Public Accommodations

Places of public accommodation (private businesses that are open to the public) must give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in and to benefit from their services.  They cannot provide unequal or separate benefits to people with disabilities. They must modify their policies and practices to provide equal access to their services and facilities.This means all public accommodations must provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication.   The ADA also requires removal of structural communication barriers that are in existing facilities, installation of flashing alarm systems, permanent signage, and adequate sound buffers. Businesses cannot charge a person with a disability a higher fee to cover the cost of providing auxiliary aids or services.

Businesses are expected to consult with the person with a disability about which auxiliary aid or service they must provide to ensure equal access.   This page shows a list of auxiliary aids and services for deaf and hard of hearing people required by the ADA.

To choose which auxiliary aid or service to provide, the most important factor is the type of service that will ensure effective communication with the deaf or hard of hearing person.  For example, in addition to providing a qualified interpreter, it may be necessary to change seating arrangements or lighting so that there is a clear line of sight to the interpreter and the interpreter is clearly visible.  Businesses need to instruct employees to accept calls made through a relay service. Policies and practices also need to be updated to make sure that access is provided. For example, businesses that normally do not allow customers to bring a pet must give access to a person with a service animal.

A public accommodation may deny an auxiliary aid or service only if it can demonstrate that it would “fundamentally alter” (significantly change) the nature of the service that they provide, or would result in an “undue burden” (significant difficulty or expense).  Even if that happens, it still must be prepared to provide an alternative auxiliary aid or service if it is available. 
Undue burden depends on a variety of factors, including the type and cost of the auxiliary aid or service and the overall financial and other resources of the business and parent companies.  The cost of providing interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services may allow a business to an income tax credit, as well as the usual business-related expense deduction. For more information about tax incentives, explore this page. Businesses should consult their tax or financial advisors on this issue.