“The ADA defines an individual with a “disability” as one who has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A).
The ADA's implementing regulations define “physical or mental impairment” as
(1) Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or
(2) Any mental or psychological disorder, such as an intellectual disability (formerly termed “mental retardation”), organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
The ADA provides a list of “major life activities,” which “include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A) (defining chapter terms). An individual is substantially limited in a major life activity if he or she is “[s]ignificantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform that same major life activity.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii). A substantial limitation in one major life activity is sufficient. See Shepard v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 470 Fed. Appx. 726, 729 (11th Cir.2012).
Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189 (“Title III”), which addresses “Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities,” provides, no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation.
Title III defines “discrimination” as, among other things, “a failure to remove architectural barriers ... in existing facilities ... where such removal is readily achievable.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv). To prevail on a Title III ADA claim, a plaintiff generally has the burden of proving (1) that he or she is an individual with a disability; (2) that the defendant is a place of public accommodation; and (3) that defendant denied him or her full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges offered by the defendant (4) on the basis of his or her disability.
Title III sets forth a “comprehensive definition of ‘public accommodation, in which a private entity is covered “if the operations of such entit[y] affect commerce” and the entity fits into one of the statute's 12 enumerated sets of categories.
Title III covers the following entities:
(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;
(B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;
(C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
(D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;
(E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;
(F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;
(G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;
(H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;
(I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;
(J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;
(K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and
(L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.
Under Title III of the ADA, all new construction (construction, modification or alterations) after the effective date of the ADA (approximately July 1992) must be fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 28 C.F.R., Part 36, Appendix A.
Title III also has application to existing facilities. One of the definitions of "discrimination" under Title III of the ADA is a "failure to remove" architectural barriers in existing facilities. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv). This means that even facilities that have not been modified or altered in any way after the ADA was passed still have obligations. The standard is whether "removing barriers" (typically defined as bringing a condition into compliance with the ADAAG) is "readily achievable", defined as "...easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense".
The statutory definition of "readily achievable" calls for a balancing test between the cost of the proposed "fix" and the wherewithal of the business and/or owners of the business. Thus, what might be "readily achievable" for a sophisticated and financially capable corporation might not be readily achievable for a small or local business.
If you have been sued for a violation of the ADA, or been the subject of discrimination, the caring attorneys of Solnick Law can help. At our firm, we have extensive experience handling discrimination claims on behalf of individuals, and businesses. Because we are a small firm, our attorneys can help you either defend or pursue an ADA claim. We provide the highest quality legal representation to individuals and businesses throughout Florida. Call 786-629-6530 for a free consultation or contact us online.