August 5, 1999
The Honorable Joseph R. Pitts
Member, U.S. House of Representatives
50 North Duke Street
Courthouse, 5th Floor
Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17602
Dear Congressman Pitts:
I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx, regarding whether it is appropriate, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for the City of Lancaster to require his daughter and son-in-law to incur costs from replacing curbs and/or sidewalks adjacent to their house.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by State and local government entities. The Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II requires public entities with authority over streets, roads, or walkways (including sidewalks) to construct certain curb ramps or similar structures in order to provide access to sidewalks for individuals with mobility impairments. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.150(d)(2). In addition, when public entities build new or alter existing facilities, streets or pedestrian walkways, the title II regulations require the construction of curb ramps or similar structures. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(e).
It appears from the letter that the City of Lancaster is requiring xxx xxxxxxxxxxxx daughter and son-in-law to replace curbs and/or sidewalks adjacent to their house as part of the City's annual street improvement project. As described above, under the ADA, constructing a new street or altering an existing street give rise to accessibility obligations for curb ramps. However, the ADA does not regulate the manner in which a covered entity, such as the City of Lancaster, should finance changes it must make in order to bring itself into compliance with the ADA. Rather, the ADA prohibits such an entity from placing a surcharge on any particular individual with a disability or group of individuals with disabilities in order to cover the cost of complying with the ADA. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(8)(f).
In our view, curb ramps that are installed to meet the City's overall obligations under the ADA do not provide a particular benefit to the adjacent property owner and are more properly paid for through general revenues or other funds available for street and sidewalk improvements. However, public entities are free to allocate these cost among their residents in any manner authorized by state law.
Again, we must stress that, other than prohibiting a surcharge against a particular individual or group of individuals with disabilities, the ADA and its implementing regulations do not address this issue. Therefore, unless a covered entity attempts to place a direct charge on such an individual or group of individuals, the final determination with respect to payment for any improvements undertaken to comply with the ADA falls within the discretion of the taxing entity.
For your information I have enclosed a copy of the title II regulations. If xxx xxxxxxxxxx has additional questions, the Department maintains a telephone information line to provide technical assistance regarding the rights and obligations of individuals, businesses, agencies, and others covered or protected by the ADA. This technical assistance is available by calling 800-514-0301 (Voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).
I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
Bill Lann Lee
Civil Rights Division