610-770-9781 ext. 123 · accesscheck@lvcil.org

Understanding Accessibility

Accessibility / Accessible  (obtainable, attainable, easy to approach, reach, use, ....)  refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both "direct access" (i.e. unassisted) and "indirect access" meaning compatibility with a person's assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. 

What are Public Accommodations?

A public accommodation is a facility or place generally open to the public that falls within at least one of the 12 categories listed by the ADA. 

Under the ADA, public accommodations are private entities that own, lease, lease to, or operate a place of public accommodation.  Both the landlord leasing space to a tenant and the tenant operating a public accommodation have responsibilities to remove barriers.

What is Readily Achievable Barrier Removal?

The ADA requires public accommodations (businesses and non-profit organizations) to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis to persons without disabilities.

Businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the public are to remove architectural barriers when it is "readily achievable" to do so; in other words, when barrier removal is "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."
The decision of what is readily achievable is made considering the size, type, and overall finances of the public accommodation and the nature and cost of the access improvements needed. Barrier removal that is difficult now may be readily achievable in the future as finances change.

Public accommodations' ADA obligations for barrier removal can be found in the Department of Justice's ADA Title III regulations 28 CFR Part 36.304.

Safe Harbor

Elements in facilities built or altered before March 15, 2012 that comply with the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (1991 Standards) are not required to be modified to specifications in the 2010 Standards. 

Click here for more information.

New Elements in the 2010 ADA Standards

The 2010 Standards contain elements that are not in the 1991 Standards. These elements include recreation facilities such as swimming pools, team or player seating, accessible routes in court sports facilities, saunas and steam rooms, fishing piers, play areas, exercise machines, golf facilities, miniature golf facilities, amusement rides, shooting facilities with firing positions, and recreational boating facilities.

Because these elements were not included in the 1991 Standards, they are not subject to the safe harbor exemption. Public accommodations must remove architectural barriers to these items when it is readily achievable to do so. For example, a hotel must determine whether it is readily achievable to make its swimming pool accessible by installing a lift, a sloped entry or both as specified in the 2010 Standards.


Breaking down barriers for persons with disabilities begins with understanding the most common accessibility mistakes.  Some mistakes can be resolved with little to no financial burden.  Click here for more information on common mistakes

Does your business need help with a plan for ADA compliance and readily achievable barrier removal?  For more information or to schedule a site survey, training, or free consultation, please click here.

Funding for this site was provided by:

Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council
Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living