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Disability Access and Services

As a leader in civil rights, the City of Seattle is committed to ensuring all people's access to public and private facilities, programs and services. This page addresses key topics for people with disabilities, including employment and housing discrimination, service animals, access to government services, disaster preparedness, and accessible travel.

For more information about disability access, please contact our ADA Title II Coordinator at 206-684-4500.

Resources and Services by Categories


What is a disability?

People with disabilities are individual human beings - they are not conditions or diseases. An individual is not "an epileptic," but "a person who has epilepsy." First and foremost, people with disabilities are people.

A disability is a condition caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease that limits a person's mobility, hearing, vision, speech, learning or mental function. Some people have more than one disability.

The ADA defines "disability" as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities, a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. This is the same definition used in Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act. Under State of Washington law, disability is more broadly defined as "the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability."

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Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The purpose of the ADA is to:

  • Provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  • Provide enforceable standards to address discrimination against individuals with disabilities; and
  • Ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing these standards on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

The ADA provides civil rights protection to people with disabilities similar to those given to people on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion and other protected classes. The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications.

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How to file a discrimination complaint based on disability

If you feel you have been discriminated against based on a disability, call SOCR at 206-684-4500 to speak with our intake investigator. You also can visit our office in the Central Building, 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750 in downtown Seattle.

SOCR's intake investigator will help you sort through the facts of your situation, and describe to you your options under the law. The intake investigator will explain the definition of illegal discrimination. Different treatment does not necessarily mean illegal discrimination.

To help us learn more about your situation, please fill out the Intake Questionnaire online or print out a copy . To avoid delays in processing, please submit only one Intake Questionnaire to SOCR (either by mail, online, or in person) regarding the same matter.

The questionnaire provides us with information we can use to help us serve you. It is not a formal complaint. Once we receive your completed questionnaire, we will review it and then contact you for more information. You do not have to fill out the questionnaire in order to contact us about filing a charge.

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights has jurisdiction within Seattle city limits. A charge of illegal discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the date that the incident under consideration occurred. If your situation does not qualify for investigation by us, we will refer you to another agency for help.

Where to Find Help

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Grievance procedure under the Americans With Disabilties Act (ADA)

City of Seattle, Washington

This Grievance Procedure is established to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. It may be used by anyone who wishes to file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of services, activities, programs, or benefits by the City. Seattle Municipal Code and Personnel Policies govern employment-related complaints of disability discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (49.60) prohibit state and local governmental agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities. In addition, the City of Seattle must provide reasonable modifications to existing policies, practices and procedures to ensure equal access to programs and services. Allowing people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals onto premises where animals are usually prohibited is a reasonable modification of policy and practice.

Take the first step: Before filing your complaint, contact the City's ADA Coordinator to discuss your concerns. The ADA Coordinator can look into the issue and try to come up with an acceptable resolution to the situation.

ADA Coordinator:Cailin Daly
Email: ADA coordinator
Voice 206-684-4500
TTY 206-684-4503
Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR)
810 Third Avenue, Suite 750
Seattle, Washington 98104-1627

You can file a complaint against the City using any of the following grievance procedures:

  1. File a written complaint with the City of Seattle's ADA Coordinator as soon as possible, but no later than 60 calendar days after the alleged violation.
    • The written complaint should be submitted by the grievant and/or designee.
    • Alternative means of filing complaints - such as a personal interview or a tape recording - will be made available on request by people with disabilities.
    • The written grievance should contain information about the alleged discrimination such as name, address, phone number of complainant and location, date, and description of the problem.
    • Within 15 calendar days after receiving the grievance, an SOCR official will meet with the complainant to discuss the grievance and possible resolutions.
    • Within 15 calendar days of the meeting, the ADA Coordinator will respond in writing or by other appropriate accessible format. The response will explain the position of the City and offer options for substantive resolution of the grievance.
    • If the response by the ADA Coordinator does not resolve the issue, the complainant and/or designee may appeal the decision within 15 calendar days after receiving the response to the Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights or designee.
    • Within 15 calendar days after receipt of the appeal, the Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights or designee will meet with you to discuss the grievance and possible resolutions.
    • Within 15 calendar days after the meeting, the Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights or designee will respond in writing or by other appropriate accessible format with a final resolution of the grievance.
    • All written documents in the process will be retained by the City for at least three years.
  2. File a charge with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR). Contact SOCR at 206-684-4500 (TTY 206-684-4503) or in person at 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750 in downtown Seattle. Charges must be filed within 180 days of an incident. All services are free, and reasonable accommodations are provided on request, including language interpretation.
  3. File a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Justice through the ADA Information Line: 1-800-514-0301 (TTY 1-800-514-0383).
    You also can submit a written complaint to:
    U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Disability Rights Section - NYAV
    Washington, DC 20530
  4. Alternative formats and language translations for this document are available on request.

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    Service Animals

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as "any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." Under the law, a service animal is not considered a pet. The most common service animals are dogs, but other species (for example, cats or birds) also can be service animals.

    Service animals can perform myriad services for people with disabilities, including guiding a person who is visually impaired, alerting a deaf individual to sounds (telephone, doorbell, fire alarms), signaling a person with seizure disorder to an oncoming seizure, carrying and picking up things for someone who uses a wheelchair, and helping with balance and opening doors.

    Additional Resources

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    Fair housing and disabilities

    Fair housing laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and against those who associate with them. They also require provision of "reasonable accommodations" as necessary for people with disabilities, as well as require housing providers to allow residents with disabilities to make "reasonable modifications" to rentals and common areas.

    • Housing managers can request a letter from a health care professional documenting the need for an accommodation.
    • Accommodations should match people's individual needs. Not everyone requires the same accommodation.
    • Managers and residents should discuss any accommodation request. A conversation can help determine the most reasonable, cost-effective solution.

    Downloadable Resources

    If you feel you have been discriminated against based on a disability, call SOCR at 206-684-4500 to speak with our intake investigator. You also can visit our office in the Central Building, 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750 in downtown Seattle.

    For more information: www.seattle.gov/civilrights/howtoocr.htm.

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    Employment and disabilities

    People with disabilities are protected from discrimination in employment. The law guarantees:

    • Equal treatment for all job applicants.
    • Equal opportunities for promotions, raises, assignments, etc.;
    • Equal access to job benefits, including health insurance and training.
    • Freedom from on-the-job harassment because of a disability.

    In general, employers must provide a reasonable accommodation if someone with a disability requests one. Employers do not have to make an accommodation that poses an undue business hardship.

    • Employers can request a letter from a health care professional documenting the need for an accommodation.
    • Accommodations should match people's individual needs. Not everyone requires the same accommodation.
    • Employers and employees should discuss any accommodation request. A conversation can help determine the most reasonable, cost-effective solution.

    Confidentiality: With limited exceptions, employers must keep employees'/applicants' medical information confidential. Never discuss employees' circumstances with other co-workers.

    If you feel you have been discriminated against based on a disability, call SOCR at 206-684-4500 to speak with our intake investigator. You also can visit our office in the Central Building, 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750 in downtown Seattle.

    Downloadable Resources

    For more information: www.seattle.gov/civilrights/howtoocr.htm.

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    Public accomodations and disabilities

    The City of Seattle protects people with disabilities from discrimination in public accommodations. A public accommodation is any place that is normally open to the public, such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, arenas, shopping centers, hospitals and clinics, recreational facilities, government offices, and transportation services such as buses, taxis, and car rentals.

    A business or facility cannot require a person with a disability to show proof of a disability if s/he requests an accommodation.

    Access to information about the City of Seattle

    The City of Seattle is obligated to provide information to people with disabilities about access to facilities, programs, services, and activities. Seattle City government must also let the public know whom to contact if they have questions about access or would like to request reasonable accommodations.

    This information may be provided in written materials, posters in public places, or the broadcast by television or radio. Written notices must comply with requirements for effective communication, including offering alternate formats as appropriate.

    If you feel you have been discriminated against based on a disability, call SOCR at 206-684-4500 to speak with our intake investigator. You also can visit our office in the Central Building, 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750 in downtown Seattle.

    For more information: www.seattle.gov/civilrights/howtoocr.htm.

    Downloadable Resources

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    Disaster preparedness and disabilities

    In the last 20 years alone we have seen natural disasters of almost unprecedented size and scale. The Indonesian earthquake/tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were of such scale that they have few historical comparisons. In 1993, the Mississippi River rose to a level exceeding the "500 year flood." Yet in 2008 the Mississippi exceeded those flood levels again. September 11, 2001 showed us that human-made catastrophes can be just as devastating. Here in Seattle, recent wind, rain and snow storms have shown us the importance of disaster preparedness.

    Such events drive home another important lesson: First responders - the fire, police, medical and other emergency personnel who rush to the scene of a disaster to provide aid and organization - cannot handle all the emergency situations that are likely to emerge in the first hours of a disaster.

    The following links offer vital information for people with disabilities to plan for a disaster and to organize essential resources.

    Resources

    Remember: plan ahead! If a catastrophe occurs, you may not be able to access the Internet to view this information. Take time before disaster strikes.

    For example:

    • Do you have enough prescription medicines to last three to five days?
    • Do you have a way to contact others, or to be contacted by others?
    • If your location is unsafe and you have to leave, what are your plans?
    • Do you have enough food for you and your service animal?

    Developing a personal preparedness plan will help ensure your safety in a disaster.

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    Accessing Seattle: transit and streets

    Seattle is a picturesque city on a hill. But don't let that fool you: Seattle also is an accessible city. The links below provide some resources and help for people with disabilities.

    A guide to getting around downtown Seattle on Metro Transit for wheelchair users and those with other disabilities:

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    Accessing Seattle: parking and curb ramp requests

    Sidewalks SDOT ADA Requests

    SDOT's Sidewalk Accessibility Program includes planning, prioritization, design and construction of infrastructure to enable residents with disabilities full access to Seattle pedestrian facilities. These improvements include curb ramps, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and new technology evaluations.

    www.seattle.gov/transportation/ada_request.htm

    Make an ADA request for sidewalk accessibility

    The Seattle Department of Transportation's Sidewalk Accessibility Program helps provide full access to Seattle pedestrian facilities to residents with disabilities. Improvements include curb ramps, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and new technology evaluations.

    Request a curb ramp

    The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will install curb ramps as soon as funding allows when requested by qualified individuals with disabilities at locations not otherwise scheduled for improvement. The program is not intended to address community concerns other than access for people with disabilities. Based on current funding it may take up to three years from the approval date for curb ramps to be installed.

    To request a curb ramp, contact Brian Dougherty at 206-684-5124 or complete this online form.

    Free on-street parking to holders of disabled parking permits

    Based on Washington State law, the City of Seattle allows on-street parking at no cost to holders of disabled parking permits (placards, license plates, and tabs).

    To request an Accessible Parking Placard, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing's website or call 360-902-3770 (TTY 360-664-0116). There are three types of applications to serve the needs of individuals with permanent, temporary disabilities or organizations. Anyone who qualifies for disabled parking privileges and has a disabled parking placard, tabs, or license plate may park in disabled parking spaces.

    The City of Seattle does not issue disabled parking permits but does regulate how permits can be used. Visit Disabled Parking in the City of Seattle to learn more about these rules.

    Request an accessible parking space from the City of Seattle

    Disabled parking zones in residential areas: Seattle residents who possess a valid Washington State Disabled Parking Permit may request installation (at no cost) of a disabled parking space adjacent to their residence, subject to certain conditions. A signed space may be used by any vehicle with a valid permit and is not dedicated to the exclusive use by the requesting resident. The City does not provide disabled parking spaces for businesses. Please contact SDOT at 684-8415 with any sign requests.

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    Disability Etiquette Handbook

    A Disability Etiquette Handbook

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    Technical assistance for construction

    The following links provide technical information in a number of key areas:

    2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

    As of March 15, 2012, compliance with the 2010 Standards will be required for new construction and alterations. In the period between September 15, 2010 and March 15, 2012, covered entities may choose between the 1991 ADA Standards (without the elevator exemption for Title II facilities), the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (Title II facilities only), and the 2010 Standards.

    ADA Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal for Business and Non- profits

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses and non-profit organizations to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis with the rest of the public. Businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the public are to remove architectural barriers when it is "readily achievable" to do so. This checklist is based on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. It updates the original ADA Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal which was based on the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The original checklist was issued in 1992 and revised in 1995.

    1991 ADA Standards

    Churches and Religious Organizations Facilities and the ADA

    For the DOJ guidance regarding religious organizations please go to:

    www.justice.gov/crt/foia/readingroom/frequent_requests/ada_tal/tal057.txt

    Church Extension
    P.O. Box 7030
    Indianapolis, IN 46207
    (317) 635-6500 | (800) 274-1883
    Email: bce@churchextension.org
    www.churchextension.org

    ADA Planning Guide for the church

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    Disability Resources List

    Here is a list of additional local and national ADA resources. Inclusion in this list does not constitute endorsement by the City of Seattle.

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    This and all information produced by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights will be provided in alternative formats to people with disabilities upon request.

    If you have questions, comments or requests about our services please contact our office at (206) 684-4500 voice, (206) 684-4503 TTY or send email to Elliott Bronstein.