Who Enforces The ADA?

Mar 25th 2021

The Agencies That Enforce The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Act Itself

It seems that whenever the federal government is involved, it becomes much more complicated for us regular folks. So when you ask the question who enforces the ADA, be prepared for a lengthy answer! There are several agencies and multiple initials involved, in the overseeing and enforcing of all the different facets of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.

The Disability Act was signed into law back in 1990 and revised in 2008, 2010 and finalized in March of 2011, now containing the commonly referred to "2010 Standards for Accessible Design". And, in true government fashion, there are a plethora of pages to peruse, devoted to details, specifications and a foreign language all its own.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Disabilities Act is a federal law that gives comprehensive protection of multiple civil rights issues to individuals with disabilities. It is dedicated to preventing unlawful discrimination and providing equal opportunities to these individuals, and covers the following areas:

  • employment
  • state and local government services
  • public accommodations
  • transportation
  • telecommunications

The Fabulous Four

All of that said, there are four main government agencies or branches that are responsible for enforcing the ADA regulations. However, also keep in mind that there are branches within branches, and the Department of Labor is largely responsible as well, which we will go into a little bit. But for now, let's give you the fab four:

  • DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE - DOJ - This government branch enforces regulations concerning public accommodations and state and local government services.
  • EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION - EEOC - This branch of government is responsible for enforcing all employment related issues.
  • DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - DOT - This government department is the enforcing entity for transit or transportation service issues.
  • FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION - FCC - The branch governing telecommunications services enforces these regulations.

Other Government Agencies Involved In ADA Regulations And Enforcement

As we previously mentioned, the Department of Labor plays a big role in the governing of the ADA regulations. Two previously unmentioned agencies which function within this department are responsible for enforcing portions of the ADA. The first, the OFCCP or Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, shares conjunctive authority for employment related provisions of the ADA.

The second, the Civil Rights Center or CRC, has the responsibility of enforcing Title II of the ADA, as it relates to the workforce and labor related standards and practices of state and local governments, as well as other public entities or businesses.

In addition to all of the government agencies aforementioned, there's another one to add to our list: the ATBCB or the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also referred to as just "the Access Board". This is due to the fact that they issue the guidelines that ensure accessibility to individuals with disabilities, to things like buildings, facilities, and transit vehicles.

One last department to go, the ODEP, or Office of Disability Employment Policy, a division of the Department of Labor, provides published materials and information, as well as technical assistance, to those who need help with basic requirements of the ADA.

Who Qualifies For ADA Accommodations?

Define Disability

One thing many people also ask in the workplace is, who qualifies for ADA accommodations? The short answer to that is anyone with a disability. A disability, under the ADA, is defined as: "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities".


A substantial impairment, as opposed to a minor impairment, is "one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning or working". Obviously, if you do have a disability, you must also be qualified, and able to perform the essential duties of the job you're applying for - with or without a "reasonable accommodation".

What Is Considered A "Reasonable Accommodation"?

Often the question is asked, what does the ADA mean by the term reasonable accommodation? After all, what is reasonable to one person may be totally unreasonable to another - right? Well, not exactly. According to the ADA, a reasonable accommodation is considered such only if it does not cause "undue hardship or a direct threat". Some examples are listed below.

  • Accessible (handicapped) parking spaces
  • Allowing a service animal to accompany a disabled employee to work
  • Providing necessary work materials in a different format (i.e. printed, Braille etc.)
  • Equipment change or acquisition to adjust for a disabled employee (i.e. magnification software)
  • Allowing a more flexible schedule or a work from home option for an employee with a disability

How Is The ADA Enforced?

Penalties For Non-Compliance

These days, if your business has 15 or more full-time employees, you are required to be ADA compliant. Though there are a few exceptions, by and large, if you provide a service or product(s) to the public, you are required to be in compliance with certain specific ADA regulations.

Not becoming ADA compliant is opening yourself up to the possibility of lawsuits, but also there are very steep fines that can be imposed. These can easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars, even for a first time offense. Federal law allows fines of up to $75,000 for the first violation, and up to $150,000 for each additional violation. Therefore, it is important to make sure your business is compliant with the most current ADA revisions.

Other Ramifications

In addition to heavy fines, every year the lawsuits are increasing exponentially for ADA claims. In California, the state has enacted different laws which entitle people with disabilities to file for monetary claims as well, and even have a minimum statutory penalty of $4,000 plus attorney's fees for any ADA violation, considered a violation of their civil rights.

Any business who violates this Act is also subject to bad public relations, and thus damage to its reputation. Considering the fact that people with disabilities make up over a quarter of the U.S. population, it stands to reason that by becoming ADA compliant, businesses will be opening their doors to a potentially large number of new patrons. Yet one more great reason to do the right thing! To learn more about ADA check out ADA Central today! In addition, if you are interested in ADA, find out when was the ADA passed.