Recipients are required to have procedures for addressing ADA complaints that incorporate appropriate due process standards and provide for prompt and equitable resolution. The US DOT ADA Final Rule, effective July 13, 2015, revised the local complaint process requirements in 49 CFR Parts 27 and 37 to require that recipients sufficiently advertise the process for filing an ADA-related complaint and communicate a response promptly to any individual filing a complaint. The recipient is not required to respond to all complaints in writing, but rather must ensure the response can be documented internally. Recipients must retain copies of ADA-related complaints for at least one year and a summary of all ADArelated complaints for at least five years. If the recipient does not operate service directly or is a passthrough entity, it must ensure that those entities operating service directly have a procedure for addressing ADA complaints.
Recipients must advertise their ADA-related complaint process through means such as websites and include the contact information (name, address, telephone number, and email address) for the employee designated to coordinate compliance. In lieu of providing the name of an individual, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has found it acceptable to provide a title (e.g., “ADA Coordinator” or “Customer Complaint Representative”) so long as any communications to the job title are directed to the designated employee who can then promptly respond. This can be accomplished by forwarding telephone calls, retrieving recorded messages, forwarding emails, or other means.
A recipient can use the same process for accepting and investigating ADA and Title VI complaints; however, ADA complaints must be categorized distinctly in internal and external communications. An agency may elect to have one “Discrimination Complaint Form,” for example, that covers both the Title VI and ADA bases and clearly distinguishes the two statutes.
Effective July 13, 2015, public entities are required under 49 CFR 37.5(i)(3) to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability or to provide program accessibility to their services. The process to be used in considering requests for reasonable modifications is described in 49 CFR 37.169.
There is no specific requirement for a separate process for reasonable modifications; existing local processes may suffice. Whether a recipient relies on existing processes or develops something specific to reasonable modifications, there are some basic process requirements that must be met:
- Information on the reasonable modification process must be readily available to the public, and must be accessible
- Advance notice can be required, but flexibility is also needed to handle requests that are only practicable on the spot
- Individuals requesting modifications are not required to use the term “reasonable modification”
It should be obvious from public information whether and how the recipient accepts requests for reasonable modifications in policies and practices; no separate “reasonable modification policy” is required.