How to File An ADA Complaint

Mar 25th 2021

How to File An ADA Complaint

Serious Business

Let's just start off by saying that filing an ADA complaint is serious, and is not something to do just because you don't care for the place itself, or its service. You need to have a valid, legal reason for your complaint, as there's a good chance it will go further than merely your submission. These kinds of complaints are taken quite seriously, as they often violate federal laws, in place specifically so they don't happen. Assuming this is the case, let's go over some basic information regarding some general business requirements for ADA compliance.

Some Basics

Here are a few main principles that should be followed by most businesses, in regards to being ADA compliant. Keep in mind, this is only a few very generalized guidelines:

  • The parking lot should have at least 1 handicapped spot per 25 spaces, which should be van accessible.
  • There should be standard ADA signs (large print and braille) both outside and inside, which clearly show restrooms, directions to elevators and stairs, as well as to public service desks, exits, meeting rooms and any other permanent rooms or areas in the building.
  • There should be a smooth path with a hard surface to the entrance, with no barriers and a safe, 36" wide ramp.
  • Doorways should be at least 36" wide and the threshold no more than ΒΌ" high, and should be able to be easily operated by a disabled person. This should be the case with any public room or area within the business.
  • Restrooms should have a 5' X 5' stall to allow wheelchair movement and transfer, as well as grab bars. Fixtures should be no higher than 48", and sink handles should be either push button or motion activated. [*See our article on "What Is An ADA Toilet?" for more details on restroom requirements.]
  • Aisles should have 36"-42" of clearance, and tables should have a 27" high clearance and 19" of depth underneath for people in wheelchairs. Furniture should have 40" of clearance between pieces.
  • Checkout counters should be no more than 36" high, and be at least 36" in length, or have a section with these measurements.
  • If there is more than one floor, there should be a handicapped accessible elevator.

As previously stated, these are just a few general guidelines. If you are an American with disabilities, you should be well educated in business requirements before filing a complaint regarding these kinds of violations.

The Complaint

That said, if you or someone you know has been discriminated against in any way, including being treated unfairly or unkindly, by any government or private business or employee, do not hesitate to take the proper steps, and file a complaint. To do this, you must file it with the Disability Rights Section (DRS) in the Department of Justice. You can do it online, by mail, or by fax submission. You may use the Civil Rights Division online complaint form for any ADA complaint, but you are not required to do so. The link to this form will be listed below this article, as will other necessary information. Next, let's discuss what information your complaint should include, if you do not use the form.

Information To Include

Here is a checklist of the main items to include in your complaint:

  1. Your full name, address, the telephone numbers where we can reach you during the day and evening, and the name of the party discriminated against (if known).
  2. The name and address of the business, organization, institution, or person that you believe has committed the discrimination.
  3. A brief description of the acts of discrimination, the dates they occurred, and the names of individuals involved.
  4. Other information you believe necessary to support your complaint, including copies (not originals) of relevant documents.
  5. Information about how to communicate with you effectively. Please let us know if you want written communications in a specific format (e.g., large print, Braille, electronic documents) or require communications by video phone or TTY.

What Happens Next?

After all the pertinent information has been covered that is listed above, and you have submitted the complaint through the appropriate channel, the complaint will be reviewed and you will be notified of any actions taken. It can take up to 3 months for you to get a reply. Any of the following actions may occur:

  1. Contact you for additional information or copies of relevant documents
  2. Referral of your complaint for possible resolution through the ADA Mediation Program
  3. Referral of your complaint to the United States Attorney's Office in your area for investigation
  4. Referral of your complaint to another federal agency with responsibility for the types of issues you have raised
  5. Investigate your complaint
  6. Consider your complaint for possible litigation by the Department of Justice
  7. No action taken, in which case a letter will be mailed to you explaining why.

Further Investigation

In the case that your complaint is investigated further, an investigator and/or an attorney will be assigned to you and will be in touch with you for further information. If this person "believes there is a pattern or practice of discrimination or the complaint raises an issue of general public importance, DRS may attempt to negotiate a formal settlement of the matter, or may file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Unites States." It is important to remember that this department does not act as a representative for, or on behalf of, you - the complainant.

In Conclusion

In the end, this is a system set up to protect people with disabilities. So regardless of whether you, or someone you know, has been discriminated against in any way, follow the steps listed herein and file an official complaint. As previously stated, a complaint filed in the proper way with the proper department is taken very seriously. Results and/or consequences are much more likely to occur as a result of this action. Remember that you may need to hire your own attorney in the event that your experience is investigated further. See below for additional information on where to file your complaint.

Find out what is an ADA toilet today!

Here is the online link for the official form you can use:

Here is the other information to submit another way:

U.S. Department of Justice

Civil Rights Division

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001


(202) 514-3847

1-855-856-1247 (toll-free)

Telephone Device for the Deaf

(TTY) (202) 514-0716

Check out our ADA signs here!