# 199

DJ 202-76-0 August 29, 1996

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXX Dear Mr. XXXXX: This responds to your letter expressing your concerns about the expenditures incurred by the county of Llano, Texas in its effort to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, you inquired as to whether there were provisions in the ADA to reduce the threshold of compliance for small government entities with limited resources, such as Llano County. The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities having rights or responsibilities under the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA and the Department's regulations. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a determination by the Department of Justice of the county's responsibilities under the ADA and does not constitute a binding determination by the Department of Justice. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in all programs, activities, and services provided by or on behalf of State and local governments. The Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II provides that a public entity may not deny the benefits of its programs, activities, and services to qualified individuals with disabilities because the entity's facilities are physically inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. A public entity is required to provide "program accessibility," rather than "facility accessibility," for

facilities existing before the effective date of the ADA. In other words, the entity is required to operate each service, program, or activity it provides so that, when viewed in its entirety, the service, program, or activity is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Providing program access does not necessarily require a public entity to make each of its facilities fully accessible. Removal of architectural barriers is one method of providing access to programs and activities in existing facilities, but other methods are also permitted if they, in fact, ensure that programs are available to individuals with disabilities. For example, program access can be achieved by relocating services from inaccessible buildings to accessible ones, by assigning aides to program beneficiaries, or by delivering services to alternate accessible sites. Only when there is no other way to provide access must a State or local government undertake structural modifications to its existing buildings. In providing program access, a public entity is not required to take any action that it can demonstrate would result in undue financial and administrative burdens or in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its services, programs, or activities. Your letter states that there is a sparse population of people with disabilities in Llano County, resulting in only a minimal demand for access to government services. The apparent lack of a large number of county residents with disabilities does not waive or otherwise limit the obligation to provide program access. However, as stated above, the ADA is a flexible statute that allows common sense, practical solutions. In particular, the program accessibility standard allows State and local governments -- particularly those with limited means and of small size -- to make their programs accessible with cost-effective steps. At any rate, no State or local government is required to take any steps that would result in an undue financial or administrative burden. For your information, I have enclosed the Department of Justice regulation implementing title II and the Title II Technical Assistance Manual. These materials more fully describe the scope of the program accessibility requirement. I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have additional questions, please call the Department's ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (V) or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD).

Sincerely,

John L. Wodatch Chief Disability Rights Section Enclosures