Is a service animal in training afforded the same rights as a fully trained service animal?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal in training is not recognized as a service animal and therefore would not be given the same rights to access places of public accommodation. It is important to note that individual states can offer additional protections beyond the ADA. As an example, New York State allows for a recognized professional trainer to have a service animal in training in places of public accommodation. The rule of keeping the service animal under control would still be applicable. Individuals should check the state and local law where they live.
The difference between service animals, emotional support animals, or therapy animals can be confusing. Are they all covered under the ADA?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog, and sometimes a miniature horse, that has been trained to complete a specific task relative to the needs of an individual’s disability. Emotional Support Animals as well as Therapy Animals are not considered service animals under the ADA. While these animals serve a role in companionship, relieving loneliness, and mitigating the effects of some mental health conditions, they do not have special training to perform specific tasks that assist people with disabilities.
Is there a place I can certify or register my dog as a service animal?
No. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not certify nor set up a registry for service animals. While a search on the internet will provide results of organizations claiming that they will certify or register your animal for a fee, these are not valid under the ADA and only seek to profit from their claims.
Can I bring my service animal into my polling site on Election Day?
Yes. The right for a service animal to accompany its handler into public spaces applies to voting sites. Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public entities must make reasonable modifications to policies in order to grant equal access to its programs, services, and activities for individuals with disabilities. This is true whether or not the voting program is held at a facility operated by the entity. So if a county Board of Election (a public entity) uses a store (a public accommodation) as a temporary polling site, the Board of Election is responsible to ensure that a person with a disability accompanied by a service animal can bring their service animal with them into the store to vote.
Does the ADA provide reasonable accommodation forms?
No. Accommodation requests are submitted to your employer and when required, employers may ask you to fill out “ADA” paperwork to process your request. Individual companies and not the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) create this paperwork. The ADA is not an organization, but a law that provides protections for people with disabilities. The human resource departments of an employer typically carry out approval of accommodations.
If I have a problem voting because of a barrier related to my disability on Election Day, who should I contact?
The right to an equal opportunity to vote is protected under multiple federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you believe that you faced discrimination while attempting to vote, you can file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division by using this form.
You can also contact your state or territories Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agency. These federally funded agencies work to ensure the rights of individuals with disabilities in several areas including voting. Each P&A has a program, Protection & Advocacy for Voting Accessibility (PAVA), that is dedicated to ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in voting. In addition to educating voters with disabilities about their rights, they can assist and represent individuals with disabilities in filing a complaint. You can locate your P&A at this link.
Does a polling site have to be physically accessible?
Yes. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities have a right to physical access and use of a voting facility. This is true whether a polling site is operated by the public entity responsible for conducting the voting or if a facility is used as a temporary polling site. Where a building or facility has access barriers for people with disabilities, temporary solutions and fixes can be used to make the site accessible. If this is not possible, then the public entity must make reasonable modifications to allow for alternate voting, such as curbside voting, to ensure equal access.
Do electronic voting machines have to be accessible to someone with a vision related disability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public entities (state or local government entities) to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equally effective opportunity to vote and participate in the voting process. This includes ensuring equally effective communication and reasonable modification of policies and practices. Public officials must also maintain accessible voting equipment and ensure election officials are trained on the use of the equipment. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires all jurisdictions conducting a federal election to have at least one accessible voting system. This includes access for those who are blind or have low vision. These systems must offer the same opportunity for access, participation, privacy, and independence as that offered to others.