ADA 101: A Quick Review of the Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA 101:
A Quick Review of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Disclaimer: AAA Facility Services is not an attorney. This article should not be interpreted as legal advice. Always consult your legal counsel with questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act. For an ADA/CASp evaluation at your facility, contact us to request service.

In July of 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly known as the ADA. Created to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities, its regulations are designed to guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. The regulations have been updated and amended over the years to ensure the term “disability” could be broadly applied, extending its considerations beyond physical limitations and into the digital world of the Internet.


Of course public entities are among those that must offer accommodations under the ADA, but what about private entities? This is where the ADA gets complicated.

To quote the ADA, Section 12182 (a), “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”

There’s a lot to unpack there. It’s essentially saying that if something is generally available to the public, it’s subject to the ADA. Remember, the broad nature of the rule is intentional. The idea is to make sure someone isn’t excluded on the basis of a disability.


The text of the ADA lists several types of entities under its definition for public accommodation. To save space, we won’t list them all here. They can be viewed at A good rule of thumb is basically any commercial entity that offers a product or service would be considered a public accommodation and be required to comply with the ADA.


There is a common misconception about what qualifies as discrimination under the ADA. Many people assume that if they aren’t actively excluding someone, then they are in compliance with the regulations.

However, a significant portion of the guidelines addresses what could be considered “passive” discrimination. This encompasses the ways in which a person with disabilities might be excluded that may not be immediately apparent. It’s a small but important distinction, and these rules can make all the difference in whether someone with disabilities can participate or be included. The broad definitions for discrimination and public accommodation are what combine to extend the regulations into the digital world. Websites, apps, and other user interfaces must take into consideration those with disabilities and make accommodations.


All of that being said, what can someone do to make sure they are compliant with the ADA? It sounds complicated, but really it’s just meant to make life accessible for everyone. If you are offering a public accommodation, it’s recommended that you consult your legal counsel to get a professional opinion regarding accessibility. Make sure your offering is compliant and have it reviewed regularly for any possible changes to the law.

AAA Facility Services is a licensed general contractor in California. Contact us today to request a quote for services related to ADA compliance, including CASp evaluations and construction.

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