In previous posts, we discussed reasonable accommodation in the workplace and housing accommodations. In this post, we will highlight reasonable accommodation in a public place.

Some places of public accommodation include restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, day care centers and public events like lectures or movies. Public accommodation allows all people with disabilities the opportunity to equally access public places and/or public information in a manner helpful to the individual.

Some examples include:

  • A building that has door openers on interior and exterior walls to allow easier door access for people who use wheelchairs or are guided by a service animal.
  • Hosting a workshop and accommodating a person with low vision by providing workshop material in a large font.  The person attending the class will need to describe the exact point size however many times 16 point or larger may be helpful.
  • Providing a certified interpreter for a person who is deaf.
  • Providing Braille markers on all bus stops in exactly the same place and height on the pole.

“I believe it is important that The Independence Center be one of the leaders in our community for providing reasonable accommodation, working with individuals to help make that happen, and showing other agencies what can be done,” Liz Hunter-Ball, Community Developer, contributed. “I also believe it is important to understand the needs of the individual because people with a similar disability may require greatly different accommodations. For example some individuals who have low vision may use Braille while another individual needs larger print of 24 point printed material.”

Yet, accommodation does not always mean the preferred method of communication. As the ADA points out instead of having to provide braille menus, price tags or exhibit information, employees can relay the information vocally. Businesses are not required to hire an interpreter, but can communicate with customers who are deaf via pen and paper.

In the end, reasonable accommodation in public places, as with employment and housing, is about communication and compromise. The person with the disability has the impetus put on them to not only communicate their disability and a reasonable accommodation, but to work with the other party to work out a reasonable solution. ADA law requires that barriers be removed if they are readily achievable meaning, “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. (ADA.gov)” While someone who is hard of hearing would prefer CART at a public presentation, reasonable accommodation might mean getting a copy of the speech at the event.

Reasonable accommodation should be made with as much forewarning as possible. If a person with a disability knows they are going to attend a lecture, they should notify the presenter as soon as possible. If a person who uses a wheelchair is going to be at your dinner, notify the hostess so they can ensure an accessible table is ready. Communication is the number one way to feel empowered and to empower others around the needs of people with disabilities.

Adaptive technology is another way for individuals to empower themselves. If you have low vision, purchase a magnifier to have in your purse when you go out. If you are Hard of Hearing purchase a pocket-talker or state your disability and ask the person speaking to look at you when they talk.

Public places have a responsibility to ensure equal access for all of their patrons, but needs and accommodation need to be expressed.

For more information on ADA requirements for accommodation go to: http://www.ada.gov/qandaeng.htm.