Ask About the ADA

Fitness for Duty Exams for College Students

Q: My daughter suspended her college enrollment due to medical reasons but is ready to re-enroll. The school is asking for a letter from her physician stating that she is fit to begin school again. Is this discrimination?

A: While mostly applicable to employment, fitness for duty exams or inquiries are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The college may apply a policy that looks to assure that students do not present a safety risk to themselves or others. The school must also weigh if a reasonable modification may reduce this risk. However, the policy cannot be used to single out specific groups or individuals.

Federal Contractors and Self-Disclosure of a Disability

Q: I am applying for a job with a company that is a federal contractor. The application asks if I want to self-identify as having a disability. Is this illegal?

A: Federal contractors and subcontractors that are covered by the affirmative action requirements of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 may invite individuals with disabilities to identify themselves on a job application form, or by some other pre-employment inquiry, to satisfy the affirmative action requirements. Employers who request this information must observe Section 503 requirements regarding the manner in which they request and use such information. They must also follow the requirements for maintaining the information in a separate, confidential record, apart from regular personnel records.

It is important to know that self-identifying as a person with a disability in this instance is voluntary. There is no mandate that you must disclose your disability in response to this question.

ADA and Product Certifications

Q: My company produces grab bars according to the design criteria set out in the ADA design standards. A customer, a shipyard in Europe, now asks for stamped certification that our grab bars are ADA compliant. Are there offices that offer ADA certifications?

A: No, there are no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “certification” offices. The ADA standards for accessible design address grab bar design, dimensions, and placement and heights, but does not provide a process for certifying individual products.

Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices

Q: I am a concert organizer. A ticket holder has asked to bring their golf cart to the outdoor event as they use it as a mobility aid. Do I have to allow the use of golf carts?

A: People with disabilities may use a variety of devices as mobility aids according to what best meets their needs. While many people are familiar with individuals using a wheelchair or scooter, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does permit the use of other power-driven mobility devices (OPMDs). Golf carts and Segways® or other mobility devices may be included as an OPMD. Public accommodations under Title III or public entities under Title II of the ADA may need to allow the use of a device for a person with a mobility disability even if the same device would be prohibited for someone without a disability.

You as the public accommodation have the right to assess if the device cannot be accommodated due to legitimate safety concerns. This must be based on actual risks and must not be speculative.  In their fact sheet, ADA Requirements: Wheelchairs, Mobility Aids, and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices, The Department of Justice (DOJ) provides the following risk assessment factors to consider:

  • the type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
  • the facility's volume of pedestrian traffic (which may vary at different times of the day, week, month, or year);
  • the facility's design and operational characteristics (e.g., whether its business is conducted indoors or outdoors, its square footage, the density and placement of furniture and other stationary devices, and the availability of storage for the OPDMD if needed and requested by the user);
  • whether legitimate safety requirements (such as limiting speed to the pace of pedestrian traffic or prohibiting use on escalators) can be established to permit the safe operation of the OPDMD in the specific facility; and
  • whether the use of the OPDMD creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.

You can learn more by reading the fact sheet, Wheelchairs and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices.

So, in your case with an outdoor concert, it may be difficult to accommodate a golf cart depending on the layout of the physical space and size of the crowd in the venue. However, if you cannot accommodate a golf cart, you must consider if there is either another OPMD that you could permit or if you could provide some other means of access to the concert.

Service Animals on Airplanes

Q: Recently the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the rules for service animals and emotional support animals on airplanes. Why was this done?

A: The DOT made these changes to avoid problems with animals on airplanes. Some passengers were bringing exotic animals on board as emotional support animals. Also, in some cases, passengers were attacked by aggressive, untrained dogs. The Service Animal Final Rule under the Air Carrier Access Act no longer recognizes emotional support animals as service animals and provides that service animal handlers attest that their animals have been adequately trained. The announcement of the final ruling was issued in December of 2020.

Accommodations and Job Training

Q: I am a vocational counselor. I referred a customer for training, but the training provider would not accept the customer because he is dyslexic, and they did not have the dedicated staff available to assist him with all the reading material necessary to successfully complete the training and exam. Have they violated the ADA?

A: That is a difficult call. The training agency is responsible for providing effective communication and auxiliary aids and services to facilitate that communication. Certainly, one solution would have been to have a qualified reader for any materials that were expected to be read during the training and exam.

However, alternative options should have been considered. For example, the training organization could have provided pre-recorded materials as an alternative to an in-person qualified reader. Or if the reading and exam was in an electronic format, they could have offered the materials in an accessible electronic format combined with the use of a computer with built-in assistive technology, such as Narrator screen reader on a Windows PC, or a free downloadable product, such as NVDA (nonvisual desktop access).

Even though the training organization said that they could not provide a qualified reader for all the course time, they are still responsible for investigating other solutions. They still have an obligation to find an effective communication alternative as long as it would not cause an undue burden.

Temporary Events and Communication

Q: I am organizing an outdoor concert and was told that our medical tent would have to have a sign language interpreter there at all times. There will be interpreters at the event, but do I have to assign one to the medical tent?

A: In general no. Much like a doctor’s office or an emergency room, interpreters are not typically present on staff. That being said, the medical tent still must provide effective communication by other means if an interpreter is not present. Depending on a given situation, interpreters should be brought in from other areas of the event when requested or necessary. 

You can read more about effective communication in this article on

Camping Accommodations

Q: We have a campground available for people attending an outdoor concert. A patron called and asked if they could have electricity at their tent site as they use a CPAP machine at night. We do not usually offer this; do I need to accommodate them?

A: In this case, it depends. In general, if this is not a service provided to others then the answer could be no. What the campground would need to assess is whether electricity could be provided relatively easily without causing an undue burden and would the accommodation provide equal access for the camper. If the answers are yes, then the accommodation should be made. 

Garbage Pick Up

Q: My town agreed to come onto my property to pick up the garbage, as I cannot do any heavy lifting. I asked if they could also pick up my bagged yard waste but they refused and cited that it is against their policy. As they are already accommodating me, should they have refused my additional request?

A: No, a Title II entity should look at modifying their policies to accommodate homeowners when receiving municipal services.  As the entity has already provided a similar accommodation, the new request should be granted unless they can show an undue burden

Accessible On-street Parking

Q: I've found the ADA standards for accessible parking in parking lots, but I have never found anything for street parking that has marked-out or metered on-street parking spaces. Is there a standard or recommendation for percentages and locations of accessible parking on the street?

A: While the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design do not contain technical requirements for the design of on-street accessible parking spaces, nor scoping requirements that regulate how many spaces must be accessible, Title II of the ADA clearly applies to on-street parking programs offered by state or local government entities. One of the best practice documents often applied to achieve accessibility in on-street parking design is the Public Rights of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG), issued by the United States Access Board. While PROWAG is not yet an enforceable standard under the ADA, it is often used by local governments that want to provide access for people with disabilities using on-street parking spaces.

In terms of how many on-street parking spaces should be accessible, Section R214 of the PROWAG states that “Where on-street parking is provided on the block perimeter and the parking is marked or metered, a minimum number of parking spaces must be accessible and comply with the technical requirements for parking spaces in Chapter R3. For every 25 parking spaces on the block perimeter up to 100 spaces, one parking space must be accessible. For every additional 50 parking spaces on the block perimeter between 101 and 200 spaces, an additional parking space must be accessible. Where more than 200 parking spaces are provided on the block perimeter, 4 percent of the parking spaces must be accessible.”

The design of accessible on-street parking spaces is addressed in Section R309 of the PROWAG. The technical requirements hinge on the width of the sidewalk adjoining the on-street parking. Where the width of the adjacent sidewalk or available right-of-way exceeds 14 feet, an access aisle at least 5 feet wide must be provided at street level the full length of the parking space and it must connect to a pedestrian access route. The access aisle cannot encroach on the vehicular travel lane.

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