Title III of the ADA addresses public accommodations, commercial facilities, and certain private entities that offer courses and examinations.
Entities that offer examinations and courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes have obligations to ensure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Commercial facilities include a variety of private, non-residential places that are not open to the general public but where people work, such as factories, warehouses, and the like. Commercial facilities are only subject to Title III’s new construction and alteration requirements; they have no obligation to remove barriers in existing structures, nor are they subject to any of the other general non-discrimination requirements in Title III.
Public accommodations are private entities that own, lease, lease to, or operate a place of public accommodation.
It is important to note that the private entities covered by Title III do not include religious entities. Religious entities often operate places of public accommodation, such as food banks, adoption agencies, thrift stores, homeless shelters, day care centers, schools, and hospitals. However, these operations are not covered if they are controlled by a religious entity, even when the goods or services offered are available to the general public. A religious entity is not covered as a landlord, either, even if it leases space to an entity that is covered, such as a non-religious private day care center.
Bona fide private membership clubs are also exempt from Title III, but only to the extent that their goods or services are not available to the general public.
There are only twelve types of places of public accommodations (places of lodging, places serving food or drink, places of exhibition or entertainment, places of public gathering, sales or rental establishments, service establishments, certain types of public transportation terminals, places of public display or collection, places of recreation, places of education, social service center establishments, and places of exercise or recreation). However, there are hundreds of examples of businesses that fall within one or more of the twelve types.
For example, banks, beauty salons, tailors, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, pharmacies, and offices of doctors, accountants, travel agents, and lawyers are all service establishments.
Businesses of all sizes are covered, both for-profit and not-for-profit.
Title III, like Title II, requires non-discrimination, reasonable modification of policies and practices, and the provision of auxiliary aids and services (written notes, assistive listening devices, large print materials, etc.) when necessary to ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who are blind or have low vision.
Title III also establishes specific requirements related to architectural accessibility. Newly constructed or altered buildings must meet minimum accessibility standards.
Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing facilities when it is “readily achievable” to do so. “Readily achievable” means something can be easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense.
If you own or operate a place of public accommodation, visit our "Retail/Services" page for more information, frequently asked questions, and resources.