Role of Local Governments

Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Young girl plays in wheelchair.ADA Title II requires that public entities (including state and local governments) make public facilities, programs, and services accessible to persons with disabilities. Public entities:

  • May not exclude persons with disabilities from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities; or be subjected to discrimination.
  • Must ensure that all public facilities and services must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
  • Must address barriers to community services, transportation, facilities, and telecommunications.

ADA requires public entities to make “reasonable modifications” to policies, practices, or procedures to prevent discrimination to persons with disabilities including amendments to local laws, ordinances, and regulations that unintentionally, but negatively, impact people with disabilities.

Uphold Standards for Accessible Design

Standards for ADA compliance (including those related to roadways, sidewalks, and other pedestrian pathways) originate with the U.S. Access Board. The ADA standards establish design requirements to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the built environment. These enforceable standards provide the means to meet the requirements of ADA and apply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) address the need for accessible design of buildings, building sites, and facilities located outside the public right of way. In addition, the U.S. Access Board has also issued proposed accessibility guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right of way, or PROWAG.


The before picture shows no sidewalk connecting to the bus stop and a person in a wheelchair riding in the road. The after picutre shows a sidewalk connected to the bus shelter.

The “before” and “after” images show improvements made by the Department of Transportation in Montgomery County, Md. (MCDOT) to ensure that pathways leading to and from bus stops meet ADA accessibility requirements. Source: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance, Montgomery County Government, Md.


In 2010, Titles II and III of the ADA were revised to include Standards for Accessible Design.   These standards require newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Among other requirements, it states that newly design, constructed, or altered facilities must be barrier free and provide an “accessible path of travel.” This pertains to walks and sidewalks, curb ramps and other interior or exterior pedestrian ramps; clear floor paths through lobbies, corridors, rooms, and other improved areas; parking access aisles; elevators and lifts; or a combination of these elements. Local governments must play a direct role in ensuring that people with disabilities have access to transportation, sidewalks, recreation facilities and buildings that provide services to residents.

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