September 27, 2001
Sharon K. Storms
Program Compliance Section
Driving and Traffic Violator Schools Complaint Unit
Department of Motor Vehicles
Licensing Operations Division
P.O. Box 932342
Sacramento, California 94232-3420
Dear Ms. Storms:
This is in response to your letter, dated July 27, 2001, to Edward Wu, Unical Driving and Traffic School DS0853, informing Mr. Wu that he had to bring his classroom location into compliance or submit a written "exception letter from ADA requirements from an appropriate federal jurisdiction agency." As the federal office with responsibility for enforcing title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), we wished to respond to your letter.
The ADA does not establish specific requirements regarding alterations that must be made to existing facilities for the purpose of accessibility if alterations are not otherwise planned. Title III of the ADA, which applies to places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, simply requires that places of public accommodation remove architectural and communication barriers to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so. Congress defined the term "readily achievable" to mean "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."
In determining whether an action is readily achievable, the factors to be considered include: 1) the nature and cost of the action needed; 2) the overall financial resources of the entity; 3) the number of persons employed by the entity; 4) the effect that complying will have on the entity's expenses and resources; 5) legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation; 6) the impact otherwise of the action upon operation of the site; 7) the relationship of the entity to any parent corporation or entity; and 8) the overall financial resources, size, and types of operations of any parent corporation or entity.
The Department of Justice regulation implementing title III of the ADA requires that measures taken to remove barriers must comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design unless such compliance is not readily achievable. If it is not readily achievable to remove barriers in an existing facility that is not otherwise being altered, then barrier removal is not required. However, where barrier removal is not readily achievable, the public accommodation must nonetheless make its goods, services, or facilities available through alternative methods, such as curbside service, home delivery, or relocation of activities, where those methods are readily achievable.
Furthermore, please note that both the landlord and the tenant of a retail establishment are public accommodations and have full responsibility for complying with all ADA title III requirements applicable to that place of public accommodation. The title III regulation permits the landlord and the tenant to allocate responsibility, in the lease, for complying with particular provisions of the regulation. However, any allocation made in a lease or other contract is only effective as between the parties, and both landlord and tenant remain fully liable for compliance with all provisions of the ADA relating to that place of public accommodation.
Finally, because the Department of Justice does not have authority to approve facilities or designs for compliance with the ADA or to grant exceptions based on individual circumstances, we cannot provide Mr. Wu, or any other entity that you are monitoring, with a variance for his classroom. This does not necessarily mean, however, that Mr. Wu, or any other entity, is capable of providing readily achievable barrier removal at his facility, and you may wish to further investigate Mr. Wu's financial and other circumstances.
I hope this information will be helpful to you in conducting further classroom monitoring inspections in the future.
Disability Rights Section
cc: Mr. Edward Wu>