Basics of the ADA

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law on July 26, 1990. As a civil rights law, the ADA provides protection to individuals with disabilities and provides equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. more information to see a summary of the five titles of the ADA.


The ADA requires that a public entity evaluate its current programs, services, policies and practices to identify and correct any that are not consistent with the requirement of the law. The self-evaluation identifies any nonstructural barriers. In accordance to the Act signed in 1990, the self-evaluation was to have been completed by January 26, 1993.

The entity must provide an opportunity to interested persons, including individuals with disabilities or organizations representing individuals with disabilities, to participate in the self-evaluation process by submitting comments.

The self-evaluation should examine the entity’s programs, services, activities, policies and practices to analyze whether these policies and practices adversely affect the full participation of, or denies access to, individuals with disabilities in its programs, services and activities.

Transition Plan

Where structural modifications are necessary to achieve program accessibility, an entity must have developed a plan that identifies and provides for the removal of barriers.

The transition plan identifies the structural barriers, outlines a method to be utilized in the removal of the barriers, provides for a timeline or schedule for barrier removal and designates the name of the official responsible for the plan’s implementation.

What is a barrier?

An example of a few of the items that may be considered a barrier are non-compliant sidewalks, doors, parking, ramps, restrooms, fixed seating, pay phones, bus stops, intersections, and much more. In short, everything around you is affected. It starts at the street where your business is located and progresses throughout your public areas. Even the route from the Public Transportation to your front door must be accessible under the ADA.

Who does it affect?

The ADA applies to all businesses and public entities. In essence, the ADA is almost everyone's business. There are over 19 million sites in the US alone that may need to initiate a transition plan. If you have areas open to the public, you are required to comply.

What if I don't comply?

The consequences of non-compliance may be severe financial penalties. The courts are unsympathetic to noncompliant entities who do not have a plan in place. The usual outcome is significant fines or out-of-court settlements. These cases require court monitoring and harsh deadlines for remedies.