Americans with Disabilities Act and Child Care
Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act: What Child Care Providers Should Know

  • Passed in 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sent a very clear message that people with disabilities are entitled to the same right and privileges as those who are not disabled.
  • The ADA, made up of five separate titles, includes rights and access to “Public Accommodations” (Title III). This is the title that has the greatest impact on child care providers. The Public Accommodation title specifically mentions child care and nursery school facilities, as they provide a service to the public as a whole.

  • To Whom Does the Law Apply?
    The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, is on record as having such impairment, or is regarded as having impairment.
  • What Kinds of physical changes Need to Be Made to My Center?
    All programs for young children are expected to make readily achievable changes to physically accommodate those with disabilities. This includes making facilities, which already exist, accessible and useable. The changes do not have to be expensive, however. The law takes into consideration the financial resources of the site involved and the cost of changes when determining what is a “reasonable accommodation.” Any new construction and major alteration is expected to meet the specifications of the law.
  • What Kinds of changes Need to Be Made to My Policies and Procedures?
    Admissions policies of child care providers should not intentionally or unintentionally exclude children with disabilities. Any service offered to the general population must also be available to the child with a disability. Issues to consider when evaluating your policies and procedures are…

    Enrollment Forms: Enrollment forms may not inquire about the presence of a disability. You are only allowed to ask questions that are necessary for safe operation of your program. After admission, a second form may be used to collect necessary information about medical needs or other requirements that may relate to a special need.
    1. Tuition Rates: Programs may not charge a higher tuition rate for children with disabilities. Cost incurred in complying with the ADA may not be passed to the family of the child with the disability only. Programs may choose to increase rates across the board if ADA compliance requires some increased program spending.
    2. Auxiliary Aids/Services: Any person with a disability that compromises communication skills may need auxiliary aids or services. These can include…sign language interpreters, note takers, readers, taped or brailled texts, or written materials and assistive listening devices. Child care providers must provide these aids unless doing so would impose an undue burden or fundamentally alter the nature of their program.

    Are There Any Exceptions to the Rules?
    If a child presents a direct threat to other people in the center (ie: a significant risk to the health and safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policy or procedure…), then it is permissible to exclude a child from your program. This occurs in rare instances and must be proven through three criteria:
    1. The program has attempted to make changes and accommodations.
    2. The changes and accommodations were unsuccessful.
    3. The child is likely to cause or continue to cause significant harm to other children or staff.

For more information on the ADA call 800-514-0301 or visit