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U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Office of the Assistant Attorney General Washington, D.C.


MAY 14 1998 The Honorable William D. Delahunt Member, U.S. House of Representatives 15 Cottage Avenue Quincy, Massachusetts 02169 Dear Congressman Delahunt: I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, Mr. XXX regarding whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the removal of snow and maintenance of sidewalks on a city street. Please excuse our delay in responding. The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances. The Department of Justice regulation implementing title II of the ADA requires a public entity (such as a city) to ensure that its services, programs, and activities in existing facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. The focus of the requirement is access to services, programs, and activities, as opposed to access to physical structures. Therefore, there is no general requirement that compels a public entity to ensure that all sidewalks are free of snow. However, if the sidewalk is part of an accessible route that is required to provide access to a covered program or activity, the public entity that provides the program would be required to ensure the sidewalk remains accessible. However, temporary interruptions in accessibility, such as those caused by snow, generally do not constitute violations of title II unless they persist beyond a reasonable period of time. Further, only those sidewalks that are required by the ADA to be accessible and that are within the control of the city will be required to be maintained by the city. To the extent that a public entity provides snow removal services, title II requires those services to be provided in a non-discriminatory manner. However, sidewalk snow removal by

private property owners is private action not covered by title II absent some substantial involvement by the public entity. The ADA, therefore, does not generally require local governments to pass ordinances compelling property owners to remove snow from sidewalks. (handwritten) FOIA 2 If sidewalks lead to places of public accommodation (such as stores or restaurants) covered by title III of the ADA, the owners or operators of these public accommodations may have obligations to maintain them under title III. If a sidewalk is part of a required accessible route and if the public accommodation exercises control over the sidewalk, the public accommodation may be required to keep the sidewalk accessible. As under title II, temporary interruptions to access because of snow are permissible unless they persist beyond a reasonable period of time. I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent. Sincerely, Bill Lann Lee Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division