April 02, 2019

Public Accommodation, Universal Access, and Technology

Steve Jacobs

Keyboard with handicapped symbol on one keyThe 1980s was a decade of technical innovation. Products and services such as the IBM personal computer, fax machine, cable TV, and the cell phone worked their way into the fabric of people’s lives. In the late 1980s, members of Congress used these technologies to interact with each other, and their constituents, to craft the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The purpose of the ADA was “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities” (42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1) (1994)) and to “bring persons with disabilities into the economic and social mainstream of American life (H.R. REP. NO. 101-485, pt. 2, at 22 (1989)). Title III of the ADA, “Public Accommodations,” requires that all new construction and modifications of places of public accommodations (e.g., restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, and privately owned transportation systems) be accessible to individuals with disabilities, and, if readily achievable, barriers to existing facilities and services must be removed.

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