The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and creates accessibility requirements in “public accommodations.”
A place of public accommodation is defined broadly and has been interpreted by many courts to be extremely broad. It includes hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, stores, and more. It is essentially any place that is open to the public with a few narrow exceptions.
Title III of the ADA prohibits the discrimination against individuals with disabilities “in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.”
This is the section of the ADA that requires all new construction to be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities—ramps must be included, doors must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, etc.
Title III of the ADA also addresses service animals. Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. This is a much more narrow definition of “assistance animal” that you are used to seeing under Fair Housing law, which has different application and standards.
So what does this all mean for you? Any brick-and-mortar location for a firm will be a place of public accommodation that needs to comply with the ADA. Courts have also held that many websites are also places of public accommodation that must be in compliance with the ADA.
If you have any questions regarding this article, we encourage you to contact the Virginia REALTORS® Legal Hotline.