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DJ 202-PL-874 III-4.4200 III-4.5000 September 23, 1994 Ms. Elizabeth M. Adler Tedeschi, Grasso and Mortensen 100 Summer Street Boston, Massachusetts 02110 Dear Ms. Adler: This letter is in response to your inquiry of September 20, 1994, about the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to amphibious vehicles and private entities that conduct tours of or on such vehicles. The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities having rights or obligations under the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA's requirements. However, it does not constitute a legal interpretation or legal advice, and it is not binding on the Department of Justice. Generally speaking, title III of the ADA applies to private entities that own, operate, lease, or lease to any facility or business included within one of the twelve categories of public accommodations identified in the ADA. From your description of the intended use of the vehicle in question, it appears that that vehicle may fall into one or more of the ADA's categories of public accommodations, including the categories of places of public gathering, places of exhibition or entertainment, or places of public display or collection. See 42 U.S.C. 12181(7)(C), (D), and (H); 28 C.F.R. 36.104. If the vehicle is a public accommodation, then any entity which owns or operates it must comply with the requirements of title III applicable to the owners and operators of public accommodations. Among other things, these include removing
architectural barriers to access in existing facilities (including equipment, rolling stock, and other conveyances) where it is readily achievable to do so. 42 U.S.C. 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv); 28 C.F.R. 36.304. The steps you have described that the owner of the vehicle has already taken -widening the opening into the vehicle, and providing seats that can be removed to make space for wheelchairs -- appear to the kind of steps to remove barriers required by the ADA. You indicated that the entrance to the vehicle is approximately six feet above the ground. The ADA does not require that any existing vehicle be retrofitted with a hydraulic or other lift. 28 C.F.R. 36.310(b). However, if there is some alternative means of providing access into the vehicle -- by means of a ramp or otherwise -- that is readily achievable, then the owner and operator of the facility are required to provide that alternative means of access. 28 C.F.R. 36.305. As a last resort -- and only as a last resort -- if it is readily achievable for the owner or operator of the tour to carry or otherwise assist individuals with disabilities into the vehicle safely and with dignity, then providing such assistance may be required. (Before undertaking to carry or otherwise assist individuals with disabilities into the vehicle, the owner or operator should insure that the personnel who will provide such assistance are thoroughly trained or instructed in how to provide such assistance safely and with dignity.) Finally, you should be aware that in addition to the Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Transportation has also promulgated regulations implementing the ADA, and that the owner and operator of the vehicle may be subject to those regulations as well. See 49 C.F.R. Part 37. I hope this information is helpful to you in understanding the requirements of title III of the ADA. Sincerely,
John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section