Public Places Overview
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers public places. The ADA has different things to say about different types of public places. Title II of the ADA covers public places that are funded by a state or local government, while Title III covers most private businesses open to the public, such as grocery stores, privately owned schools, and banks. However, if a public place is part of or funded by the federal government, the ADA doesn’t apply. Instead, the Rehabilitation Act applies.
This Public Places portion of the Northeast ADA Center website focuses on Title III, so it’s all about non-government places where goods and services are sold: grocery stores, bowling alleys, spas, flower shops, coffee shops, and more. An important term in Title III is public accommodation.
Generally speaking, a public accommodation is a non-government space where commerce takes place. Commerce happens when things are bought or sold, or where services are bought or sold. Examples are restaurants, stadiums, and hospitals. Additional examples include private schools, golf courses, and zoos. Title III also applies to private transportation providers and to public transportation terminals, depots, and stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation). Title III of the ADA says exactly what is covered. If you’re curious, see the Definitions section of Title III (Section 12181).
Title III is aimed at making it possible for people with disabilities to enjoy the same access to a business’s physical buildings, goods and services, and programs and other benefits, as anyone else. This goal may require a business to rethink the building where it operates and various elements inside the building. The business may also need to modify some of its policies and be flexible and creative when providing customer service.