Frequently Asked Questions (Technical Assistance)

We get a lot of ADA Technical assistance questions every day. Below are some of the most common questions we receive.

If your question is not answered below, we suggest filling out our technical assistance request form.

Does the ADA apply to my apartment/condo/HOA/home?

Not likely. The ADA is one of many laws which require accessibility for people with disabilities, but it usually does not apply to housing since most housing is not a place the general public is expected to patronize. For the most part, the Fair Housing Act is the law which would have protections for people with disabilities at their apartments, condos, HOAs, etc.

The places where the ADA does cover at multi-family residential housing complexes are the areas where the general public are expected and invited to use, such as the leasing office. If one of these types of communities has a practice of selling membership or renting space to a public area, such as a pool or multi-purpose room, the ADA would apply to those areas as well.

Sometimes a housing facility will have both the Fair Housing Act and the ADA overlap, such as at a dormitory. In these situations, both physical access standards would apply to the design, and where the standards are different, the standard that provides the most access is the standard to use, on an element by element basis.

It is not impossible for affordable housing to be covered under the ADA, but the funding/operation would need to be conducted by a State or Local Government and absent any connection to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These situations will be extremely rare. When HUD is involved, HUD Standards usually take precedent.

For additional guidance on accessibility in a housing context, contact Fair Housing Accessibility First,, or 888.341.7781.This is an information center, much like the Rocky Mountain ADA Center, which focuses on the access requirements of the Fair Housing Act. Each state should also have a housing authority to refer to for guidance on the nuance of state-specific housing laws.

What is the opening force requirement for exterior doors covered by the ADA?

There is no maximum value for the opening force requirement for exterior doors set by the ADA. It may seem strange that the opening force maximum value for interior doors is a very specific 5lbs, while there is no guidance on exterior door opening force. The reasoning is because exterior doors/fire door opening force are determined by the local fire/safety codes applicable to that building. This does not mean that an exterior door opening force can be set to 25lbs by the fire department and the ADA-covered entity is absolved of responsibility to make the entrance accessible to people with disabilities.

Title II of the ADA states:

General prohibitions against discrimination. No qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any public entity.

While Title III states:

Prohibition of discrimination. No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any private entity who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

Denial of participation. A public accommodation shall not subject an individual or class of individuals on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements, to a denial of the opportunity of the individual or class to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.

Integrated settings. A public accommodation shall afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations to an individual with a disability in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the individual.

Eligibility criteria. A public accommodation shall not impose or apply eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying any goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations, unless such criteria can be shown to be necessary for the provision of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered.

These are the federal regulations that require an entity covered by the ADA to make their entrances independently accessible to people with disabilities, even when local safety codes demand an inaccessible opening force. From this point of understanding, the ADA allows a covered entity to choose the method which provides for this access that meets the needs and resources of their business or municipality. Many will choose to utilize some form of automatic door opener. Although these automatic openers are never a requirement of the ADA, if used, they should meet the minimum technical requirements of the 2010 ADA Standards.

If my facility already has accessible restrooms, do the new restrooms we are creating on the same site need to be accessible?

Yes, but it also depends. All new design, construction, and alterations need to be in compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards when constructed by an entity covered by the ADA. Adding new restrooms is generally treated as an addition to a facility which is considered new construction, unless the new restroom is being converted from an existing room then it would be an alteration.

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design say the following:

202.2 Additions.  Each addition to an existing building or facility shall comply with the requirements for new construction.  Each addition that affects or could affect the usability of or access to an area containing a primary function shall comply with 202.4.

213.2 Toilet Rooms and Bathing Rooms.  Where toilet rooms are provided, each toilet room shall comply with 603.

Under new construction and alterations, the Standards clearly state that if a toilet room is provided, it must be accessible. There are exceptions, but already providing accessible restrooms elsewhere in the building is not one of those exceptions.

Sometimes in an alteration, let’s say converting a previously existing room into a toilet room, the absolute amount of physical space available could conceivably prevent a new toilet room from being 100% accessible. In these circumstances, compliance with the 2010 Standards should be implemented to the maximum extent which is feasible. It could be an option to design unisex or single-user toilet room which is accessible if not all altered restrooms can be made fully accessible.

Do all service animals have to be professionally trained, registered, and have documentation to verify that?

No. The ADA does not require that a professional service be used. A person with a disability can train their own dog to perform a task related to their disability. There is no documentation or certification required, and no federal registry for service animals.


If a service animal is disruptive (excessive barking, growling, threatening, roaming uncontrollably) in a public place, what can be done to stop it?

There are legitimate reasons to exclude or require a service animal to be removed from a public facility. Staff have recourse if an animal is out of control, is not housebroken, or alters the nature of the services provided.


What can I do to have my emotional support animal, or my service animal allowed to be with me in my private residence?

The ADA does not apply to private housing, but the Fair Housing Act (FHA) does.  For information about Fair Housing Act requirements see HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.

Who is responsible for paying for interpreters? Can’t I ask the Deaf person to bring their own interpreters?

The ADA Effective Communication requirement states that: Covered entities must provide aids and services when needed to communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. Sign language interpreters need to be qualified, in that they are able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively using any necessary specialized vocabulary when needed. Family members or friends may not be qualified as they may lack the impartiality and specialized vocabulary needed to interpret effectively and accurately.

Can I ask for my apartment to be ADA Compliant?

The ADA focuses on places of public accommodation. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) as overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for housing that is part of residential complexes. Single family residential housing is usually not covered. Callers are referred to their local HUD office for assistance with disability related FHA queries.

Can a hotel say that my service animal cannot stay with me?

The ADA Service Animal requirement states that: Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.