Italicized text was added to the original Title II Technical Assistance Manual through supplements issued in 1993 and 1994.
Regulatory references: 28 CFR 35.149-35.150.
Public entities may achieve program accessibility by a number of methods. In many situations, providing access to facilities through structural methods, such as alteration of existing facilities and acquisition or construction of additional facilities, may be the most efficient method of providing program accessibility. The public entity may, however, pursue alternatives to structural changes in order to achieve program accessibility. Nonstructural methods include acquisition or redesign of equipment, assignment of aides to beneficiaries, and provision of services at alternate accessible sites.
ILLUSTRATION 1: The office building housing a public welfare agency may only be entered by climbing a flight of stairs. If an individual with a mobility impairment seeks information about welfare benefits, the agency can provide the information in an accessible ground floor location or in another accessible building.
ILLUSTRATION 2: A public library's open stacks are located on upper floors having no elevator. As an alternative to installing a lift or elevator, library staff may retrieve books for patrons who use wheelchairs. The aides must be available during the operating hours of the library.
ILLUSTRATION 3: A public university that conducts a French
course in an inaccessible building may relocate the course to a
building that is readily accessible.
ILLUSTRATION 4: A municipal performing arts center provides seating at two prices -- inexpensive balcony seats and more expensive orchestra seats. All of the accessible seating is located on the higher priced orchestra level. In lieu of providing accessible seating on the balcony level, the city must make a reasonable number of accessible orchestra-level seats available at the lower price of balcony seats.
When choosing a method of providing program access, a public entity must give priority to the one that results in the most integrated setting appropriate to encourage interaction among all users, including individuals with disabilities.
ILLUSTRATION: A rural, one-room library has an entrance with several steps. The library can make its services accessible in several ways. It may construct a simple wooden ramp quickly and at relatively low cost. Alternatively, individuals with mobility impairments may be provided access to the library's services through a bookmobile, by special messenger service, through use of clerical aides, or by any other method that makes the resources of the library "readily accessible." Priority should be given, however, to constructing a ramp because that is the method that offers library services to individuals with disabilities and others in the same setting.
Is carrying an individual with a disability considered an acceptable method of achieving program access? Generally, it is not. Carrying persons with mobility impairments to provide program accessibility is permitted in only two cases. First, when program accessibility in existing facilities can be achieved only through structural alterations (that is, physical changes to the facilities), carrying may serve as a temporary expedient until construction is completed. Second, carrying is permitted in manifestly exceptional cases if (a) carriers are formally instructed on the safest and least humiliating means of carrying and (b) the service is provided in a reliable manner. Carrying is contrary to the goal of providing accessible programs, which is to foster independence.
How is "program accessibility" under title II different than "readily achievable barrier removal" under title III? Unlike private entities under title III, public entities are not required to remove barriers from each facility, even if removal is readily achievable. A public entity must make its "programs" accessible. Physical changes to a building are required only when there is no other feasible way to make the program accessible.
In contrast, barriers must be removed from places of public accommodation under title III where such removal is "readily achievable," without regard to whether the public accommodation's services can be made accessible through other methods.