen out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless it can establish that the requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program, or activity. The State or local government may, however, adopt legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation if they are based on real risks, not on stereotypes or generalizations about individuals with disabilities. Finally, a public entity must reasonably modify its policies, practices, or procedures to avoid discrimination. If the public entity can demonstrate that a particular modification would fundamentally alter the nature of its service, program, or activity, it is not required to make that modification.
Yes. Title II prohibits all public entities, regardless of the size of their work force, from discriminating in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities. In addition to Title II's employment coverage, title I of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by certain public entities.
Private individuals may bring lawsuits to enforce their rights under Title II and may receive the same remedies as those provided under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including reasonable attorney's fees. Individuals may also file complaints with eight designated Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.
Title III: Places of Public Accommodations
A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.
Appropriate auxiliary aids and services may include services and devices such as qualified interpreters, assistive listening devices, note takers, and written materials for individuals with hearing impairments; and qualified readers, taped texts, and Brailled or large print materials for individuals with vision impairments.
Yes. The ADA does not require the provision of any auxiliary aid that would result in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the goods or services provided by a public accommodation. However, the public accommodation is not relieved from the duty to furnish an alternative auxiliary aid, if available, that would not result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden. Both of these limitations are derived from existing regulations and case law under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and are to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
No, not if waiters or other employees are made available to read the menu to a blind customer.
Title IV: Telecommunications
No. This would be putting restrictions on this individual based on his disability and his need to communicate with your business using relay services. If other individuals have no restrictions on the number of calls that can be made to your technical support clerks then no restrictions should be placed on this individual who uses relay services.
Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions
No. Title V of the ADA encourages alternative dispute resolutions. Some Federal agencies have mediation programs designed to settle complaints without the agency having to conduct an investigation or a lawsuit being filed. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have such mediation programs.

Last Updated on:
Fri Jul 7, 2017