1881 Old Post Office and Custom House
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such a disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. The term "public entity" means: (a) any state or local government, (b) any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a state or local government, and (c) National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAC). 42 U.S.C. Section 12131 et seq. The regulations governing Title II provide, among other things, where there is an alteration by a public entity of a building or facility that affects or could affect the usability of the building or a part thereof the building shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be altered in a manner that the altered portion is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. 28 U.S.C. Section 35.151(b). The regulations incorporate by reference the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) for buildings and facilities. App. A to 28 C.F.R. Part 36.
Consistent with the statutory and regulatory provisions of Title II, Title III of the ADA provides that no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation. For purposes of the ADA, a public accommodation is generally a privately owned establishment that makes its services, programs or goods available to the public. The scope of Title III is purposefully broad to include the wide range of private individuals and businesses that may operate any public accommodation. 32 U.S.C. Section 12131 et seq. Under this Title discrimination includes a failure to make alterations in a manner that, to the maximum extent feasible, the altered portions of the facility are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. 42 U.S.C. Section 12183 (a)(2). As in Title II, each public accommodations area that is altered must comply with ADAAG.
The rules governing both Title II and Title III contain an exception to the general accessibility requirements where historic preservation is involved. Buildings or facilities that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act and buildings or facilities that are designated as historic under state or local law qualify for the historic building exception. The general rule is that alterations to a qualified historic building must comply with the accessibility rules unless it is determined that compliance with the requirements for accessible routes (exterior and interior, ramps, entrances, or toilets) would threaten or destroy the historic significance of the building in which case alternative requirements may be utilized. With respect to public entities, the regulations provide that if it is not feasible to provide physical access to an historic property in a manner that will not threaten or destroy the historic significance of the building or facility, alternative methods of access shall be provided. 28 C.F.R. Section 35.151 (d)(2). Similarly, regulations with respect to public accommodations provide that if it is not feasible to provide physical access to an historic property in a manner that will not threaten or destroy the historic significance of the building or facility, alternative methods of access shall be provided. 28 C.F.R. Section 36.405(b).
The alternative minimum standards which must be met are:
a. At least one accessible route complying with ADA rules from a site access point to an accessible entrance shall be provided.
b. At least one accessible entrance which is used by the public complying with ADA rules shall be provided.
c. If toilets are provided, then at least one toilet facility complying with ADA requirements shall be provided along an accessible route.
d. Accessible routes from an accessible entrance to all publicly used places on at least the level of the accessible entrance shall be provided whenever practical.
e. Displays and written information, documents, etc., should be located where they can be seen by a seated person.
Anyone in Arkansas with questions about ADA compliance and historic preservation should first contact the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which is the State Historic Preservation Office, at (501) 324-9880 [TDD 501-324-9811]. The AHPP can offer advice on whether compliance with the requirements of ADAAG (for accessible exterior and interior routes, ramps, entrances, toilets, parking, and displays and signage) would threaten or destroy the historic nature or significance of a particular building. The "special application provisions" of ADAAG may be followed to make accessible alterations if the AHPP or the Advisory Council makes a written determination that alterations required by ADAAG would threaten or destroy a particular historic property.
As an example, installing an elevator in a historic house museum to provide access to the second floor bedrooms could destroy architectural features of historic significance on the first floor. Providing an audio-visual display of the contents of the upstairs rooms in an accessible location on the first floor would be an alternative way of achieving program accessibility.
To provide access to the buildings in Little Rock's Railroad Call Historic District, the developers provided an accessible pathway from a designated parking area ...
... then raised the ground level in front of the buildings ...
... to make the entrances to the buildings accessible to physically handicapped customers.
In a few instances, public entities and public accommodations may face the dilemma that compliance with even minimal alternative requirements would threaten or destroy the historic significance. In that case, structural changes need not be made. (A decision to be made in consultation with the appropriate advisory board.) Alternative methods can be used to provide access, such as providing auxiliary aids or modifying policies. The Department of Justice gives the following illustration:
An historic house is being altered to be used as a museum. The architect designing the project concludes that most of the normal standards for alterations can be applied during the renovation process without threatening or destroying historic features. There appears, however, to be a problem if one of the interior doors is widened, because historic decorative features on the door might be destroyed. After consulting ADAAG, the architect determines that the appropriate historic body which has jurisdiction over the particular historic home is the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The architect sets up a meeting with the Council, to which a local disability group is invited. At the meeting, the participants agree with the architect's conclusion that the normal alteration standards cannot be applied to the interior door. They then review the special alternative requirements, which require an accessible entrance. The meeting participants determine that application of the alternative minimal requirements is likewise not possible.
In this situation, the museum owner is not required to widen the interior door. Instead, the owner modifies the usual operation policies and provides alternative access to the activities offered in an accessible room by making available a video presentation of the items within the inaccessible room. The video can be viewed in a nearby accessible room in the museum.
In any case, although the historic preservation exception to the ADA relaxes accessibility requirements, it does not eliminate all requirements. The exception cannot be used as a loophole to deny access to people with disabilities. Every building must meet at least the minimum requirements or create "innovative alternatives" to provide access.
Resources for the Americans with Disabilities Act
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. Section 12101 et seq.) provides that an employer (15 or more employees) is prohibited from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability in regard to job application procedures, hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
For Technical Assistance on Title I (Employment):
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
131 M Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20507
1896 Solomon Gans House
Title II of the ADA provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a state or local government including any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a state or states or local government, or be subjected to discrimination by those entities.
Title III of the ADA provides that no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability and the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation. Public accommodations include places of eating, auditoriums, public meeting places, stores, public services, transportation, public exhibits, parks, schools, social services, and recreation.
For Technical Assistance on Title II and III:
Office on the Americans with Disabilities Act
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
(800) 514-0301 (V)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)
For Technical Assistance on Accessible Design in New Construction and Alterations:
Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW; Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20004
800-872-2253 (V) 800-993-2822 (TTY)
Title IV of the ADA amends the Communications Act of 1934 to require that all common carriers (generally, telephone companies) provide "functionally equivalent" telecommunication services to allow hearing impaired and speech impaired individuals to communicate with hearing people.
For Technical Assistance on Title IV (Telecommunications):
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Regional VI Office for Civil Rights Locations:
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
1999 Bryan St., Suite 1620
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 661-9600 (V)
(800) 877-8339 (TDD)
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Office of Civil Rights
1301 Young Street; Suite 1169
Dallas, TX 75202
(800) 368-1019 (V)
(800) 537-7697 (TTY)
Other Sources of Technical Assistance:
Disability Rights Center
1100 N. University, Suite 201
Little Rock, AR 72207
(501) 296-1775 (V/TTY)
(800) 482-1174 (V/TTY)
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
3075 Adeline Street; Suite 210
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 644-2555 (V)
(510) 841-8645 (TTY)
This guide was produced in consultation with the Disability Rights Center, Inc., 1100 N. University Ave., Suite 201, Little Rock, AR 72207