How To: File a claim against a business for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What You Need to Know:

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities act protects people with disabilities from discrimination by “places of public accommodation”, like the following places:

  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Convention halls
  • Grocery stores
  • Laundromats
  • Train stations
  • Museums
  • Parks
  • Schools
  • Day cares
  • Gyms

This means that many private businesses must refrain from discriminating against people with disabilities. Where those businesses engage in discrimination, a person with a disability has the right to file a Complaint for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Many people are familiar with the ADA’s requirement that places of public accommodation meet the physical accessibility guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.

Under the ADA, businesses that are places of public accommodation must also:

  • Allow people with disabilities to participate in their good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation; The ADA specifically states that those businesses cannot deny a person the ability to participate on the basis of their disability; allow a person to participate in an unequal benefit because of their disability; provide a person with a separate benefit because of their disability; provide services to people with disabilities in a segregated setting; or have policies that have the effect of discriminating against people with disabilities.
  • Refrain from imposing any eligibility criteria that tends to screen out people with disabilities;
  • Make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, and procedures where it is necessary to accommodate a person with a disability;
  • Provide auxiliary aids and services where necessary to prevent a person with a disability from being excluded, denied services, segregated, or otherwise treated differently;
  • Remove architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities and transportation barriers in existing vehicles where readily achievable or, alternatively, make services, goods, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations available through alternate methods.

Examples of successful Complaints include:

  • A Little League Baseball League was prohibited from enforcing its policy prohibiting coaches that are confined to wheelchairs from coaching from the coaches’ box.
  • A doctor’s office was required to provide an ASL interpreter for a patient who was deaf.
  • A fast food restaurant was required to install and maintain van accessible parking signage.

Often, business owners or managers will respond positively to a letter or phone call from a person with a disability. However, in Ohio there are three ways to file Complaint for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Three ways to file a Complaint:

  1. A violation of the ADA is grounds for a lawsuit. If a person with a disability believes they have been discriminated against, they can consult an attorney. In Ohio, an ADA case must be filed within two years of discrimination.
  2. A person can file a Complaint with the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice will investigate Complaints of disability discrimination, issue findings, and will sometimes, file a lawsuit.
    • File a Complaint online or via mail at 50 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, 1425 NYAV, Washington, D.C. 20530.
    • DOJ Complaints must be filed within six months of discrimination.
    • A person does not need an attorney to file with the Department of Justice.
  3. A person can file a Complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) for a violation of Ohio’s civil rights law that prohibits disability discrimination by places of public accommodation. The OCRC will investigate the claim and determine whether there is probable cause or no probable cause of discrimination. The Ohio Attorney General can decide to prosecute OCRC cases with a finding of probable cause.
    • File an OCRC Complaint at your nearest OCRC office; by mail; or online within 6 months of discrimination.
    • OCRC Complaints can be filed without an attorney.

The ADA was signed into law by President Bush in 1990, but many covered businesses still fail to meet their obligations under the law. For people with disabilities, it is important to bring violations to the attention of those businesses, and if necessary, take steps to enforce their rights.

DISCLAIMER: The Ability Center of Greater Toledo is not an enforcement agency. This is not intended to be legal advice and anyone seeking to file a claim based on discrimination should consult separately with an attorney.