The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act) make it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability.
The ADA Mediation Program is a Department-sponsored initiative intended to resolve ADA complaints in an efficient, voluntary manner. Mediation cases are initiated upon referral by the Department when both the complainant and the respondent agree to participate. The program uses professional mediators who are trained in the legal requirements of the ADA and has proven effective in resolving complaints at less cost and in less time than traditional investigations or litigation. Over 78% of all complaints mediated have been resolved successfully.
- In Oregon, an individual with a mobility disability complained that a building containing a medical office on the sixth floor was inaccessible because its elevator was often out of service, the door to the medical office was too heavy, and its restroom was inaccessible to people using a wheelchair or a walker. Both the building owner and medical office tenant participated in the mediation and the building owner repaired the elevator to work reliably, modified the door closer to lessen its force, and expanded and modified the restroom to make it accessible.
- In Virginia, an individual whose daughter has Asperger's Syndrome and an anxiety disorder complained that, after using a dentist for three years, the dentist informed her that he was implementing a "behavior management" fee charged to patients who required additional time. The dentist agreed to stop charging the fee and to place a sign in his office indicating that the office does not discriminate. Finally, the dentist wrote a letter of apology to the complainant's daughter, paid $500 to the complainant, and donated $500 to an autism center.
- A person who uses a wheelchair complained that a California medical practice was inaccessible. The practice installed a van-accessible parking space and a ramp with handrails at the entrance, relocated furniture to create an accessible route inside the practice, and installed grab bars and accessible toilets in two restrooms.
- In Florida, an individual with a mobility disability complained that she was denied access to a mental health hospital because she uses a service animal for balance. The hospital changed its policy and developed procedures to allow service animals to accompany individuals throughout the facility.
- In Colorado, an individual who has a seizure disorder complained that she was denied access to a doctor's office because she uses a seizure alert animal. The doctor modified his policy and developed procedures to allow all service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities throughout the medical office.
- In Ohio, a person with a mobility disability complained that a dental office refused to treat him because he uses a service animal for balance. The practice changed their policy, agreed to treat patients who use service animals, and apologized to the complainant.
- In Illinois, a person who uses a wheelchair complained that a medical center did not have accessible restrooms. The medical center modified the restrooms to be accessible and paid the complainant $2,500.
- In West Virginia, an individual who is deaf complained that a mental health facility refused to provide a sign language interpreter for an appointment. The facility changed its policy and developed new procedures for providing effective communication, including the provision of sign language interpreters for patients upon request. The facility also compiled a list of qualified sign language interpreters trained current staff, and will train new employees, on the new policies, and the ADA.
- In Tennessee, an individual who is deaf alleged that a package shipping company refused to accept his calls placed through the telephone relay system. The company changed its policy to accept relay calls and agreed to have the policy tested by the complainant.
- In Maryland, an individual who is deaf complained that an automotive retail store refused to accept telephone relay calls. The company agreed to change its policy to accept relay calls, pay the complainant $5,000, and make a $5,000 donation to a national disability rights organization.
- In North Carolina, a person who is deaf complained that an architecture firm's receptionist refused to communicate with him through note writing as he requested. The office changed its policy and agreed to communicate by exchanging written notes when it is the customer's preferred method of communicating, and paid $500 to the complainant.
- In California, a woman who is deaf complained that a service organization consistently failed to provide effective communication at its classes. The organization agreed to include a statement of its commitment to provide accommodations on all class announcements, to provide qualified sign language interpreters within seven days of a request, to train all instructors on how to enable closed captions for videos, and to provide all instructors and volunteers with additional ADA training within three months.
- In Florida, a person who is deaf complained that a State professional association to which she belonged refused to provide effective communication at its annual convention and also at its local county meetings. The board of directors of the association adopted a policy to provide sign language interpreters at its annual state conventions and local meetings when requested.
- A group of deaf individuals complained that an Illinois amusement park refused to provide the services of sign language interpreters during an annual event sponsored by the park. The manager agreed to provide qualified sign language interpreters during the event, written scripts for the shows, and sign language interpreters during the narrated train rides. He agreed to provide four TTYs in locations throughout the park and to provide information at the gate about the availability of auxiliary aids and services. He also agreed to hire a permanent liaison to address the needs of customers who are deaf.
- In Florida, a couple who is hard of hearing complained that a movie theater did not have enough assistive listening devices and those they had often did not work. The theater complex, located in an area with a large elderly population, agreed to provide more than 40 assistive listening devices and to implement a policy to ensure they are operable.
- In Texas, an individual who is blind alleged that a chain fast food restaurant refused to serve her because she uses a service animal. The company agreed to expand the scope of the mediation to cover all of its 120 restaurants in Texas and California. The company developed a service animal policy, included a copy of the policy in its training manual for distribution to all employees, and installed signs in its stores stating "Service Animals Are Welcome."
- In Nevada, an individual with a mobility disability alleged that a medical transport organization refused to allow her to travel without providing written documentation that her dog was a service animal. The organization changed its policy and established procedures to ask only the nature of the service provided by an animal.
- In Arkansas, a person who is blind complained that a Mexican restaurant refused to serve him because he uses a service animal. The restaurant agreed to serve customers who use service animals and posted a "Service Animals Welcome" sign. Additionally, the restaurant owner wrote an article on service animals and the ADA which was published in a Spanish language newspaper and donated $1,000 to an animal shelter.
- A husband and wife who are blind and use service animals alleged that a Pennsylvania cab driver refused to provide service to them. The cab company highlighted its existing nondiscrimination policy, added a statement to its training manual requiring all drivers to transport individuals with service animals, and distributed the revised manual to its drivers.
- In Georgia, a person with a disability complained that security personnel forced him to leave a shopping mall because he uses a service animal for mobility assistance and seizure detection. The mall reaffirmed its policy of allowing service animals, trained its security personnel about service animals and the ADA, added materials on service animals to its employee manual, and paid the complainant $7,000.
- In Michigan, an individual who has a seizure disorder complained that she was denied access to a doctor's office because she uses a seizure alert animal. The practice modified its policy to allow service animals to accompany individuals throughout the medical practice, trained its employees on the new policy, and wrote a letter of apology to the complainant.
- An individual with a mobility disability complained that she was denied access to three mental health hospitals because she uses a service animal for balance. The company that operates these hospitals, located in Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas, changed its policy and developed procedures to allow service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities throughout its facilities.
- In North Carolina, an individual with a mobility disability complained that he was denied access to a grocery store because he uses a service animal for balance. The company agreed to expand the scope of the mediation to cover all stores in the grocery chain nationwide. The company changed its policy, developed procedures to allow service animals, posted them on the nationwide employee website, and incorporated them into its corporate policy manual. Additionally, the company posted signage stating "Service animals welcome, no pets please" in more than 1,300 stores in 11 states.
Many ADA disputes can be resolved through informal methods
In enacting the ADA, Congress specifically encouraged the use of alternative means of dispute resolution, including mediation, to resolve ADA disputes. Mediation is a process that brings parties together to resolve their differences through discussion and problem-solving. The goal is to achieve "win-win" solutions. It is not a compromise. The mediator is a "neutral" party who helps facilitate the dialog, but is not the final decision-maker, arbitrator, or judge.
Mediation is simply an informal process where an impartial third party helps disputing parties to find mutually satisfactory solutions to their differences. Mediation can resolve disputes quickly and satisfactorily, without the expense and delay of formal investigation and litigation.