ADA Title II – Discrimination

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination by state and local governments. It applies to all public agencies, whether or not they receive federal funds. As the U.S. Department of Justice has made clear, Title II is “intended to prohibit exclusion and segregation of individuals with disabilities and the denial of equal opportunities enjoyed by others, based on, among other things, presumptions, patronizing attitudes, fears and stereotypes of individuals with disabilities.”

At the Bazelon Center, we use Title II to combat discrimination in voting, discrimination by public colleges and universities, discrimination in professional licensing, and discrimination by mental health and children’s service systems. We also use Title II to challenge improper restrictions on psychiatric advance directives and, along with Titles I and III, limitations on psychiatric service animals.

Title II requires governments to make “reasonable modifications to enable people with disabilities to obtain equal access to and equal benefits from public activities and services. A public agency need not make requested changes if doing so would “fundamentally alter” the activity or service.

Title II also forbids the needless segregation of people with disabilities in institutions and other congregate settings, as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in the Olmstead case. Under Title II, state and local governments must “administer services, programs and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of … individuals with disabilities.” Integration is fundamental to the purposes of the ADA; segregation relegates people with disabilities to second-class status.

Regulations and guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice provide a detailed framework for analyzing whether particular conduct by a government agency amounts to disability discrimination.