Disability Issues in Places of Public Accommodation

The purpose of Vermont’s public accommodation anti-discrimination law is to provide access to persons with disabilities to places where the general public gathers.   This includes, but is not limited to restaurants, movie theaters, medical and dental offices, schools, public transportation, hotels and stores. To achieve accessibility, a place of public accommodation may have to provide accessible parking spaces, ramps, wider aisles, tables or spaces for persons using a wheelchair, Braille signs, sign language interpreters, access for service animals and/or other adjustments to facilities and business policies and practices.

For a description of the protections provided to people with disabilities, see V.S.A. 9 §4502(b) and (c) of the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act (29 KB) 

School harassment based on actual or perceived disability is a form of public accommodation discrimination. Please go to our webpage that specifically addresses school harassment  for additional information regarding this issue.  All special education questions related to IEPs should be directed to the Vermont Department of Education

Some frequently asked questions related to disability issues in places of public accommodation:

My place of business is in an old building and short of gutting the whole building, I could never make it accessible to people who use a wheelchair. Do I have to make it accessible?
If this is a building constructed prior to 1991 and you are not initiating a major reconstruction or renovation, the building does not have to be made accessible if doing so is “not readily achievable,” that is, the required modification would impose an undue financial burden on the business.  The DOJ ADA Technical Assistance Update, August 1996, which provides guidance about removing barriers in places of public accommodation, states the following:
“The ADA requires companies providing goods and services to the public to take certain limited steps to improve access to existing places of business. This mandate includes the obligation to remove barriers from existing buildings when it is readily achievable to do so. Readily achievable means easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.
Many building features that are common in older facilities such as narrow doors, a step or a round door knob at an entrance door, or a crowded check-out or store aisle are barriers to access by people with disabilities. Removing barriers by ramping a curb, widening an entrance door, installing visual alarms, or designating an accessible parking space is often essential to ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Because removing these and other common barriers can be simple and inexpensive in some cases and difficult and costly in others, the regulations for the ADA provide a flexible approach to compliance. This practical approach requires that barriers be removed in existing facilities only when it is readily achievable to do so. The ADA does not require existing buildings to meet the ADA's standards for newly constructed facilities.
The ADA states that individuals with disabilities may not be denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations that the business provides -- in other words, whatever type of good or service a business provides to its customers or clients. A business or other private entity that serves the public must ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities.”
I am a person who uses a wheelchair. There is no accessible parking at some of the places I do business. What should I do if this happens?
Many times people who do not have disabilities are not aware of the lack of accessibility for others. Sometimes merely pointing out to a business owner that there is no accessible parking in his/her parking lot can make a difference. You can also contact an advocacy group or the Human Rights Commission for help.
Federal regulations require that if parking spaces are provided for self-parking by employees or visitors, then for every 25 such spaces (up 100) one must be designated as an accessible parking spot. It must be located at the closest spot to an accessible route of travel into the building. One in eight accessible spaces, but not less than one, shall be “van accessible” with a 96 inch access aisle adjacent to the parking space.