NON-DISCRIMINATION IN PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS
Discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited not only
in employment, but also in the provision of services. Making your agency's
programs accessible may entail providing physical access to offices and
other facilities, access to agency publications and forms in a format
(large print, Braille, tape) usable by people with visual impairments and
specific learning disabilities, sign language/oral interpreters, installing
and using Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDDs), as well as
making other accommodations.
The term "place of public accommodation or service" includes a wide
range of facilities and programs which offer services and accommodations to
the public. Examples include:
* day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless
shelters, food banks, adoption agencies, public
assistance offices and other social service
* hospitals and other health care providers;
* stadia, theaters and similar places of exhibition or
* auditoria, lecture halls and other places of public
* museums, libraries and other places of public display
* zoos, parks and other places of recreation or
* establishments of sales, rentals or service;
* establishments serving food or drink; and
* many schools and other educational institutions.
This list is illustrative only; many other places are covered as well.
Many Federal agencies have specific provisions relating to the programs
conducted by entities (City agencies and others) receiving their funding.
Consideration of Federal requirements under Sec. 504 also may prove helpful
in meeting City and State prohibitions against discrimination on the basis
of disability in public accommodations.
The goal of this portion of the manual is to inform you of the general
requirements and to provide guidance on how to handle common situations.
When confronted with actual questions, you will find that the Federal
regulations provide more details on various programs and services; MOPD also
may be able to provide further advice.
As in the employment area, City, State and Federal laws vary somewhat.
In any given situation, however, the most stringent law governs. While in
many instances this is likely to be either the New York City or State Human
Rights Law, much of the regulatory and case law has been developed under
Sec. 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act. Consequently, much of the
following discussion will deal with the Federal law.
The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination against
all people with disabilities in a wide range of public accommodations,
including virtually all government entities (the most notable exceptions
being public schools, although the State and City University systems are
covered). The City Human Rights Law  and Sec. 504 of the Federal
Rehabilitation Act provide similar coverage, although Sec. 504 applies
only to recipients of Federal financial assistance. However, Sec. 504
covers some facilities (such as public schools) which may not otherwise
be covered by the State and City Human Rights Laws.
Section 504 provides that no qualified individual with a disability
shall, because a recipient's facilities are inaccessible to or unusable by
persons with disabilities, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from
participation in or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity that receives or benefits from Federal financial
assistance. With respect to services, the term "qualified individual
with disabilities" means a person with disabilities who meets the
essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of such services.
For example, a recipient must provide auxiliary aids to qualified
individuals with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills where a refusal
to make such provision would exclude the participation of such persons in a
program receiving Federal financial assistance. Thus a public school
district was required to provide qualified sign language interpreters so
that deaf parents of a hearing student could participate meaningfully in
parent-teacher conferences and similar activities. It was not enough that
the school district would permit the parents to bring interpreters paid by
the parents or that the parents might be placed where they could read lips.
As the New York City Commission on Human Rights has recognized in other
cases, each person adapts to his or her particular disability in his or her
own way and a place of public accommodation must accommodate to that
individual's adaptation unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.
If any part of your agency receives Federal financial assistance, each
of its programs and activities -- whether or not the particular program
receives such assistance itself -- must be operated so that, when viewed in
its entirety, it is readily accessible to and usable by persons with
disabilities. Although each program must be accessible, Sec. 504 does
not necessarily require that there be physical access to every building used
by the program. New buildings must be built to be accessible and
renovations must incorporate accessible features. However, existing
buildings which are not otherwise being renovated need only be made
accessible when it is not possible to achieve program accessibility in an
integrated setting without architectural modifications. Other methods of
compliance include reassignment of services or classes to nearby accessible
buildings, redesign of equipment or construction of new facilities in
conformance with accessibility requirements. As discussed above, City
and State Human Rights Laws also prohibit discrimination in places of public
accommodation and may in some instances require certain structural
modifications. Additionally, buildings leased (either initially or on
renewal) with Federal financial assistance which are intended for public
use or in which people with physical disabilities might be employed are
required to be accessible.
Although recipients generally are not required to make each existing
building accessible if the programs as a whole are accessible, where other
methods of achieving program accessibility are insufficient under Sec. 504,
then structural changes in existing facilities are necessary. Such
changes are to be made as soon as practicable.
Where structural changes are necessary, a recipient must develop a
transition plan listing the facilities and detailing the steps necessary to
complete such alterations. The plan must be developed with the assistance
of interested persons, including individuals with disabilities or organ-
izations representing such individuals (such as MOPD or individuals and
organizations to which MOPD can direct your agency). The plan must, at a
* identify physical obstacles in the recipient's
facilities that limit the accessibility of its
program or activity to people with disabilities;
* describe in detail the methods that will be used to
make the facilities accessible;
* specify the schedule for taking the steps necessary
to achieve full program accessibility and, if the
time period of the transition plan is longer than one
year, identify steps that will be taken during each
year of the transition period; and
* identify the person responsible for implementation of
A sample form for a transition plan is included in the Appendix. Where
alterations to existing facilities are being made for any purpose, Sec. 504
requires that, to the extent feasible, the altered area be made to be
readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Where
the facility is being substantially renovated, the entire facility may have
to be made accessible. All transition plans should be submitted to MOPD
All new facilities are to be designed and constructed to be readily
accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. As discussed
above, buildings leased with Federal financial assistance must be (or be
made) accessible. New York City's Building Code Accessibility Amend-
ments of 1987 (Local Law 58) require that virtually all new construction be
built so as to be fully accessible to and usable by people with physical
disabilities and that most renovations incorporate accessibility features.
For example, all offices, common areas and other spaces which people will
use for work or any other purposes (including bathrooms) must be
accessible and usable. Where new housing is involved, the Federal Fair
Housing Amendments Act of 1988 requires accessibility features similar to
those of Local Law 58. It may be helpful to consult Rights of People
with Disabilities (Association of the Bar of the City of New York) or to
consult with the Counsel and Architectural Units at MOPD for further
details and guidance.