Legal Basis – Overview of Disability Laws and Regulations

Posted on August 13, 2021


County of Marin
Disability Access Program
Accessibility Guidance Bulletin #1

LEGAL BASIS – Overview of Disability Laws and Regulations

This Guidance Bulletin tells you about the major State and Federal laws and regulations address discrimination on the basis of disability. The laws and regulations listed here are not an exhaustive list, but the major laws that govern disability rights and access. It is not the intent of the Disability Access Program to be a substitute for legal counsel. This is intended solely as informational guidance, for specific legal advice concerning disability laws please contact an attorney.

State Laws & Regulations

The Unruh Civil Rights Act
http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Publications_Unruh.htm

Civil Code Section 54-55.2
https://www.dor.ca.gov/Home/CaCivilCode54through552

CA Code of Regulations Title 24
https://www.dgs.ca.gov/BSC/Codes

CA Government Code 11135-11138
https://dor.ca.gov/Home/CaGvrnmtCode11135to111398

Fair Employment and Housing Act
https://www.dor.ca.gov/Home/FairEmploymentandHousingAct

Federal Laws

Americans with Disabilities Act

Rehabilitation Act

STATE LAWS

Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code Section 51)
The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides protection from discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations, because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation. Other State laws relating to prohibitions of discrimination based on disability include California Civil Code 54-55.2: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&division=1.&title=&part=2.5.&chapter=&article

Compliance
For more information regarding the application or enforcement of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, see the Department of Fair Employment and Housing Website at https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2017/12/DFEH_UnruhFactSheet.pdf

California Civil Codes Sections 54 through 55.2

Access for persons with disabilities is also addressed under California Civil Code Section 54 through 55.2 which provides that “individuals with disabilities or medical conditions have the same right as the general public to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices, public facilities, and other public places.”
Also, “Individuals with disabilities shall be entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public, to all housing accommodations offered for rent, lease, or compensation. This section also covers access to transportation and service dogs. Other State laws relating to prohibitions of discrimination based on disability include the Unruh Civil Rights Act

Compliance
Principally, compliance is obtained by commencing an action in a court of the competent jurisdiction.

Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations (California Physical Access Laws)

California and federal regulations provide a comprehensive set of standards covering nearly all important areas of accessibility for persons with physical and sensory disabilities. California’s regulations are found in Title 24 of the California Building Standards Code and are designed to comply with the requirements of the ADA and State statutes.

Full text of the law:
A copy of the regulations is located in the Division of the State Architects Access Compliance Reference Manual: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/DSA/Resources/Page-Content/Resources-List-Folder/Overview-Title-24-Building-Standards-Code?search=Title%2024%20of%20the%20California%20Code%20of%20Regulations

Resources and Publications
The Division of the State Architect (DSA) acts as California’s policy leader for building design and construction, and provides design and construction oversight for K-12 schools and community colleges. DSA has offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego. DSA also develops and maintains the accessibility standards and codes utilized in public and private buildings throughout California. DSA incorporates the offices of the independent State Historical Building Safety Board, caretaker of California’s State Historical Building Code.

Contact DSA: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/DSA/Contact
Universal Design Section: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/
State Historical Building Safety Board: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/DSA/Resources/Page-Content/Resources-List-Folder/SHBSB?search=State%20Historical%20Building%20Safety%20Board
Access Compliance Reference Manual: http://www.dsa.dgs.ca.gov/UniversalDesign/ud_accessmanual.htm
Legal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Chapter 3-Nondiscrimination in Businesses and Services. Under Publications on the California State Attorney General’s Website at https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/consumers/disabled_bookmarks.pdf
Department of Justice ADA Standards for Accessible Design As published in the Title III regulations (28 CFR Part 36, revised July 1, 1994) issued by the Department of Justice. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design are in Appendix A of the Title III Regulations. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/stdspdf.htm Title III regulations: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/reg3a.html

California Government Code Section 11135-11139.8

California Government Code Sections 11135 through 11139.8 provides protection from discrimination from any program or activity that is conducted, funded directly by, or receives any financial assistance from the State. This section brings into State law the protection of Title II of the ADA which ensures accessibility to government programs and also requires State government to follow accessibility requirements standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which ensures the accessibility of electronic and information technology.

Resources
508 Home Page – Department of Justice
https://www.justice.gov/crt/section-508-home-page-0
E-mail: sec508.questions@usdoj.gov
Voice mail: 202-305-8304
TTY mail: 202-353-8944
Facsimile: (202) 307-1198 Accessibility to a web site by persons with
disabilities. The Web Access Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium
at: http://www.w3.org/wai/

Compliance
Complaints should be filed with the State department or agency alleged to
be in noncompliance.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (California Government Code
Section 12900-12951 & 12927-12928 & 12955 – 12956.1 & 12960-12976)

The Fair Employment and Housing Act provides protection from harassment or discrimination in employment because of: age (40 and over), ancestry, color, creed, denial of family and medical care leave, disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS, marital status, medical condition (cancer and genetic characteristics), national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act also prohibits discrimination in all aspects of housing (rental, lease, terms and conditions, etc.) because of a persons disability.

The definition of disability used in California exceeds the federal definition and can be found in the housing section of the Act.

  • 12900-12906 The California Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • 12920-12922 Findings and Declarations of Policy
  • 12925-12928 Definitions
  • 12940-12951 Unlawful Practices Generally
  • 12960-12976 General Provisions Enforcement and Hearing Procedures,
  • Unlawful Practices

Full text of State laws:
Because of the design of the “Official California Legislative Information” web page, this is not a direct link to the correct section. For each of the State laws identified above, to locate the section you’re looking for, go to the “California law” page at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml.Then check the box next to “Government Code”, at the bottom, type in the code numbers in the search box and select “Search”.

Resources and Publications

 

Federal Laws
Rehabilitation Act
The Rehabilitation Act is the Federal legislation that authorizes the formula grant programs of vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, independent living, and client assistance. The Act also includes several sections (501, 503, 504 & 508) concerning rights, advocacy, access and protections for individuals with
disabilities. Specifically, the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted and funded by the Federal government (504). It covers discrimination in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors (501 & 503). Also, it requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public (508). Due to the scope of the Act, we have provided links to both the full text of the law, as well as information on specific sections covering access and protections for people with disabilities.

Full text of the law:
http://www.access-board.gov/the-board/laws/rehabilitation-act-of-1973

Resources & Compliance

Section 501 — Federal employment
Section 501 requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in Title I of the ADA.

Section 501 — Compliance
To obtain more information or to file a complaint, Federal employees should contact their agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office

Section 503 — Employment by Federal Contractors
Section 503 requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs U.S. Department of Labor 200 Constitution Avenue, NW Room C-3325 Washington, D.C. 20210 http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/section503.htm
(202) 693-0106 (voice/relay)

Section 503 — Compliance
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs U.S. Department of Labor 200 Constitution Avenue, NW Room C-3325 Washington, D.C. 20210 http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/
(202) 693-0106 (voice/relay)

Section 504 — non-discrimination in programs conducted and funded by the Federal government
Section 504 states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service. Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid.
Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations.

Section 504 — Compliance
Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter before going to court.

For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact: Disability Rights Section Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Justice P.O Box 66738 Washington, D.C. 22035-6738 http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm (800) 514-0301 (voice) (800) 514-0383 (TTY)

Section 508 Requires Federal electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities
Section 508 established requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government and stipulates such technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. An accessible information technology system is one that can be operated in a variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or ability of the user. The term “electronic and information technology” has been defined by the Access Board in regulations published December 21, 2000. Some individuals with disabilities may need accessibility-related software or peripheral devices in order to use systems that comply with Section 508. Section 508 exempts national security systems from its requirements. Note: The procurement standards from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has been referenced in State Law via https://www.section508.gov/manage/laws-and-policies

508 Home Page — Department of Justice
https://www.justice.gov/crt/section-508-home-page-0 
E-mail: sec508.questions@usdoj.gov
Voice mail: 202-305-8304
TTY mail: 202-353-8944
Facsimile: (202) 307-1198

The Access Board
http://www.access-board.gov
The Access Board is an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Access Board is responsible for: maintaining accessibility requirements for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and for electronic and information technology; providing technical assistance and training on these guidelines and standards and enforcing accessibility standards for federally funded facilities.

U.S. Architectural and Transportation
Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W. Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20004-1111
http://www.access-board.gov
800-872-2253 (voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)

U.S. General Services Administration
Center for IT Accommodation (CITA)
1800 F Street, N.W.,
Room 1234, MC:MKC
Washington, D.C. 20405-0001
https://www.gsa.gov/policy-regulations/policy/information-integrity-and-access/it-accessibility-section-508 (202) 501-4906 (voice)
(202) 501-2010 (TTY)
Accessibility to a web site by persons with disabilities The Web Access
Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium at: http://www.w3.org/wai/

Section 508 — Compliance
Complaints should be filed with the Federal department or agency alleged to be in non-compliance. For information on how to file 508 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:

Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 22035-6738
https://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm 
(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability in employment,
State and local government programs, private and non-profit businesses
(referred to as public accommodations), commercial facilities, transportation, and
telecommunications. Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is defined as a
person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or
more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an
impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an
impairment.

Note: The California State Law definition of disability, found in
the  https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/peoplewithdisabilities/ is broader
under most State laws than the federal definition.

Full text of the law:
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm

ADA Title I: Employment

Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under Title I.

Title I: Resources
Department of Justice ADA Home Page which includes publications and
guides on the ADA:  https://www.ada.gov/
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has several publications at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc-publications?redirected=http%3A/

  • The ADA: Questions and Answers-Employment
  • The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer
  • The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability
  • EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Jobs Accommodation Network provides information on reasonable accommodations (800) 526-7234 (Voice/TTY) http://www.jan.wvu.edu
Title I – Compliance -Title I complaints may be filed at any U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Field Office. Field offices are located in 50 cities throughout the U.S. and are listed in most telephone directories under “U.S. Government”. For the appropriate field office in your geographic area contact: (800) 669-4000 (voice) (800) 669-6820 (TTY) http://www.eeoc.gov

ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services and activities (e.g. public educations, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).
State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.

Title II Resources
Department of Justice ADA Home Page which includes publications and guides on the ADA.  https://www.ada.gov/ada_title_II.htm

Title II Compliance
Complaints of title II violations may be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department may bring a lawsuit where it has investigated a matter and has been unable to resolve violations. For more information, contact: Disability Rights Section Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Justice P.O. Box 66738 Washington, D.C. 20035-6738  https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm (800) 514-0301 (voice) (800) 514-0383 (TTY)

ADA Title II: Public Transportation
The transportation provisions of Title II cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit (e.g. subways, commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessible used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner, and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide Paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems. Paratransit is a service where individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently (because of a physical or mental impairment) are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.

Title II Public Transportation – Resources
For more detailed information on the transportation visit the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) website http://www.fta.dot.gov/ or call the Toll-Free Federal Transit Administration Americans with Disabilities Act Assistance Line 1-800-446-4511 (voice)

Title II Public Transportation – Compliance
Questions and complaints about public transportation should be directed to: Office of Civil Rights Federal Transit Administration U.S. Department of Transportation 400 Seventh Street, S.W. Room 9102 Washington, D.C. 20590 http://www.fta.dot.gov/civil_rights.html (888) 446-4511 (voice/relay) (202) 366-2285 (voice) (202) 366-0153 (TTY)

ADA Title III Pubic Accommodations (Businesses and nonprofit service providers)

Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theatres, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sorts stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by Title III.

Public accommodations must comply with basic non-discrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. They also must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodations resources.

Title III – Resources
Department of Justice ADA Home Page which includes publications and guides on the ADA:  https://www.ada.gov/ada_title_III.htm

Title III – Compliance
If you feel that you have been discriminated against by a place of public accommodation, then you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney General will investigate your complaint. For more information regarding the federal complaint and enforcement process see the Department of Justice ADA Home Page at: https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm . A violation of the ADA is also considered to be a violation of the  https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2017/12/DFEH_UnruhFactSheet.pdf
For more information regarding the State complaint and enforcement process see the Department of Fair Employment and Housing home page at:  https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/complaintprocess/

ADA Title IV: Telecommunications Relay Services

Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), which are also known as teletypewriters (TTYs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements.

Title IV – Resources & Compliance
For more information about TRS, contact the FCC at: Federal Communications Commission 445 12th Street, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20554 http://www.fcc.gov/cib/dro (888) 225-5322 (Voice) (888) 835-5322 (TTY)

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