Section 504: Frequently Asked Questions

Section 504 provides rights to persons with disabilities in HUD-funded programs and activities.

These questions and answers focus on the requirements of one specific law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. This law often is called simply "Section 504." Section 504 is not the only law that prohibits disability discrimination in programs receiving HUD funds or financial assistance. Other federal laws that provide nondiscrimination on the basis of disability include the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Architectural Barriers Act. We encourage persons with disabilities and recipients of HUD assistance to review all these laws and their implementing regulations, which can be located here.

The frequently asked questions and answers are divided by the subject areas listed below:

General

Question: What Is Section 504?

Answer: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 794, that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federally-assisted programs or activities. Specifically, Section 504 states: No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States. . .shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, service or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service. This means that Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity that receives financial assistance from any federal agency, including HUD as well as in programs conducted by federal agencies including HUD.

Question: Are there regulations that explain what needs to be done in order to comply with Section 504?

Answer: Yes. HUD's regulations for Section 504 that apply to federally-assisted programs or activities may be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 24 C.F.R. part 8. There are also regulations that govern Section 504 in programs conducted by HUD which may be found at 24 C.F.R. part 9, however, this webpage focuses on Section 504's requirements for federally-assisted programs and activities.

Question: Who is protected by Section 504?

Answer: Persons with disabilities, persons associated with persons with disabilities, and other persons engaged in certain protected activities under the law.

Question: How is disability defined under Section 504?

Answer: An individual with a disability is any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The term physical or mental impairment may include, but is not limited to, conditions such as visual or hearing impairment, mobility impairment, HIV infection, developmental disabilities, drug addiction, or mental illness. In general, the definition of “person with disabilities” does not include current users of illegal controlled substances. However, individuals would be protected under Section 504 (as well as the ADA) if a purpose of the specific program or activity is to provide health or rehabilitation services to such individuals.

The term major life activity may include, for example, seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for one's self, learning, speaking, or working. This list is not exhaustive. Section 504 also protects persons who have a record of such impairment, or are regarded as having such an impairment. For more information, visit Disability Overview.

Question: Who are recipients of federal financial assistance?

Answer: The Section 504 regulations define “recipient” as any State or its political subdivision, any instrumentality of a state or its political subdivision, any public or private agency, institution organization, or other entity or any person to which federal financial assistance is extended for any program or activity directly or through another recipient, including any successor, assignee, or transferee of a recipient, but excluding the ultimate beneficiary of the assistance. 24 C.F.R. § 8.3. Thus, a HUD funded public housing agency, or a HUD funded non-profit developer of low income housing is a recipient of federal financial assistance and is subject to Section 504's requirements. Therefore, a public housing agency is covered by Section 504, for example, in the operation of its Section 8 voucher program or activity. However, a private landlord who accepts Section 8 tenant-based vouchers in payment for rent from a low-income individual is not a recipient of federal financial assistance merely by virtue of receipt of such payments. Similarly, while a developer that receives Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) or HOME funds for the rehabilitation of an owner-occupied unit is a recipient for purposes of Section 504, a family that owns the unit is not a recipient because the family is the ultimate beneficiary of the funds.

Nondiscrimination

Question: What discriminatory practices does Section 504 prohibit?

Answer: Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. This means, for example, that persons with disabilities may not be denied the opportunity to participate in a program or activity because of their disability; may not be required to accept a different kind or lesser program or service than what is provided to others without disabilities, and may not be required to participate in separate programs and services from those available to persons without disabilities, even if separate programs and services exist. In general, with respect to housing, a housing provider may not deny or refuse to sell or rent to a person with a disability, and may not impose application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, and rental or sales terms or conditions that are different than those required of or provided to persons without disabilities. Housing providers may not require persons with disabilities to live only on certain floors, or in one section of the housing. Housing providers may not refuse to make repairs, and may not limit or deny someone with a disability access to recreational and other public and common use facilities, parking privileges, cleaning or janitorial services, or any services which are made available to other residents without disabilities. Additionally, persons with disabilities may not be denied the opportunity to serve on planning or advisory boards because of their disabilities.

Question: Does Section 504 require a housing provider to accept every person with a disability who applies for the housing?

Answer: Section 504 does not require that a person with a disability be accepted without regard to eligibility requirements or his or her ability to meet standard, nondiscriminatory tenant selection and screening criteria. Rather, Section 504 requires that a person with a disability be evaluated using the same objective criteria that are applied to persons without disabilities, provided such criteria are nondiscriminatory and subject to reasonable accommodations and the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services necessary to ensure effective communication. Applicants, with or without a disability, may be rejected if they have a record of adversely affecting others such as excessively disturbing neighbors, destroying property, or failing to pay their rent on time. However, under Section 504, the housing provider must make sound and reasonable judgments based on objective and reliable evidence (current conduct or a history of overt acts). Subjective fears, unsubstantiated rumors, speculation and generalized suspicion do not constitute objective information that an applicant cannot meet the terms of tenancy. Housing providers are also subject to reasonable accommodation requirements with respect to such policies and may be required to make exceptions based on the manifestations of some disabilities.

Question: May a recipient refuse to rent to a person with a mental disability because he is uncomfortable with the individual?

Answer: No. Section 504, and related laws like the Fair Housing Act and the ADA, make it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent to a person simply because of a disability and how it manifests. Therefore, a housing provider may not refuse to rent to an otherwise eligible individual because of fears or concerns that may be based on myths or stereotypes about persons with mental disabilities. Even where a housing provider may impose legitimate safety criteria, housing providers are still required to provide reasonable accommodations.

Question: May a landlord charge a person who uses a wheelchair a higher security deposit because of concerns about damage to the dwelling unit?

Answer: No. An individual with a disability who uses a wheelchair is no more likely than anyone else to cause damage, beyond typical wear and tear, to a dwelling unit. However, if a person who uses a wheelchair does cause damage to a unit that is beyond normal wear and tear that may be caused by use of a wheelchair, that individual may be required to cover the cost of such damage out of a standard security deposit that is charged to everyone.

Question: In what instances may recipients operate housing or services limited to individuals with disabilities or individuals with specific disabilities?

Answer: Some programs funded by HUD have express federal statutory authority to limit eligibility to individuals with disabilities. Examples include the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, Section 202 housing developments for non-elderly persons with disabilities funded prior to 1991, certain McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs, HUD-VASH vouchers, designated public housing under Section 7 of the Housing Act of 1937, and project-based voucher (PBV) assistance under Section 8(o)(13) of the Housing Act of 1973.

HUD’s regulations implementing Section 504 restrict when participation in a federally-assisted program or activity can be limited to individuals with disabilities or individuals with specific disabilities.

Question: What does the most integrated setting mean and how does an integrated setting differ from a segregated setting?

Answer: One of the basic tenets of Section 504 is that programs and services be conducted in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the person with a disability. In terms of housing, this means that the housing provided to persons with disabilities is not separate or unnecessarily segregated from housing provided to individuals without disabilities. Integrated settings also enable individuals with disabilities to live independently with individuals without disabilities and without restrictive rules that limit their activities or impede their ability to interact with individuals without disabilities. Examples of integrated settings can include scattered-site apartments providing permanent supportive housing, tenant-based rental assistance that enables individuals with disabilities to lease housing in integrated developments, and apartments for individuals with various disabilities scattered throughout public and multifamily housing developments.

By contrast, segregated settings are occupied exclusively or primarily by individuals with disabilities. Segregated settings sometimes have qualities of an institutional nature, including, but not limited to, regimentation in daily activities, lack of privacy or autonomy, policies limiting visitors, limits on individuals’ ability to engage freely in community activities, and manage their own activities of daily living, or daytime activities primarily with other individuals with disabilities.

Program Accessibility

Question: What is meant by program accessibility?

Answer: Program accessibility means that a program or activity, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. The concept recognizes that there may be some limits to the degree to which existing housing programs can be made accessible. Thus, under the concept of program accessibility, in an existing housing program, not every single building must be accessible, or every single dwelling unit, but there must be sufficient accessibility so that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the program. Individuals with disabilities must also have the same range of choices and amenities as those offered to others without disabilities. However, recipients must take steps to ensure that their programs and services are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible, which means the recipient would be required to take all steps that provide the necessary access, but which would not constitute an undue financial and administrative burden, or require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. Meeting program accessibility obligations does not exempt recipients from meeting other requirements of the Section 504 regulations, particularly the broad nondiscrimination provisions, and the requirements that designated accessible dwelling units be dispersed throughout buildings and sites. Likewise, recipients whose programs involve new construction or alterations, must meet the Section 504 regulation's requirements for those activities, as well as meeting other applicable requirements in the regulations, such as for dispersion of designated accessible units throughout buildings and sites.

Question: When a mobility accessible unit becomes available should it be offered to the first applicant on the waiting list, or the first person with a disability who requires the accessible features?

Answer: HUD's Section 504 regulations at 24 C.F.R. § 8.27 require recipients to adopt suitable means to assure that information on available accessible units reaches otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities who need the features of those units. The regulations also require reasonable nondiscriminatory steps to maximize the utilization of accessible units. Under this process, whenever a unit that meets the requirements of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or HUD’s Deeming Notice for a person with a mobility disability becomes available for occupancy, a recipient shall first offer the unit to a qualified individual with disabilities currently residing in a non-accessible unit in the same project or comparable projects, under common control, who requires the accessible features. If there are no such persons currently residing in the recipient's projects, the recipient shall then offer the unit to the next available qualified individual with disabilities on its waiting list, provided that the person requires the accessibility features of the unit. The recipient shall skip over applicants without disabilities on the waiting list to offer the unit to the next qualified individual who requires the unit's accessibility features.

If no qualified applicant with disabilities requires the accessible features of a unit, and the recipient places a family where none of the family members have disabilities in that unit, the recipient may include language in the lease requiring this family to agree to move to a non-accessible unit, as soon as one becomes available that otherwise meets the family's needs.

Reasonable Accommodation

Question: What is a reasonable accommodation under Section 504?

Answer: A reasonable accommodation is a change, adaptation, or modification to a policy, program, service, or workplace which will allow a qualified person with a disability to participate fully in a program, take advantage of a service, or perform a job. Reasonable accommodations may include, for example, those which may be necessary in order for the person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since persons with disabilities may have unique needs due to their disabilities, in some cases, simply treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others may not ensure that they have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

In order to show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual's disability. As discussed in the next question and answer, what is reasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, experience has shown that the following examples are often reasonable accommodations.

A federally-assisted housing provider has a policy of not providing assigned parking spaces. A tenant with a mobility impairment, who has difficulty walking, is provided a reasonable accommodation by being given an assigned accessible parking space in front of the entrance to his unit.

A federally-assisted housing provider has a policy of requiring tenants to come to the rental office to pay their rent. A tenant with a mental disability, who is afraid to leave her unit, is provided a reasonable accommodation by being allowed to mail her rent payment.

A federally-assisted housing provider has a no pets policy. A tenant, who uses a wheelchair and has difficulty picking up items off the ground, is allowed to have an assistance animal that fetches things for her as a reasonable accommodation to her disability.

An older tenant has a stroke and begins to use a wheelchair. Her apartment has steps at the entrance and she needs a ramp to enter the unit. Her federally-assisted housing provider pays for the construction of a ramp as a reasonable accommodation to the tenant's disability.

Question: How do you determine whether a request for a certain accommodation is reasonable?

Answer: Whether a particular accommodation is reasonable depends on a variety of factors and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The determination of whether a requested accommodation is reasonable depends on the answers to two questions. First, does the request impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider? Second, would making the accommodation require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the provider's operations? If the answer to either question is yes, the requested accommodation is not reasonable. However, even where a housing provider is not obligated to provide a particular accommodation because the particular accommodation is not reasonable, the provider is still obligated to provide other requested accommodations or alternative accommodations to the one initially requested that do qualify as reasonable. For example:

As a result of a disability, a tenant is unable to open the dumpster provided by his housing provider for his trash. The tenant requests that the housing provider send a maintenance staff person to collect his trash from his apartment daily. Because the housing development is a small, low-budget operation and the maintenance staff are not on site daily, it may be an undue financial and administrative burden for the housing provider to provide daily trash service to the tenant and the housing provider may refuse to provide the requested accommodation. However, the housing provider is obligated to provide the tenant with a requested alternative accommodation – such as, for example, providing either an open trash can or placing a trash can that the tenant can open in an accessible location so that the tenant may dispose of his trash.

Question: What happens if providing a requested accommodation involves some costs on the part of the federally-assisted housing provider?

Answer: Section 504 requires that in making an accommodation, a federally-assisted housing provider will be required to bear costs which do not amount to an undue financial and administrative burden. In application, this means that a housing provider may be required to spend money to provide legally required reasonable accommodations. For example, a public housing agency receives a request to install the deadbolt lock on the front door of a unit higher up on the door from a resident whose child has autism. The request makes clear that the child can reach the deadbolt and may wander out of the unit and is not able to follow instructions not to leave the unit because of her autism. The public housing agency would be required to pay for the cost of installing a deadbolt higher up on the door.

Question: When and how should an individual request an accommodation?

Answer: An individual with a disability should request an accommodation as soon as it appears that the accommodation is needed. However, requests may be made at any time. For example, requests may be made when an individual is applying for housing, entering into a lease, or occupying housing. Individuals who develop a disability during their tenancy may request accommodations, even if they did not have a disability when they signed their leases.

Section 504 does not prescribe a uniform procedure for requesting a reasonable accommodation to be used with all housing providers. To request an accommodation, an individual need not mention Section 504 or use the phrase reasonable accommodation. In general, a tenant or prospective tenant should make clear to the housing provider that s/he is requesting that an exception, change, adjustment, or modification be made to a rule, policy, practice, service, building or dwelling unit because s/he has a disability. S/he should explain what type of accommodation is requested and explain the relationship between the requested accommodation and his or her disability. In order to facilitate the process and consideration of the request, tenants or prospective tenants may wish to check with a housing provider in advance to determine whether that housing provider has established any specific procedures regarding requests for reasonable accommodation. Although the Section 504 regulations do not require it, it is usually helpful that the request be made in writing, so there will be documentation that the request was actually made in the event of a later dispute.

Question: Must a federally-assisted housing provider adopt formal procedures for processing requests for a reasonable accommodation?

Answer: No. Section 504 does not require that a housing provider adopt any formal procedures that an applicant for housing or a tenant must follow to request a reasonable accommodation. However, having such a procedure will probably aid both the individual in making the request and the housing provider in assessing it and responding to it in a timely fashion. However, an individual with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation at any time and is not required to follow specific procedures.

Question: Is a federally-assisted housing provider obligated to provide an accommodation to a tenant or applicant if s/he has not requested it?

Answer: Sometimes. Such a housing provider is obligated to provide an accommodation if s/he is on notice of the request, the provider already has reason to believe the accommodation is necessary, or if the need for the accommodation is obvious. A person with a disability will be considered to have asked for an accommodation if s/he indicates that a change or exception to a policy, practice, or procedure or a modification would assist him or her in making more effective use of his or her housing, even if the words reasonable accommodation are not used as part of the request. Sometimes the circumstances will dictate the need for accommodation.

Question: What happens if a federally-assisted housing provider fails to act on a request for an accommodation?

Answer: If a housing provider delays responding to a request for an accommodation, after a reasonable amount of time, that delay may be construed as a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. A tenant or applicant may choose to seek legal assistance or file a complaint with HUD.

Question: May a federally-assisted housing provider suggest an alternative to the accommodation requested by an applicant or tenant?

Answer: Yes. Housing providers may suggest an alternative accommodation, however, the applicant or tenant may reject it if s/he feels it does not meet his or her needs. The housing provider must grant the requested reasonable accommodation unless it constitutes an undue financial and administrative burden or fundamental alteration of the program. Housing providers and applicants or tenants should engage in an interactive process to determine the best approach to meeting the applicants’ or tenants’ disability-related need. When considering a reasonable accommodation request, the housing provider should give primary consideration to the accommodation requested by the tenant or applicant because the individual with a disability is most familiar with his or her disability and is in the best position to determine what type of aid or service will be effective.

Effective Communication

Question: What steps must recipients take to ensure that information about their programs and services, and their communications with applicants and program participants, are accessible?

Answer: HUD’s Section 504 regulations require recipients to take appropriate steps to ensure effective communication with applicants, beneficiaries, and members of the public (24 C.F.R. § 8.6). This may include, but is not limited to, conducting outreach in a manner that will reach persons with disabilities, such as by working with State and local organizations that serve or represent persons with disabilities, and ensuring that information about their programs is disseminated in a manner that is accessible to persons with disabilities. For example, furnishing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, such as the use of interpreters, transcription or captioning services, accessible electronic materials and websites, and large print, Braille, and other alternate format materials may be necessary. These auxiliary aids and services can greatly increase the effectiveness of outreach and ongoing communication and provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Question: May a recipient require an applicant or tenant to bear the cost of providing auxiliary aids and services?

Answer: No. Under HUD’s Section 504 regulations, specifically at 24 C.F.R. § 8.6, the recipient must furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. However, a recipient is not required to provide individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study (as opposed to interaction and participation in the program or activity), or other devices of a personal nature. Recipients are also not required to take any action that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or activity or in undue administrative and financial burdens.

Question: Can a recipient insist that an applicant or tenant provide their own interpreter in order to meet their effective communication obligations?

Answer: Under HUD’s Section 504 regulations, the recipient must furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, which includes the provision of interpreters, as necessary. Additionally, ADA’s requirements for effective communication limit when a housing provider may require an applicant or tenant to furnish their own interpreter, such as a companion or child, to only two situations: (1) in an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public; and (2) in other, non-emergency situations an adult accompanying someone who uses sign language may be relied upon to interpret or facilitate communication when a) the individual requests this, b) the accompanying adult agrees, and c) reliance on the accompanying adult is appropriate under the circumstances. This does not apply to minor children. Additional information on the ADA’s effective communication requirements is available here.

Physical Accessibility

Question: With respect to Section 504's requirements, what is an accessible unit?

Answer: HUD’s Section 504 regulations define an accessible dwelling unit as a unit that is located on an accessible route and can be approached, entered, and used by individuals with physical disabilities. A unit that is on an accessible route and is adaptable and otherwise in compliance with the standards set forth in 24 C.F.R § 8.32 is accessible. In addition, the Section 504 regulations impose specific accessibility requirements for new construction and alteration of housing and non-housing facilities in HUD assisted programs. Section 8.32 of the regulations states that compliance with the appropriate technical criteria in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or HUD’s Deeming Notice, or a standard that is equivalent to or stricter than the UFAS, is an acceptable means of meeting the technical accessibility requirements in Sections 8.21, 8.22, 8.23 and 8.25 of the Section 504 regulations. However, most units are covered by multiple federal accessibility laws and multiple federal accessibility standards. Compliance with all applicable accessibility laws is necessary.

Question: What physical accessibility requirements must a new federally-assisted housing development meet in order to be in compliance with Section 504 requirements?

Answer: For a federally-assisted new construction housing project, Section 504 requires 5% of the dwelling units, or at least one unit, whichever is greater, to be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities. An additional 2% of the dwelling units, or at least one unit, whichever is greater, must be accessible for persons with hearing or visual disabilities. An accessible dwelling unit is described in the Q&A above. The project must also meet all Section 504 requirements in HUD’s implementing regulation, such as, requirements regarding dispersal and utilization of accessible housing units.

Question: Are there other accessibility requirements that apply to federally-assisted new construction?

Answer: If a new construction project has four or more dwelling units and is built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, it is also subject to the accessibility and adaptability requirements of the Fair Housing Act, regardless of whether it receives federal financial assistance. The Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements are not as strict as those for Section 504 and the UFAS; however, the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements apply to a broader number of dwelling units. Under the Fair Housing Act, if the building has an elevator, generally all of the dwelling units must meet the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements; if there is no elevator, generally all of the ground floor dwelling units must meet the Fair Housing Act's requirements. A unit that meets the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements will be one that does not have as great a degree of accessibility as a UFAS-complying unit, but is one that may be easily adapted to be fully accessible without significant costs and the need to do significant structural modifications.

Question: If a federally-assisted housing project is targeted for substantial alteration, what does Section 504 require in terms of accessible units?

Answer: Under Section 504, alterations are substantial if they are undertaken to a project that has 15 or more units and the cost of the alterations is 75% or more of the replacement cost of the completed facility. (See 24 C.F.R. § 8.23(a)). The new construction provisions of 24 C.F.R. § 8.22 apply. Section 8.22 requires that a minimum of 5% of the dwelling units, or at least one unit, whichever is greater, shall be made accessible to persons with mobility disabilities and an additional 2% of the dwelling units, or at least one unit, whichever is greater, shall be made accessible to persons with hearing or visual disabilities.

Question: What does Section 504 require when a recipient undertakes alterations of existing housing facilities that do not qualify as substantial alterations?

Answer: If the project involves fewer than 15 units or the cost of alterations is less than 75% of the replacement cost of the completed facility and the recipient has not made 5% of its units in the development accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, then the requirements of 24 C.F.R. § 8.23(b) – Other Alterations apply. Under this section, alterations to dwelling units shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be made readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. If alterations to single elements or spaces of a dwelling unit, when considered together, amount to an alteration of a dwelling unit, the entire unit shall be made accessible. Alteration of an entire unit is considered to be when at least all of the following individual elements are replaced:

  • renovation of whole kitchens, or at least replacement of kitchen cabinets; and
  • renovation of the bathroom, if at least bathtub or shower is replaced or added, or a toilet and flooring is replaces; and
  • replacement of entrance door jambs.

When the entire unit is not being altered, 100% of the single elements being altered must be made accessible until 5% of the units in the development are accessible. However, the Department strongly encourages a recipient to make 5% of the units in a development readily accessible to and usable by individuals with mobility disabilities, since that will avoid the necessity of making every element altered accessible, which often may result in having partially accessible units which may be of little or no value for persons with mobility impairments. It is also more likely that the cost of making 5% of the units accessible up front will be less than making each and every element altered accessible. Alterations must meet the applicable sections of the UFAS which govern alterations.

Question: When a recipient plans alterations, are there areas of a building which are not required to be made accessible under Section 504?

Answer: Mechanical rooms and other spaces that, because of their intended use, will not require accessibility to the public or beneficiaries or result in the employment or residence therein of individuals with physical disabilities are not required to be made accessible in projects undergoing either substantial or other alterations. (see 24 C.F.R. § 8.32 (6)).

Federally-Assisted Non-Housing Facilities

Question: How does Section 504 affect the operation of a non-housing facility or program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance?

Answer: All of Section 504's nondiscrimination, program accessibility, and reasonable accommodation requirements that apply to housing facilities and programs apply equally to the operation of non-housing facilities or programs. (24 C.F.R. § 8.21)


Question: What requirements does Section 504 impose on new construction or alteration of existing non-housing facilities operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance?

Answer: New non-housing facilities constructed by recipients of federal financial assistance must be designed and constructed to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Alterations to existing facilities must, to the maximum extent feasible, be made accessible to ensure that such facilities are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. (24 C.F.R. § 8.21(a) and (b)). In addition, each existing non-housing program or facility must be operated so that, when viewed in its entirety, the program or activity is readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. (24 C.F.R. § 8.21(c)). For example, a newly constructed day-care center that is provided for use by residents of a housing project, must meet the design and construction requirements of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or HUD’s Deeming Notice. In addition, once the facility is completed, it would, of course, have to be operated in a non-discriminatory manner. The ADA is also likely to apply to the facility and require compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards.

Other Disability Civil Rights Laws Affecting Federally-Assisted Housing Providers

Question: What is the Fair Housing Act and what types of discrimination does it prohibit against persons with disabilities?

Answer: The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-19, prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. The Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against persons because of their disability or the disability of anyone associated with them and from treating persons with disabilities less favorably than others because of the disability. The Act also requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person(s) equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. In addition, the Act requires that housing providers allow reasonable modifications to units and common spaces in a dwelling for disability-related needs. The Act applies to the vast majority housing, including privately owned housing and housing subsidized by the federal government. HUD's regulations implementing the disability discrimination prohibitions of the Act may be found at 24 C.F.R. §§ 100.201-205.

Question: Is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applicable to housing, and if yes, what is the relationship between the ADA and Section 504?

Answer: The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law for persons with disabilities and applies to housing under certain circumstances. Title II of the ADA covers the programs, activities, and services provided by public entities (state and local governments and their instrumentalities and special purpose districts). Title II requires public entities to make both new and existing housing facilities accessible to persons with disabilities, as well as ensuring that individuals with disabilities have access to the programs, activities, and services provided. Housing covered by Title II of the ADA includes, for example, public housing agencies, community development agencies, and other housing developed or operated by States or units of local government, such as housing on a State university campus.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in commercial facilities and public accommodations. Title III of the ADA covers public and common use areas at housing developments when these public areas are, by their nature, open to the general public or when they are made available to the general public or residents of developments. For example, it covers the rental office, since, by its nature, the rental office is open to the general public. In addition, if a day care center, or a community room is made available to the general public, it would be covered by Title III. Title III applies, irrespective of whether the public and common use areas are operated by a federally-assisted housing provider or by a private entity. However, if the community room or day care center were only open to residents of the building, Title III would not apply.

Further, it is likely for Section 504 to apply to a housing project that is covered by the ADA. Additionally, the Fair Housing Act often applies to residential housing where the ADA and/or Section 504 also apply. Where more than one federal accessibility law applies, the housing project must be in compliance with all applicable federal laws.

Note: For purposes of physical accessibility where both the ADA and Section 504 apply, the element that would provide the greatest accessibility of the accessibility standards (either UFAS, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, or HUD’s Deeming Notice) must be met. For additional information relating to the application of the Fair Housing Act, Section 504, and the ADA for purposes of physical accessibility, visit Physical Accessibly.

Question: What is the Architectural Barriers Act and what does it cover?

Answer: The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA) (42 U.S.C. 4151-4157) requires that certain buildings financed with federal funds must be designed, constructed, or altered in accordance with standards that ensure accessibility for persons with physical disabilities. The ABA requires that covered buildings comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). The ABA does not cover privately-owned housing, but covers buildings or facilities financed in whole or in part with federal funds. The ABA applies to public housing (24 C.F.R. § 40), and to buildings and facilities constructed with CDBG funds (24 C.F.R. § 570.614). In practice, buildings built to meet the requirements of Section 504 and Title II of the ADA will conform to the requirements of the ABA because HUD ABA regulations require compliance with UFAS.


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