Reasons for Local Governments to Comply with ADA

Cartoon of accessible streets and sidewalks.


Compliance with ADA regulations can help persons with disabilities live fuller, more productive lives.  ADA regulations allow all citizens to have equal access to public programs, services and facilities. ADA compliance benefits everyone. Accommodating people with disabilities helps others by making public facilities more accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Providing program accessibility and modifications can help ensure that government services are more open, fair, and user-friendly for all citizens.

Legal Consequences

It is important for state and local governments to understand that the ADA is not a collection of guidelines, but rather a law for which there are legal consequences for noncompliance. Individuals may bring lawsuits to enforce their rights under Title II of the ADA. Remedies may include substantial monetary damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. ADA case law has not exempted small local governments or excused communities for inadequate funding. The courts have upheld ADA requirements for all owners of public facilities, including rights of way.

The Delaware T2 Center at the University of Delaware has produced several technical briefs that provide guidance on designing pedestrian facilities for accessibility and ADA compliance. A brief on why accessible design matters and explains the need for local governments to provide transportation infrastructure—such as sidewalks and crosswalks—that can be used by individuals who may have mobility limitations, low vision, or other physical impairments. Another brief on sidewalks, ADA, and civil suits highlights landmark case law related to ADA. Tort liability caused by barriers obstructing sidewalks, narrow pathways, abrupt level changes, excessive cross slopes, overhanging obstructions, and lack of improvements to crosswalk access have reinforced the need for local governments to address the condition and accessibility of their sidewalks. Local governments can avoid lawsuits by developing transition plans that demonstrate steps being taken to provide reasonable accommodation for all pedestrians and comply with the standards of the U.S. Access Board.

Quality of Life and Economic Benefits



According to a 2012 Census Bureau Report, people with disabilities often bring a “unique set of skills to the workplace” which enhances “the strength and diversity of the U.S. labor market.” These people are also consumers who “represent $200 billion in discretionary spending and spur technological innovation and entrepreneurship.” However, due to ADA non-compliance, people with disabilities often struggle to access locations necessary for employment or consumer purposes. This same report shows that poverty is more prevalent and tends to last longer in populations of people with disabilities when compared with their able-bodied counterparts. By increasing accessibility to workplaces or service providing entities, these rates of poverty may be able to be reduced. The economic benefits of complying with ADA regulations can be compelling.







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