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The Honorable Tim Holden U.S. House of Representatives 1421 Longworth House office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Dear Congressman Holden: This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of communities in your District seeking guidance concerning their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically, their obligations to provide curb cuts or ramps where pedestrian walks cross curbs. State and local governments are subject to title II of the ADA which requires them to make their services, programs, and activities, when viewed in their entirety, readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. To implement this requirement, the title II regulation explicitly requires newly constructed and altered streets to have curb ramps or other sloped areas at any intersection having curbs or other barriers to entry from a street level pedestrian walkway. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently held that street resurfacing constitutes an alteration within the meaning of title II triggering this obligation to provide curb ramps at every intersection. With respect to unaltered existing streets and walkways, State and local governments were required by title II to assess whether and to what extent structural modifications were required to meet the title II program accessibility requirement. A transition plan for completion of necessary structural modifications was to have been developed by July 26, 1992, with completion of all work scheduled for no later than January 26, 1995. The title II regulation required transition plans to include a schedule for providing curb ramps and also specified priorities for installing them at walkways serving entities covered by the ADA -- i.e., State and local government
-2facilities, transportation, places of public accommodations, and employers, followed by walkways serving other areas. The title II regulation does not necessarily require construction of curb ramps at every intersection. Alternative routes to buildings that make use of existing curb cuts may be acceptable under the concept of program accessibility in the limited circumstances where individuals with disabilities need only travel a marginally longer route. The number of curb ramps required in a given community may also be limited by the fundamental alteration and undue burden limitations in title II. A State or local government must meet the program accessibility requirements described above unless it can demonstrate that meeting it would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service, program, or activity or undue financial and administrative burdens. The decision that compliance would result in such alteration or burdens must be made by the head of the covered public entity after considering all resources available for use in the funding and operation of the service, program, or activity, and must be accompanied by a written statement of the reasons for reaching such a conclusion. I hope this information will be useful to you in advising communities in your District. Sincerely,
Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division