How do ADA Title II and Title III Differ?

How do ADA Title II and Title III Differ?

Title II and Title III of the ADA – Different approaches to architectural barrier removal

Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act have much in common. Both address provisions for accessibility in the built environment. They require that new facilities and altered spaces comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Together, ADA Title II and Title III cover entities in state and local government as well as private enterprises. But their fundamental approaches to accessibility compliance differ regarding removal of architectural and communication barriers.

ADA Title II

ADA Title II regulations apply to programs, services, and activities offered by state and local government entities.

Examples of Title II entities include: state agencies, municipalities, counties, park districts, and colleges and universities supported by state and local governments.

Title II emphasizes access to programs and services. Regulations address facilities with respect to programs. Where programs occur within facilities, those facilities must be made accessible. Any new construction must comply with 2010 ADA Standards and be fully accessible. When altering a facility, state and local governments do not need to make every inch of the facility accessible as long as their programs, when considered in their entirety, are accessible. According to the regulations, they may achieve access to programs in several ways. Facilities may be modified to remove physical barriers. However, this need not necessarily be the only approach. Instead, they may relocate programs to existing accessible spaces. Or they may deliver a program or service in an alternate way that is more accessible to people with disabilities.


Title III of the ADA applies to places of public accommodation. This means a facility, operated by a private entity, whose operations affect commerce.

Under Title III, a place of public accommodation falls within 12 categories:

  1. Places of lodging (hotel, motel, inn, etc.) 
  2. Food and drink establishments (restaurant, bar, etc.)
  3. Places of exhibition or entertainment (movie/live theater, concert hall, stadium, etc.) 
  4. Places of public gathering (auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, etc.) 
  5. Sales or retail establishments (grocery store, clothing store, shopping center, bakery, etc.) 
  6. Service establishments (laundromat, bank, barber/beauty shop, funeral parlor, pharmacy, healthcare provider, hospital, lawyer/insurance/accountant office, etc.) 
  7. Public transportation terminals (depots or stations) 
  8. Places of public display or collection (museum, library, gallery, etc.) 
  9. Places of recreation (park, zoo, amusement park, etc.) 
  10. Places of education (nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, etc.) 
  11. Social service center establishments (day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, adoption agency, food bank, etc.) 
  12. Places of exercise or recreation (gymnasium, health spa, golf course, etc.) 

Title III regulations focus on making facilities accessible. Title III entities are required to remove architectural and communication barriers that are structural in nature in existing facilities when it is ‘readily achievable’ to do so. A barrier removal task that can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense is considered readily achievable. An entity’s barrier removal obligation is a continuing one. Over time, barrier removal that initially was not readily achievable may later be required because of changed circumstances.

An experienced accessibility specialist can assist an entity with the development of a custom ADA compliant barrier removal plan.

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