Ask About the ADA

Camping Accommodations

Q: We have a campground available for people attending an outdoor concert. A patron called and asked if they could have electricity at their tent site as they use a CPAP machine at night. We do not usually offer this; do I need to accommodate them?

A: In this case, it depends. In general, if this is not a service provided to others then the answer could be no. What the campground would need to assess is whether electricity could be provided relatively easily without causing an undue burden and would the accommodation provide equal access for the camper. If the answers are yes, then the accommodation should be made. 

Garbage Pick Up

Q: My town agreed to come onto my property to pick up the garbage, as I cannot do any heavy lifting. I asked if they could also pick up my bagged yard waste but they refused and cited that it is against their policy. As they are already accommodating me, should they have refused my additional request?

A: No, a Title II entity should look at modifying their policies to accommodate homeowners when receiving municipal services.  As the entity has already provided a similar accommodation, the new request should be granted unless they can show an undue burden

Accessible On-street Parking

Q: I've found the ADA standards for accessible parking in parking lots, but I have never found anything for street parking that have marked-out or metered on-street parking spaces. Is there a standard or recommendation for percentages and locations of accessible parking on the street?

A: While the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design do not contain technical requirements for the design of on-street accessible parking spaces, nor scoping requirements that regulate how many spaces must be accessible, Title II of the ADA clearly applies to on-street parking programs offered by state or local government entities. One of the best practice documents often applied to achieve accessibility in on-street parking design is the Public Rights of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG), issued by the United States Access Board. While PROWAG is not yet an enforceable standard under the ADA, it is often used by local governments that want to provide access for people with disabilities utilizing on street parking spaces.

In terms of how many on-street parking spaces should be accessible, Section R214 of the PROWAG states that “Where on-street parking is provided on the block perimeter and the parking is marked or metered, a minimum number of parking spaces must be accessible and comply with the technical requirements for parking spaces in Chapter R3. For every 25 parking spaces on the block perimeter up to 100 spaces, one parking space must be accessible. For every additional 50 parking spaces on the block perimeter between 101 and 200 spaces, an additional parking space must be accessible. Where more than 200 parking spaces are provided on the block perimeter, 4 percent of the parking spaces must be accessible.”

The design of accessible on-street parking spaces is addressed in Section R309 of the PROWAG. The technical requirements hinge on the width of the sidewalk adjoining the on-street parking. Where the width of the adjacent sidewalk or available right-of-way exceeds 14 feet, an access aisle at least 5 feet wide must be provided at street level the full length of the parking space and it must connect to a pedestrian access route. The access aisle cannot encroach on the vehicular travel lane.

What about COVID-19?

Q: What COVID-19 resources do you recommend?

A: First, let’s acknowledge that coping with COVID-19 can be very difficult, and we hope you’re doing okay with whatever challenges brought you here today. We also want to mention that we don’t give medical or legal advice, so be sure to contact an expert if you need that sort of help. Second, we’ve listed below some training sessions and resources that staff from the Northeast ADA Center have been involved in creating, plus some federal and regional resources.


Resources from the Northeast ADA:

Federal resources:

Resources in New York:

Resources in New Jersey:

  • New Jersey Department of Health: This site offers updates and resources about COVID-19 as it relates to New Jersey, including essential services and employment protections.
  • New Jersey 2-1-1: By calling 211 or visiting this website, New Jersey residents can find available resources in their communities.

Resources in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands:

For updates about the novel coronavirus in your community, visit the website for your county’s Department of Health. If you have symptoms and worry that you have COVID-19, please contact your health care provider.

Churches and Coffee Bars

Q: I am a parishioner at a church in New Jersey. We are constructing a coffee bar in our church. The bar will have a sink on the serving side. What are the ADA requirements for the bar and sink on both the serving and “customer” sides?

A: Although the ADA does not apply to the design of churches and other places of worship, the New Jersey building code requires accessibility in assembly areas such as churches.

 If the sink is only used by “employees,” it is technically not required to be accessible; however, it is advisable to provide access to the sink to accommodate an employee who may require access at a future date. 

 If the sink were to be used by patrons/parishioners, then the sink height is limited to 34 inches above the finish floor. You do not need clearance underneath the sink for someone seated in a wheelchair if you do not have a cooktop/oven in the area described in your question. 

On the patron/parishioner side of the bar, you need at least a 30-inch section of counter that is no higher than 36 inches above the finish floor, or you could drop the entire bar to 36 inches high. This height would apply to the type of bar where people are perhaps grabbing items often found on these types of counters, such as sugar, creamer, and napkins.  

If people will be seated or standing at the bar, however, at least 5% of the seated/standing spaces must be accessible and the height of the counter surface is limited to 34 inches maximum above the finish floor. There must be clearance underneath the bar for a front approach (on the customer side) by someone seated in a wheelchair.

Nonprofits and Religious Entities

Q: I am trying to find out if a 501(c)(3) is a “religious entity” for ADA purposes (i.e., accommodations in a day care). I am having no luck. Is there a place to look  on tax forms or such that would answer this question of if they are a “religious entity” for ADA purposes?

A: No, there is no place on a form that indicates if a nonprofit is a religious entity exempt from Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When trying to determine whether it is a religious entity or not under the ADA, the key is to look if the nonprofit in question is directly controlled by a religious entity. Some organizations rent space from religious entities, operating a private daycare out of a church, synagogue, or mosque for example. Such places are covered by Title III even though they are physically housed in a religious entity.

There are also occasions where a religious entity controlled an organization, but over the years that organization has become independent but retained the original name (possibly conveying a religious affiliation). Those organizations are, in fact, covered by the ADA.

So, it boils down to a matter of the control of the operation of an organization to determine its status under the ADA.

To learn more, read the ADA National Network fact sheet Religious Entities Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Emotional Support Dogs in Common Areas of Housing

 Q: I was told by my apartment complex’s management that that I would need a doctor’s note in order to take my emotional support dog into any common areas like the laundry room. Is this correct?

 A: Yes, a private housing provider can require documentation prior to allowing an emotional support animal into any common areas. It’s important to first remember that this situation is covered under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and not the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, emotional support animals are specifically not covered as a service animal with all of the rights to access granted to them. Additionally, private apartments are not covered under Title III of the ADA.

 By contrast under the FHA, the term assistance animal is used which is less restrictive than the ADA’s service animal and can include an emotional support dog. Assistance animals are a type of reasonable modification to a policy. A housing provider can ask for verification that a tenant has a disability and that there is a disability related need for a modification E.G., having an assistance animal and allowing it to accompany that person into common areas. The verification can be from a doctor, but it also could be from a counselor or other professional.


Forms for Flying with a Service Animal

Q: I frequently travel with my service dog, Max. I'm getting ready for a cross country flight. The airlines now require a Department of Transportation (DOT) form to be filled out and sent back at least 48 hours prior to a flight. My problem is nowhere in all the searches I’ve done, does it show me where to send or email the form for review and approval. Where do I send it?

A: The DOT's Service Animal Air Transportation form (SAAT) needs to be provided to the air carrier that is asking you to fill out the form. These forms are not reviewed by the DOT at all. They are simply created by the DOT for airlines to use as a review and attestation tool.  You will need to contact your air carrier as to where they want you to send in the form. Besides other information, the SAAT form verifies for the airline that Max is properly trained, has necessary vaccinations, knows how to behave appropriately, and is free of fleas, ticks, or diseases that could harm humans or other animals.

Now if your trip has a flight lasting longer than eight hours, then you will also need to complete a Service Animal Relief Attestation form. This document verifies that Max can go for eight hours without needing to relieve himself. Or if he cannot, the form asks if Max can relieve himself in a sanitary manner. And again, this form would go to the airline carrier.

Paratransit Eligibility Documentation

Q: When a transit agency is going through the process of determining paratransit eligibility for riders with disabilities, can the transit provider require a disability diagnosis from a licensed physician?

A: The ADA regulations do not mandate a medical diagnosis from a physician in the paratransit eligibility process. This is because the ultimate goal is to determine if the individual can fully access and navigate the transportation system – which is a functional determination more than a medical diagnosis. While documentation from a physician may be of use when determining a rider’s functional ability to use the transit system, it should not be the only form of evidence or support that is accepted by a transit provider.

Service Animals on Public Transit

Q: Are the rules for service animals different on public transportation than they are for service animals in other areas like restaurants and stores?

A: The biggest difference between the Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) ADA regulations regarding service animals and the Dept. of Justice’s (DOJ) regulations (which would apply in areas like restaurants and retail spaces) is in the DOT definition of a service animal. For the DOT regulations, a service animal is “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” People with disabilities must be permitted to have their service animal accompany them on transit vehicles and in transit facilities if they meet this definition. While the DOJ definition limits the species of service animals to dogs, and in some cases miniature horses, the DOT definition of a service animal does not limit the species of animal in the same way.

To read more about what the term service animal means and where, check out the article, The ADA and Service Animals.

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