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Disability Discrimination: Public Accommodation

Federal and Ohio Disability Attorneys — Disability Discrimination in places of Public Accommodation Under the ADA

While the ADA has been in place for over 20 years, many disabled individuals still face discrimination in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, private businesses, stores, and similar facilities that are open to the public. Pursuant to Title III of the ADA, most facilities must be accessible to individuals with disabilities by making reasonable (“readily achievable”) changes to policies, practices and procedures, as well as the amenities or auxiliary aids or services, to its disabled patrons. Under Title III, individuals are permitted to file suit to enforce the provisions of this remedial legislation, whereby injunctive relief (elimination of the discrimination) can be achieved. Non-compliance with the law can result in serious consequences to the offending business or entity.


Public Accommodation Enforcement

Title III of the ADA provides that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)).


A Plaintiff in a Title III ADA claim must prove 3 elements in order to prevail:


  1. That the Plaintiff is disabled within the meaning of the ADA;
  2. That the Defendant owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation; and
  3. That the Plaintiff was denied public accommodation by the Defendant due to his or her disability.
    • Note: This is met if there was a violation of applicable accessibility standards.


As to the first element, the ADA defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such an individual.” (42 U.S.C. § 12101(2)). The Justice Department defines an “impairment” as a condition affecting one or more of the bodies’ systems, including the musculoskeletal and neurological systems, and defines “major life activities” to include “functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.” (28 C.F.R. 36.104).


As to the second element, the ADA identifies 12 categories of facilities that are considered places of public accommodation for purposes of a Title III action. (42 U.S.C. § 12181). Generally, every public place that is open to the general public is included, such as “a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment.” (42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(E).


As to the third element, “Existing facilities” — places of public accommodation built prior to January 26, 1993 — are required to remove architectural barriers that deny access to persons with disabilities, “where such removal is readily achievable.” (42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv)). Whether an architectural element at a facility denies full and equal access to persons with disabilities is determined based on the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).


Common examples of “readily achievable” barrier removal required by the ADA include:


  • providing disabled accessible parking spaces;
  • providing appropriate ramps with protective elements, such as widening doors;
  • removing barriers to access in restrooms, hotel rooms, and dining facilities;
  • installing grab bars in restrooms; and;
  • preventing direct discrimination against disabled patrons.



Where appropriate, we file suit on behalf of individuals who face discrimination in places of public accommodation to remedy barriers to access and enforce the protections contained in the ADA.


As an initial matter, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)).


First, private suits may be brought by individuals who are subjected to discrimination or who have reasonable grounds for believing that they are about to be subjected to discrimination. In a private action, the relief that may be granted is preventive and includes a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order or “other order,” including an order to alter the facilities to make such facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the extent required by the ADA. In such private suits, although the Justice Department is authorized to intervene, it rarely does so due to the sheer volume of such lawsuits.


Second, ADA Title III authorizes suits by the Justice Department whenever it has reasonable cause—ranging from anonymous complaints to verifiable facts—to believe that there is a pattern or practice of discrimination that raises an issue of general public importance.


If suit is brought, the court may grant equitable relief, including temporary, preliminary or permanent injunctive relief requiring that a facility be made readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. In addition, a successful Plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney fees and litigation expenses in addition to any injunctive relief granted.


If you believe you have been discriminated against in a place of public accommodation, please feel free to contact us for more information. You may also email us directly about your legal issue, either at the Columbus or Toledo office of Bryant Legal, LLC.