The Americans with Disabilities act contains provisions requiring businesses and governments to provide accessible facilities. Title II of the ADA requires that the facilities be accessible to persons with disabilities. Many, many businesses have not complied with the ADA. See comparison chart. Some folks believe incorrectly that if their facility was built before passage of the ADA in 1990, then they do not need to comply. That is not true. Title II actually provides that public facilities must be accessible if accessibility is "readily achievable." See Advocacy, Inc. Fact sheet. Existing facilities which have received "substantial alterations" are not subject to any grandfather clause and must be accessible.
Public facility includes everything open to the public: restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctor’s offices, lawyers’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. In my own experience, even neighborhood association playgrounds or pools must be accessible.
A large issue is sidewalks. Are sidewalks a "service or program" of a city such that it fits the Title II requirements? In a recent decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that sidewalks are not services or programs of the city. The decision acknowledges that the various federal courts of appeals are divided over the question. So, the issue will likely come before the US Supreme Court before long.
In my neighborhood, there are a few folks in wheelchairs who have to traverse the shoulder of a busy Fredericksburg Road because there are no sidewalks. How long before they have a close encounter with a Mack truck?
In a recent class action against Burger King, the company had to pay as settlement $5 million in damages and $2.5 million in attorney fees for 10 Burger King facilities that were but in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Burger King tried to argue that since they were built before passage of the ADA, their facilitiers did not have to comply. But, each of the 10 Burger King’s had major alterations over the decades. The plaintiffs claimed the facilities were not accessible to wheelchairs and scooters. As our population ages, this will become more and more an issue. See post. The class action lawsuit was filed in the northern district court of California.