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Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Letters


August 26, 1998

The Honorable Sander M. Levin

Member, U.S. House of Representatives

2107 E. 14 Mile Road, Suite 130

Sterling Heights, Michigan 48310

Dear Congressman Levin:

This is in response to your correspondence on behalf of your constituent, Mr. xxxxxxxxxxxxx, who is preparing for reconstruction after a fire destroyed a portion of the interior of his restaurant. Please excuse the delay in our response.

Reconstruction after a fire is considered an "alteration." The requirements for alterations are found in the Department's title III regulation, 28 CFR Part 36, §§ 36.402-36.404, and Appendix A. Alteration is defined as "a change to a place of public accommodation or a commercial facility that affects or could affect the usability of the building or facility or any part thereof." (28 CFR § 36.402 (b)). The term alteration includes remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, historic restoration, changes or rearrangement in structural parts or elements, and changes or rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions. Normal maintenance, reroofing, painting or wallpapering, asbestos removal, or changes to mechanical and electrical systems are not alterations unless they affect the usability of the building or facility. (28 CFR § 36.402 (b)(1)).

Thus, if the damage caused by the fire is minor and can be corrected by cleaning, re-painting, or re-wallpapering, the ADA would not apply. If walls are being reconstructed or new toilet fixtures or other elements are provided, the ADA requirements would apply. Any alteration shall be made so as to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, the altered portions of the facility are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. (28 CFR § 36.402 (a)(1)). Each element, space, or common area that is altered or added must comply with the applicable provisions of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. (28 CFR § 36.402 (b)(2)). Further, if alterations of single elements, when considered together, amount to an alteration of a room or space in a building or facility, the entire space shall be made accessible. (28 CFR App. A, section 4.1.6 (1)(c)).

We are enclosing a copy of the regulation along with resource information about tax credits and deductions that may help businesses comply with the ADA.

We hope this information is useful to your constituent. If he has additional questions, he may call the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).


Bill Lann Lee

Acting Assistant

Attorney General

Civil Rights Division


Updated August 6, 2015