October 16, 1998
The Honorable Sam Farr
Member, U.S. House of Representatives
701 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Dear Congressman Farr:
This is in response to your correspondence on behalf of your constituent, Ms. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, who is seeking information on the specific requirements for public buildings for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
We are enclosing a copy of the regulation for title III of the ADA, 28 CFR Part 36, which applies to "public accommodations" (businesses and non-profit agencies that serve the public) and "commercial facilities" (businesses such as manufacturing plants and wholesale operations that do not serve the public directly). Sections 36.304-310 of this document apply to public accommodations that existed before the ADA went into effect. Sections 36.401-406 apply to public accommodations and commercial facilities built or altered after the ADA went into effect. Appendix A contains the ADA Standards for Accessible Design that apply to new construction and alteration projects. These Standards also serve as guidelines for removing barriers, when removal is readily achievable, in facilities that existed before the ADA went into effect. §§ 36.304(a), (d), and (g).
We are also enclosing a copy of the regulation for title II of the ADA, 28 CFR Part 35, which applies to the programs, services, and activities of "public entities" (State and local governments). Section 35.151 applies to facilities built or altered after the ADA went into effect. Public entities may choose either the Standards for Accessible Design in 28 CFR Part 36, Appendix A, or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards in 41 CFR Part 101-19.6, Appendix A, for new construction and alteration projects. Sections 35.149-150 apply to facilities that existed before the ADA went into effect, and require "program accessibility" rather than "facility access." A public entity must operate each program, service, or activity so that the service, program, or activity, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, but a public entity is not necessarily required to make each of its existing facilities accessible. Program access can be achieved by relocating services from inaccessible buildings to accessible ones, by assigning aides to program beneficiaries, or by delivering services to alternate accessible sites. When these methods are not effective in providing access to programs, a State or local government must undertake structural modifications to its existing buildings, unless an undue burden would result. §§ 35. 150 (a) and (b).
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws and an ADA Information Services list, two general resources that indicate which agencies provide information about the ADA and other disability rights laws, are also enclosed.
We hope this information is useful to your constituent. If she has additional questions, she may call the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).
Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
Bill Lann Lee
Civil Rights Division