Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act Requirements for Local Governments
The ADA and Rehabilitation Act work together to ensure facilities, programs, and services are accessible. The Department of Justice is responsible for ADA enforcement. In 2022, it released Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA about how local governments can make websites accessible. On July 21, 2023, it released a proposed Title II web accessibility regulation. If the proposal is adopted as a rule, state and local government websites and mobile apps would be required to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.1, Level AA within three years from the rule's publication date.
Title II of the ADA covers all activities of state and local governments regardless of size. It requires giving people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from programs, services, and activities (e.g., public education and engagement activities, employment, transportation, recreation, office services, voting, and town meetings).
Table 1: ADA Compliance Items Based on Public Entity Size
|ADA Compliance Item||Public Entity 50+ Employees||Public Entity <50 Employees|
|General Compliance – Provision of accessibility to public services, programs, and activities and non-discrimination by public entities…28 CFR § 35.130||Required||Required|
|Provide Public Notice – Make information publicly available regarding the ADA provisions and their applicability to the agency’s services, programs and activities…28 CFR § 35.106||Required||Required|
|Conduct a Self-Evaluation – Evaluate current services, policies, and practices for ADA compliance; and provide an opportunity for interested persons to participate…28 CFR § 35.105 (a) and (b)||Required||Required|
|Maintain documentation from the Self-Evaluation on file and make available for public inspection for at least three years…28 CFR § 35.105 (c)||Required||Recommended|
|Designate an ADA Coordinator 28 CFR § 35.107 (a)||Required||Recommended|
|Adopt a Grievance Procedure 28 CFR § 35.107 (b)||Required||Recommended|
|Develop a Transition Plan for physical changes to facilities 28 CFR § 35.150 (d)||Required||Recommended|
Most local government officials know that architectural standards must be followed for construction or alteration of buildings. When older buildings are inaccessible, the laws require relocation of programs or providing access another way. Staff also must communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. An example would be reading a document to a person who cannot see it.
Local governments have flexibility in how they provide access. They must make reasonable modifications to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided. More about Title II and examples of reasonable modifications.
Rehabilitation Act Requirements
The Rehabilitation Act covers affirmative action and employment discrimination by federal government contractors and subcontractors (Section 501). It passes through certain requirements to entities that receive federal financial assistance (Section 504) and requires electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities (Section 508). Table 2 describes the compliance items of the Rehabilitation Act.
Table 2: Rehabilitation Act Compliance Items for Federal Funding Recipients
|Rehabilitation Act Compliance Item||Federal Funding Recipients|
|General Compliance – No denial of benefit to or discrimination on the basis of disability, i.e., must provide reasonable accommodation, program accessibility via reasonable modifications, auxiliary aids, etc., effective communication, and accessible construction and alterations of facilities||Required|
|Make information and communication technology (ICT) accessible, i.e., electronic information must be compatible with assistive technology devices or must provide reasonable alternative||Required|
|Conduct a Self-Evaluation of barriers to accessibility, including an ICT Self-Evaluation||Required|
|Develop a Transition Plan for physical changes to facilities||Recommended|
|Develop an Action Plan for non-physical access barriers. Action Plan can be incorporated into a Transition Plan or can be a separate document.||Recommended|
Accepting ARPA funds and some state grants are common ways Vermont’s local governments receive federal financial assistance. Agreements for those programs include a condition about Section 504 compliance. Common federal requirements include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations.
Conducting a self-evaluation is part of the Act. It doesn’t explicitly require transition planning; however, developing a transition plan is a best practice. A municipality’s failure to make services, programs, and activities accessible to everyone can result in enforcement actions and lawsuits. Having a transition plan demonstrates a municipality is working to comply with the law. It also provides a budgeting tool and lets people with disabilities know you welcome them.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act means websites, digital documents, such as PDFs and documents created with Microsoft Office programs, and other electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities.
For questions about the ADA, call the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 1-833-610-1264 (TTY). Accessibility specialists are available to answer questions from individuals, businesses, and state/local governments. All calls are confidential.