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Letter 205

December 13, 1996

The Honorable Rick Lazio

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515-3202

Dear Congressman Lazio:

I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, Mr. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, regarding the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for sidewalks at new highway construction projects. Please excuse our delay in responding.

Generally, the ADA does not require installation of pedestrian walkways in new construction projects where no such walkways are planned. When public entities build new facilities or alter existing facilities, the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II (enclosed) requires that the newly constructed or altered areas be made accessible to individuals with disabilities. The regulation specifically provides that new construction of or alterations to streets give rise to accessibility obligations for curb ramps. 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(e). Therefore, if a State or local government were constructing a new street or intersection or were altering an existing street or intersection, it would be required to provide accessible curb ramps or ramps where pedestrian walkways that are elevated or curbed intersect with the new or altered street or intersection. 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(e)(1). In addition, if the State or local government were building or altering a pedestrian walkway, it would be required to provide curb ramps or ramps as needed where the walkway intersects streets or intersections. 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(e)(2).

In addition to the requirements for new construction and alterations, title II of the ADA also requires public entities to ensure that existing programs, services, and activities are accessible to individuals with disabilities unless to do so would cause a fundamental alteration of the nature of the program, service, or activity or would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. 28 C.F.R. § 35.150. If installation of a curb ramp or of a pedestrian walkway is necessary to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to a particular State or local program, such as a school, equivalent to the access available to non-disabled individuals, the public entity may, in some circumstances, be required to install a ramp or walkway where none existed previously.

Of course, the ADA does not prohibit State or local governments from exceeding the requirements of the ADA. Nor does it limit their discretion to provide new pedestrian walkways and ramps as they see fit to serve interests in addition to accessibility.

I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent.


Deval L. Patrick

Assistant Attorney General

Civil Rights Division

Enclosure >

Updated August 6, 2015