Are You a Legal Professional?

Disability Access: How to File an ADA Title III Complaint

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in public accommodations. Private entities covered by title III include places of lodging, establishments serving food and drink, places of exhibition or entertainment, places of public gathering, sales or rental establishments, service establishments, stations used for specified public transportation, places of public display or collection, places of recreation, places of education, social service center establishments, and places of exercise or recreation. Title III also covers commercial facilities (such as warehouses, factories, and office buildings), private transportation services, and licensing and testing practices.

If you feel you or another person have been discriminated against by an entity covered by title III, one of your options is to file a complaint with the federal government. You can send a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, at the address below, including the following information:

  • Your full name, address, and telephone number, and the name of the party discriminated against;
  • The name of the business, organization, or institution that you believe has discriminated;
  • A description of the act or acts of discrimination, the date or dates of the discriminatory acts, and the name or names of the individuals who you believe discriminated; and
  • Other information that you believe necessary to support your complaint. Please send copies of relevant documents. Do not send original documents. (Retain them.)

Sign and send the letter to the address below:

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights - NYAVE
Washington, D.C. 20530

The Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division will consider your complaint and inform you of its action. The office will investigate the complaint and determine whether to begin litigation, but will not necessarily make a determination on each complaint about whether or not there is an ADA violation. If the Disability Rights Section believes there is a pattern or practice of discrimination, or the complaint raises an issue of general public importance, it may attempt to negotiate a settlement of the matter or may bring an action in U.S. District Court. Any such action would be taken on behalf of the Unites States. The Disability Rights Section does not act as an attorney for, or representative of, the complainant.

You also have the option of filing your own case in U.S. District Court.

Depending on the nature of your complaint, other information would also be helpful to the government's investigation:

  1. Small businesses have limited protection from lawsuits. Except with respect to new construction and alterations, no lawsuit can be filed concerning acts or omissions that occur before --
  2. 1) July 26, 1992, by businesses with 25 or fewer employees and gross receipts of $1,000,000 or less.

    2) January 26, 1993, by businesses with 10 or fewer employees and gross receipts of $500,000 or less.
  3. The name or names of the individuals or entities who have an ownership and/or managerial interest in each facility or business that is the subject of your complaint, with phone numbers and addresses, including zip codes, if you have them.

  4. Information specifying whether the facility is owned and/or operated by a private entity or a state or local government.

  5. The nature of the activity or service provided by the business.

  6. If you are alleging failure to remove architectural barriers, a description (including as much detail as possible) of the barriers. If possible, please provide pictures, videotapes, diagrams, or other illustrations that accurately set forth the alleged violation.

  7. Any suggestions for remedying the alleged violations of the ADA.

  8. Information about whether you have filed a related complaint with a U.S. Attorneys Office, or any other federal, state, or local agency, or any court, or whether you intend to file such a complaint.
Next Steps
Contact a qualified civil rights attorney
to help you protect your rights.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution