Does an online college class have to be accessible?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to access the services and activities of colleges and universities. Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education recognize the need for this equal opportunity under the ADA as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Online course accessibility means that a student using a screen reader form of assistive technology can read and manipulate an online learning management system and the documents provided by faculty. It means that a student who is Deaf or hard-of-hearing has access to captions for videos and other multimedia. Accessibility in the digital environment requires thoughtful planning and preparation by institutions and faculty in how they deliver virtual learning.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

Does the ADA apply to websites?

Yes, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites for Title II and Title III. Title II covers state and local government and their related entities while Title III addresses public accommodations such as businesses and nonprofits. The difficulty is that as of now, there are no specific standards defined by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the federal department that creates the regulations for Title II and III of the ADA. That being said, the DOJ has held for many years that the ADA does apply as shown in Chapter 5 of the ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Governments and to Title III public accommodations in its September 25, 2018 letter to Representative Ted Budd of North Carolina.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

Are service animals permitted in disaster shelters?

Yes. Permitting a service animal can be a form of reasonable modification of a policy. Typically, a service animal should be permitted to go where the public is allowed to go. The handler must be a person with a disability and the animal must be a service animal under the definition from the Department of Justice; a dog that is individually trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability. Shelter workers are permitted to ask if the animal is a service animal needed because of a disability. And they can also ask what task the animal has been trained to perform. The handler is responsible for the care of the service animal and for making sure that the service animal acts appropriately. To learn more, read the Northeast ADA fact sheet

Key Facts About Service Animals for Disaster Shelter Workers

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

I own a small corner store that has double doors at the entrance. Recently, a customer told me that since the doors are not automatic they do not comply with the ADA. Is this true?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does apply to retail stores and requires accessible entrances. Providing an accessible entrance is an ADA requirement, but for a door to be accessible it does not have to be automatic, as long as it offers other key features, such as a sufficiently clear width, appropriate operable hardware, and an accessible approach area. The technical requirements for accessible doors are detailed in Section 404 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

If you have more questions about this or need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

Do I need to get a special license for my service dog to be registered as a service animal?

No. Under Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), covered entities such as businesses or state and local governments may not require any documentation related to a service animal. This includes any sort of proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.

You can purchase service animal certifications or registrations online. However, these documents are neither recognized nor required by the US Department of Justice, the government department that enforces Title II and III of the ADA. Therefore, online registries or licenses have no legal weight in determining the rights of a service dog to enter public places.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

One of my customer service employees just told me that they have a disability that makes it hard to use their hands for repetitive work. They asked to be released from assisting with stuffing envelopes for the mailing task we sometimes have this department help with. What should I do?

Because the mailing task sounds as if it is a marginal job function for your customer service team, you can remove this task as a reasonable accommodation. Marginal job functions, or those that are not the primary reason a position exists, can be eliminated from a job or reassigned to another employee. It might be a good idea to assign this employee a portion of this task that does not require repetitive work (i.e. organizing the mailing or printing labels) in order to balance the workload in this department.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

I'm someone with a disability that people can't see. In my job interview tomorrow, do I have to tell the company about my disability in the interview?

No. Applicants and employees are not required to share this information, unless requesting a reasonable accommodation or modification in how they participate in a job interview or perform essential job functions or tasks. Under Title I (Employment Provisions) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disclosing or telling an employer that you have a disability is a personal choice.

If you do not need/want to request an accommodation, you never need to disclose your disability. If you do want to make an accommodation request, this can be done at any time during the hiring process (before the interview, during the interview, and after you are offered the job and before you start). You can also ask for an accommodation at any point during your employment if you find you need it.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

My dog provides me with emotional support. Do I have a right under the ADA to have my dog with me on the job?

This is not a yes or no answer. In terms of employment under the ADA, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that creates the regulations (Title I) related to employment. They have not defined service animal in their regulations, unlike the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in its ADA regulations for Title II and III. Instead, the EEOC has made the issue one of reasonable accommodation, the mechanism by which a person with a disability can ask for a change or alteration in the work environment in order to be able to do the essential job functions. In the workplace, an emotional support animal might be a possible reasonable accommodation. However, the employer must decide whether or not it is reasonable to permit the dog and that it would not cause an undue hardship to allow the dog.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

An employee has requested that one of their job functions be removed because of their disability. I think that the function is essential. Is there any guidance on how to figure out whether a job function is essential or not?

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the regulations for employment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To help determine what is or is not an essential job function, the EEOC looks at multiple factors that must be weighed when trying to understand what may or may not be an essential function. In their guidance, The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer, the EEOC lists the following points:

  • Whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function,
  • The number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed, and
  • The degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.
  • The actual written job description.
  • The actual work experience of present or past employees in the job,
  • The time spent performing a function,
  • The consequences of not requiring that an employee perform a function, and
  • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

I applied for a clerical position at a local church. I am a person with a disability and may need a reasonable accommodation. Are churches exempt from the ADA?

Yes and no. Churches are exempt from Title III of the ADA but if they employ at least 15 employees, they are covered as an employer by Title I of the ADA and cannot discriminate against applicants that are qualified for the position who have a disability. However, a religious entity may give preference to individuals of its own religion and may require that all applicants and employees follow the entity’s religious rules.

If you have more questions about this or if you need to know more about something else under the ADA, please contact the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232, by email at northeastada@cornell.edu, or by submitting a question through our website.

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