The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It also requires that people with disabilities have equal access to state and local government programs and services. When necessary, state and local governments must make “reasonable modifications” to programs and services and services to make them accessible for people with disabilities.
Examples of Reasonable Modifications:
- Applications for public housing often require completing multiple forms. Under the ADA, the public housing authority must provide additional assistance to applicants with intellectual disabilities as they complete the forms. If a person with low vision cannot read the forms, the public housing authority may print their forms in a larger font or read them out loud to the person.
- Public services are required to allow a person who uses a service animal to bring their animal into the building even if it has a ‘no pets’ policy.
- A public pool may have to make an exception to its no food policy so that a person with diabetes, who needs to eat frequency, can bring in food.
How Do I Ask For a “Reasonable Modification” If I Need One?
To receive a reasonable modification from a state or local government program, you must ask for it. If your need is obvious, your request should be simple. For example, if you are blind and you need help locating materials in a library, ask the librarian for help and they should help you.
But if your need is less obvious, you may have to take additional steps. Here are some tips on how to request a reasonable modification:
- Make the request in writing, date it, and keep a copy. The government program or service may have special forms that you can use to do this, but a form is not required. If you make your request orally, follow it up with a letter and keep a copy. Your request usually should go to a person called the “ADA Coordinator.”
- Your request can come from someone else, like a family member or service provider.
- You may need to get verification of your disability. The ADA allows the agency to ask you for limited medical information to support your request. For example, if you have a learning disability and need help filing for state benefits, you may need to provide a simple letter from your healthcare provider along with your written request for a reasonable modification.
- Does the agency have to provide the modification you ask for? No – the agency only must provide modifications that are “reasonable and effective” and give meaningful access to the program or service.
What Do I do if my Request for a Reasonable Modification is Denied?
If your request for modification is denied, you can appeal the denial by following the government office’s internal procedures. You can also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice at https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm. You must file the complaint within 180 days of the discrimination.
More information regarding the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov.