Retail and Services

Retail and Services

This page offers information and resources for businesses (also known as public accommodations) covered by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which outlines how to make goods and services accessible and available to customers with disabilities.

Some businesses that are covered by Title III are also covered by Title I, which addresses employment of workers with disabilities. Visit our “Employers” page for information on hiring, accommodations, and other employment issues.

A1. The ADA recognizes that, for people with disabilities to participate in the everyday activities in their communities, they need to have access to the goods and services provided by your business. Imagine looking forward to a night out with friends, but being unable to enter any of the restaurants in town. For that matter, imagine being unable to enter the grocery store, the beauty parlor, the bank, the dry cleaners or any of the other small businesses in your community.

ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business

A2. Americans with disabilities represent a lucrative consumer market more than 54 million strong with as much as $220 billion in discretionary income – twice as much as the teen market. Business owners should remember that good access means good business. The simple measures taken to provide access to people with disabilities also will increase foot traffic by attracting other portions of the population, such as senior citizens, parents with small children in strollers, and people with temporary injuries.

According to a recent GAO report, implementing the access provisions of the ADA has increased revenues in the hotel and hospitality industry by 12 percent. People with disabilities gravitate by necessity to business establishments that provide good access and will bring other customers with them to the restaurants, stores and service establishments they patronize.

A3. Yes. Federal tax incentives are available to help meet the cost of ADA compliance. The Internal Revenue Code allows a deduction of up to $15,000 per year for expenses associated with the removal of qualified architectural and transportation barriers. Eligible small businesses also may receive a tax credit for certain costs of compliance with the ADA. Qualifying businesses may claim a credit of up to 50 percent of eligible access expenditures that exceed $250 but do not exceed $10,250. State and local governments may have additional tax incentives.

Tax Incentives for Business

A4. Private entities that own, operate, lease, or lease to a business that serves the public must remove barriers when it is “readily achievable,” which means easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense. The “readily achievable” requirement is based on the size and resources of the business. So, businesses with more resources are expected to take a more active role in removing barriers than businesses with fewer resources.

A5. The ADA recognizes that economic conditions vary. When a business has resources to remove barriers, it is expected to do so; but when profits are down, barrier removal may be reduced or delayed. There are many simple modifications that small businesses can make even when resources are limited.

A6. Examples include the simple ramping of a few steps, the installation of grab bars where only routine reinforcement of the wall is required, the lowering of telephones, and other modest adjustments. Similarly, restaurants may need to rearrange tables, and stores may need to adjust their layout of racks and shelves in order to facilitate access for wheelchair users.

Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

A7. Alternatives may include such measures as in-store assistance for removing articles from inaccessible shelves, home delivery of groceries, or coming to the door to receive or return dry cleaning.

ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual

A8. A variety of methods, aids, or services might be used, depending on the situation, the customer’s disability and mode of communication, and other factors. Examples might include:

  • Writing notes back and forth to complete a simple transaction with a customer who is deaf
  • Hiring an interpreter to complete in-depth or complex transactions with a customer who is deaf and uses sign language
  • Providing assistive listening equipment to enable a customer who is hard of hearing to attend a movie, performance, or lecture
  • Reading printed materials (e.g. menu items, prices) for a customer who is blind or has low vision
  • Providing printed materials in accessible formats such as large print or Braille
  • Implementing accessibility features in web sites and telecommunication systems to enable customers to access online ordering and other electronic business applications
A9. If you own, operate, lease, or lease to a business that serves the public, then you are covered by the ADA and have obligations for removing barriers in existing facilities, ensuring compliance with architectural standards in newly constructed or altered facilities, and communicating effectively with people with sensory disabilities such as blindness and deafness. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of businesses, from hotels, restaurants, and theaters to grocery stores, banks, and art galleries. A wide range of private businesses that serve the public are included in the categories, regardless of size. See below for examples of businesses that fall within the twelve types of places of public accommodation. “Bona fide” private membership clubs are exempt, except to the extent that they make their facilities or services available to non-members. Religious entities are broadly exempt, even if they make their facilities or services available to the general public.

Type of Establishment Examples

hotel sign over balcony
Place of lodging: hotel, inn, motel (except if less than six rooms for rent and the residence of the owner)
An awning with “Restaurant” written in large letters.
Establishment serving food or drink: restaurant, bar
Accessible seats at a stadium
Place of exhibition or entertainment: theater, cinema, concert hall, stadium
A speaker providing training to an attentive audience.
Place of public gathering: auditorium, convention center, lecture hall
woman pushes a grocery shopping cart
Sales or rental establishment: bakery, grocery store, clothing store, shopping mall, video rental store
man using crutches signs form at nurses' counter
Service establishment: bank, lawyer’s office, gas station, funeral parlor, laundromat, dry cleaner, barber shop, beauty salon, insurance office, hospital, travel agency, pharmacy, office of health care provider
People boarding a rapid train at a station.
Station used for specified public transportation: bus depot, light rail station
A tyrannosaurus dinosaur fossil at a museum.
Place for public display or collection: museum, library, gallery
A male pushing a stroller stops to see a carousel at an amusement park.
Place of recreation: park, zoo, amusement park
classroom; two students at desks, teacher points to book
Place of education: preschool, nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school
young girl sits at table painting
Social service establishment: shelter, day care center, food bank, senior citizen center, adoption agency
woman works out on exercise machine in fitness facility
Place of exercise and recreation: gymnasium, health club, bowling alley, golf course

A10. Architectural barriers are physical features that limit or prevent people with disabilities from obtaining the goods or services that are offered.
Common examples include:

  • Parking spaces that are too narrow and/or lack an adjacent access aisle for people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices
  • Steps at the entrance of a store or inside the store, where they are necessary to access goods or services
  • Round doorknobs or door hardware that is difficult to grasp
  • Aisles that are too narrow for a person using a wheelchair, electric scooter, or a walker
  • High counters at checkout aisles or where items are available
  • Narrow checkout aisles at cash registers
  • Fixed tables in eating areas that are too low to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or fixed seats in eating areas that prevent a person using a wheelchair from pulling under the table

A11. The Mid-Atlantic ADA Center offers a toll-free telephone information ; call 1-800-949-4232 (V/TTY) and staff will answer your questions and provide you with more detailed information. 

Additional Resources and Publications

U.S. Department of Justice:

Expanding your Market: Customers with Disabilities Mean Business (HTML)
Expanding your Market: Customers with Disabilities Mean Business

Expanding your Market: Tax Incentives (HTML)
Expanding your Market: Tax Incentives

Reaching out to Customers with Disabilities web course : This free, self-paced online course includes ten short modules to address topics such as removing barriers, communicating with customers, policies and procedures, maintaining accessibility, transportation issues, and more.

ADA Quick Tips

Customer Service (PDF)
Customer Service (text file)

Tax Incentives (PDF)
Tax Incentives (text file)

Sign Language Interpreters (PDF)
Sign Language Interpreters (text file)

Visit our Publications page for a more comprehensive list of business-related publications.