Ask About the ADA

Benches at Bus Stops

Q: My bus stop has a shelter but there are no benches for me to sit on as I wait for the bus. I have a mobility impairment and it is hard for me to stand for long periods. Does the ADA require that bus stops have benches?

A: While many places do provide benches at their bus stops, there is no provision in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that requires them.

Beach Access

Q: I heard that the ADA applies to public beaches, but I don’t see requirements in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design about how to provide access over the sand. Am I missing something?

A: The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design do not directly address public beach access. However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if no standards exist, the general non-discrimination and program accessibility requirements for state and local governments still apply.

As a result, for public entities wanting to provide ADA program accessibility to a beach, a recommended resource is the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Standards for Outdoor Developed Areas. These standards address how to provide access to federal beaches and contain scoping and technical requirements that can be applied by entities that manage public beaches. Note that the ABA Standards allow for either permanent or removable beach access routes over the sand.

Our fact sheet about Beach Access Routes has more information.

Accessible Routes for Paddleball

Q: My county is building a new, elevated platform paddleball court. The court surface is raised several feet to allow space underneath for heaters that melt snow and ice from the court surface, as this game is primarily a winter sport. Is an accessible route required to access the court? The county plans to use steps for access to the court entrance.

A: Per the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, an accessible route needs to connect to the boundary of each area of sport activity. If the area of sport activity is raised, then the accessible route would need to be a ramp or platform lift to the boundary or entrance of the elevated platform tennis court.

A List of Disabilities

Q: Does the ADA have a full list of all the conditions that are covered under the act?

A: No, an individual with a disability is defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as someone who has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment." Many conditions could fall under this, and the ADA intended for “disability” to be a legal term rather than a medical term. As a result, there is no official list but only ones that give examples of likely disabilities.

Accessible Bathroom Stalls

Q: Are accessible bathroom stalls only for people with mobility impairments?

A: No. As with all bathroom stalls they are on a first come first use basis. However, it is courteous to avoid using an accessible stall if you do not absolutely have to use it.

Paying to Assist a Child

Q: My son, who has a disability, attends a gym. His father goes with him as he has personal needs that need attending. The gym wants his father to get a membership even though he is there only to assist my son. Can they make him do that?

A: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not guarantee free or discounted admission to the caregivers of individuals with disabilities. There are times, however, when a person with a disability cannot access goods or services without personal assistance, and a public entity or business may need to consider offering free or discounted admission to ensure equal access. Generally, this will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Pool Lifts at a Resort

Q: Do swimming pool lifts have to be at every pool at a resort? Can one be shared by pools located near each other?

A: Regulations based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require that pool lifts must be able to be used independently by a person with a disability and must be available for use whenever the pool is open. This essentially means that lifts must be fixed in place, so as to avoid a lift being moved while someone is in the pool who will need it. A lift provides an accessible way out, and not having it available can create a very dangerous situation. If a pool is closed to everyone (for example, if the pool is only open seasonally) then the lift can be stored for the season and put back in place when the pool re-opens.

You can find out more in our fact sheet about ADA Requirements for Swimming Pool Lifts (PDF).

Personal Mobility Devices and Charging Stations

Q: I have a motorized wheelchair that I use for my mobility. Are municipal buildings required to have charging stations in case I need to charge my wheelchair?

A: Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a public entity is not responsible for providing individuals with disabilities personal or individually prescribed devices. As a result, the entity would not be responsible for setting up stations for the charging or maintenance of a power wheelchair.

Reasonable Accommodations and Fairness

Q: How does an individual advocate when the employer says certain requests are not fair to other employees?

A: There is no simple solution to this question. Employers do not always know about the ADA or understand all of its implications. The ADA is meant to create equal access and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. This often means using flexible thinking to realize that policies, procedures, practices, and the physical work environment may need to be reasonably modified.

Having a reasonable accommodation is not an unfair advantage but is a means of creating an equal opportunity for a person to do their job, their essential job functions. The individual with a disability can share with their employer that reasonable accommodation is not special or preferential treatment, but a change needed to allow a person to do their work and to be productive. Figuring out the best strategy for how to communicate this depends on the person, what they are comfortable sharing on their own behalf, the work environment, and what kind of support (if any) they might be able to get from within their organization.

Personal Assistants as a Reasonable Accommodation

Q: Is asking for a personal assistance service a reasonable accommodation in the workplace under the ADA?

A: Under the ADA, private employers are not obligated to provide or pay for personal services or devices to their employees to perform routine job functions. However, an employee who requires personal assistance in the workplace should ask their employer to allow their aide into the workplace as a reasonable accommodation. The employee will have to cover the cost of the aide and work out a schedule with their employer to receive the services at work.

Personal assistants provide some basic non-medical support for individuals with specific types of disabilities. In the work environment services provided might include putting on or removing a coat, assistance with eating, or help using the bathroom. Personal assistance services are understood to be personal in nature and therefore beyond the scope of what a covered employer must offer as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

There is one potential exception to this limit. Work related travel is understood to be a circumstance when it may be necessary for an employer to provide personal assistance service as a form of reasonable accommodation. Beyond the ADA, federal employers, covered by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, are specifically required to consider providing personal assistance services as an accommodation for an employee who has a disability as long as it does not impose an undue hardship.

To read more about personal assistance services as a reasonable accommodation, you can read the Job Accommodation Network’s Personal Assistance in the Workplace.

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