Ask About the ADA

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.


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.


Marginal Job Function

Q. 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?

A. 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.


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.


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.


Essential Job Function

Q: 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?

A: 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.


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

If a patient using a wheelchair in my health care practice cannot perform a transfer without assistance, do we have to help them?

Yes. The best way to help patients transfer by themselves would be to provide an adjustable-height table. In a cases where having an adjustable-height table is not readily achievable, a health care facility must help patients onto the high tables, including lifting them if necessary. The provider should take every precaution to ensure that this is accomplished in a manner that is safe for the patient and the assisting staff. The facility should have policies that require appropriate training in techniques as well as access to mechanical assistance, such as with a Hoyer lift, should be in place.

If I lease my medical office space, am I responsible for making the exam room, waiting room, and toilet rooms are accessible?

Yes. Any private entity that owns, leases or leases to, or operates a place of public accommodation must comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The tenant and the landlord are equally responsible for complying with the ADA. However, your lease may specify that, as between the parties, the landlord is responsible for some or all of the accessibility requirements of the space. Frequently, the tenant is made responsible for the space it uses and controls (e.g., the examination rooms and reception area), while the landlord is responsible for common spaces, such as toilet rooms used by more than one tenant. You can learn more about accessibility requirements for medical offices in the pamphlet Department of Justice Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Issues.

My hospital is controlled by a religious organization. Does Title III of the ADA still apply?

Yes and no. Religious organizations or entities controlled by religious organizations are exempt from Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, they are subject to the Title I employment protections of the ADA if the hospital has 15 or more employees or possibly under some state laws. If the hospital receives federal funding, it is obligated under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to make its services accessible to persons with disabilities. This includes hospitals that receive Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. State and local laws may apply as well, such as state and local building codes.


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