And these changes, they will happen, just as the Independent Living Movement happened, just as the Rehabilitation Act's 504 regulations for access happened;
just as the Americans with Disabilities Act
the most comprehensive civil rights law ever written happened.
Cheryl Marie Wade, The Ragged Edge, 1992.
ASTC has compiled information on accessibility
laws with the needs of museums in mind. Below you will find
summaries and links to original sources. These resources are meant
as background information only and should not be seen as legal
Technical questions should be directed to the U.S.
Department of Justice ADA Information Line at 800/514-0301 or
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits recipients of federal
funding from discriminating against people with disabilities in
their hiring and contracting practices (Sections 501 and 503),
facilities (Section 502), and programs (Section 504). Section 504
is most relevant to museums as it mandates access for people with
disabilities to federally assisted programs and services. This
includes programs that receive funding from the National Science
Foundation (NSF), National Endowment for the Arts, or the National
Endowment for the Humanities. The NSF, along with each of the other
federal grant making agencies, has its own Section 504 regulations
covering its grant recipients.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights
law that prohibits exclusion of people with disabilities from
everyday activities including leisure activities. It extends
accessibility provisions to both the public and private sectors.
The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with
disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation,
state and local government services, and telecommunications by
requiring businesses of all sizes that serve the public to remove
existing barriers that are readily achievable, to ensure
accessibility in new and remodeled facilities, and to facilitate
effective communication by providing auxiliary aids.
The ADA is divided into five sections called
"Titles." Summaries of each Title are given below.
- ADA Title I: Employment
Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide
qualified individuals with disabilities equal opportunity to
benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities
available to others.
- ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities
Title II requires state and local governments to give people with
disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from their facilities
and programs including museums operated by state or local
governments. State and local governments are required to follow
specific architectural standards in the new construction and
alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or
otherwise provide access in inaccessible buildings and furnish
auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication
with people with disabilities.
- ADA Title III: Public Accommodations
Title III has requirements similar to those of Title II, except
that it applies to privately operated businesses, including
nonprofits such as privately operated museums. It requires private
entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities to make
reasonable modifications in order to ensure that their facilities,
goods, and services are accessible to people with disabilities.
- ADA Title IV: Telecommunications
Title IV mandates the establishment of a nationwide
telecommunications relay service. It also requires employers, state
and local governments, and places of public accommodation (such as
museums) to provide accessible telecommunications products and
services to aid effective communication by people with
Telecommunications Act of 1996
Nothing in the ADA requires the manufacture of telecommunications
products that are accessible. The Telecommunications Act fills this
gap by requiring access to telecommunications equipment and
services including telephones, faxes, computer modems, and
software. For museums, it covers any transmission that travels
outside of the museum such as web sites transmitted on the
State and Local Accessibility Laws
The ADA states that if state laws afford greater protections to people with disabilities, then those laws take precedence. Contact your state or local ADA office to learn more about your obligations.
Links and Publications Related to Museums' Legal Obligations
State Code Contact List
United States Department of Justice
The U.S. Access Board produces this list of contact information for state ADA offices. Contact your state and local ADA office to learn about your legal obligations because the ADA stipulates that the stricter regulations, whether they be national, state, or local, are the ones you are required to follow.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) distributes the ADA statute,
Titles II and III regulations, and technical assistance material
addressing specific areas, such as service animals in public
accommodations and parking lot requirements. For a free copy of
these materials or a list of publications, call the ADA Information
Line at 800/514-0301 or TTY 800/514-0383. A complete list
of publications and the text of several documents are available on the website. The ADA Information
Line answers technical questions about the law. Call 800/514-0301
or TTY 800/514-0383.
Among the many useful DOJ documents are
United States Access Board
The U.S. Access Board is responsible for developing the minimum
guidelines and requirements for standards issued under the ADA and
other laws addressing accessibility in facilities and
communication. Contact the board by phone 800/872-2253 TTY
800/993-2822; fax 202/272-5447; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. A
complete list of publications and the text of some publications are
Among the many useful Access Board documents are:
Disability and Business Technical Assistance
DBTACs provide public awareness, technical assistance, training, materials, and
referrals on the ADA. Funded by the National Institute on
Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of
Education, the 10 Centers are located throughout the country. To
reach the Center in your region call toll-free at V/TTY 800/949-4232. Copies of ADA publications are available at no or reasonable cost.
Among the many useful DBTAC documents are
- ADA Question and Answer Brochure
- A Guide to Disability Rights Laws Brochure
- Alternatives for Barrier Removal
- Resources for More Information
- Common ADA Errors and Omissions in New Construction and
- Checklist for Existing Facilities: The ADA Checklist for
Readily Achievable Barrier Removal
- Title III Fact Sheet Series: Who Has Obligations Under Title
- Title III Fact Sheet Series: Providing Effective
- Title III Fact Sheet Series: Communicating with People with
- Title III Fact Sheet Series: Tax Incentives for Improving
Trace Research and Development Center
Trace Research and Development Center has comprehensive articles
and guidelines on disabilities and universal design including
information on accessible web sites, kiosks, and facilities.
Contact Trace at 608/262-6966 or TTY 608/263-5408.
Among the many useful Trace documents are:
This web site is not intended to offer legal, architectural, engineering, or similar professional advice. Refer specific questions to an attorney or an ADA authority.