Reasonable modification

The term reasonable modification is used differently in different laws:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The term reasonable modification is used in Title II and Title III of the ADA. Title II covers state and local government (public entities), while Title III covers businesses and nonprofit organizations open to the public (public accommodations). A reasonable modification is a change in a policy, practice, or procedure that is done to offer equal access and equal opportunity for a person with a disability. There are limits on these changes, and that is where reasonable comes in. Title II public entities—such as a public library or county social service office—do not have to make a modification that would fundamentally alter a service, program, or activity that they must provide to the public. A Title III public accommodation—such as a private doctor’s office, store, or hotel—does not have to make a modification that would fundamentally alter the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations it offers to the public—in other words, its goods and services. An example of a reasonable modification would be to permit a service animal to go where the public may go in a building, even though animals are not generally allowed. So then, what is a fundamental alteration? It is a change that is so significant to a policy, practice, or procedure that it would change the nature of what is offered. For example, it would be a fundamental alteration for a doctor specializing in foot issues to treat a heart condition.
  • Fair Housing Act (FHA): Under the FHA, a reasonable modification is a structural change in the physical environment. Examples include installing grab bars in bathrooms, lowering kitchen counters, and installing a visual fire alarm.


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