Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which became effective in 1992, is a comprehensive statute with broad implications for blind people.  Those with physical disability are added to the protection of federal civil rights legislation.  Since blindness is included within the definitions of disability, the interests of blind people are protected in employment throughout the United States; entitlement to local government services; and unencumbered use of public accommodations, including transportation.

State and local governments may not refuse to allow a person with a disability to participate in a service, program, or activity simply because the person has a disability.  Access to equal housing also is guaranteed; discrimination on the basis of disability is universally prohibited.  Additionally, requirements that tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, such as demanding a driver’s license as the only acceptable means of identification, are prohibited.


Individuals are entitled to bring private actions against offenders, or may enlist the aid of the Justice Department.  For advice on civil rights matters as they affect disability, you may contact:

The Office of Americans With Disabilities Act
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66118
Washington, D.C. 20035-6118
(202) 514-0301
(800) 514-0301

Redress may involve complaints filed with specific federal departments regarding fair housing, transportation, education, etc.  For guidance on complaints in these areas, please contact:

Coordination and Review Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66118
Washington, D.C. 20035-6118


Violations under the ADA may include penal and civil damages, depending on the nature of the complaint.  Damages can be as much as $50,000 for the first offense and $100,000 for subsequent offenses.

Dog Guide Coverage

Under the ADA and its implementing regulation, the right of a blind person to be accompanied by a dog guide in places that serve the public is guaranteed.  Section 36.104 of Title 3 specifies that "service animals," which include dog guides, are covered by the statute.  The right of a blind person to be accompanied by a dog guide is guaranteed and the term "public accommodation" is also defined under this provision.

Public Accommodations

  • Hotels, inns, motels or other places of lodging, except where the facility has five available rooms or less and the owner lives on the premises
  • Restaurants, bars or other establishments serving food or drink
  • Motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadium or other places of public gathering
  • Auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls or other places of public gathering
  • Grocery, clothing or hardware stores, bakeries, shopping centers or other sales or rental establishments
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, banks, barber and beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office or professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or any other service establishment.
  • Terminal, depot or other station used for public transportation
  • Museums, libraries, galleries or other places of display or collection
  • Parks, amusement parks or other places of recreation
  • Nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate or post-graduate school or place of education
  • Day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency or any other social service
  • Gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course or other place of exercise

Note: This list is illustrative. Facilities not mentioned that fall into these categories are intended for coverage.

Separation of Dog and Owner

Under Section C2, a facility can require the separation of a dog guide from its owner, but only if the dog’s presence fundamentally alters or endangers the goods or services of the facility or jeopardizes public use of the facility.