Americans with Disability Act – An Overview

"This Act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, and the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream." President George Bush at the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

 Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person has a disability if they have a medical condition or disorder (also referred to as an "impairment") that substantially limits their ability to perform at least one major life activity. It is estimated half of the US population has at least one chronic condition, which is covered by the ADA (1). Therefore, ADA laws must be followed in order to better serve and include our fellow citizens who have disabilities.

Disabilities can be physical, mental, emotional, developmental, neurological, and sensory, including visual and hearing. The ADA also protects people who are regarded as having a disability; this means that even if a person does not have a documented disability but they are socially regarded and treated as if they do, they are still protected under the ADA. Remember that disabilities are not necessarily obvious 70% of people with disabilities do not have an obvious impairment (2), and many people may be able to perform a task one day but not the next day. 


The following are some examples of major life activities:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Working


These can also include broader impairments, such as an inability to independently travel, go shopping, perform housework, make phone calls, manage healthcare needs, or drive or use the city bus. This is not a comprehensive list and is intended merely to illustrate what can constitute major life activities.


Under the ADA, there are four categories of persons who are protected from discrimination:

1. A person with a disability.

2. A person who is regarded as having a disability, even if they do not.

3. A person who has a history of having a disability.

4. A person who experiences discrimination because of their association with anyone listed above.


Accessible Employment - Reasonable Accommodations

Accommodations are as unique as the individuals with impairments. The only stipulation to accommodations is that they must be regarded as "reasonable."   A "reasonable accommodation" is:

1) Feasible to do and does not fundamentally alter requirements.

2) The changes or modifications do not impose an undue financial burden.

At no time will the person requesting accommodations be charged for any related costs associated with the accommodation. It does not matter if the condition is temporary or long-term; anyone may request reasonable accommodations if they have an impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity. 

Under the ADA, reasonable modifications to policies, procedures, and requirements must be made to allow access unless the change would fundamentally alter the nature of the program or would create an undue financial or administrative burden.

Regardless of the number of employees, reasonable accommodations must be made to allow access to employment for persons with disabilities. 

Furthermore, under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, all government entities and employees must adhere to strict compliance regarding reasonable accommodations and non-discrimination in the workplace.

No employer can ask whether you have a disability. The only questions that can be asked of you are whether you can perform the job duties and whether you need any accommodations to do so. Under the ADA, a person with a disability must still be able to perform the required job duties, with or without reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are determined case by case but can include things like flexible start time, time off to receive medical care, part-time employment, accessible workspace, assistive technology, relocation of office to an accessible area, etc.

For more information on reasonable accommodations in the workplace, please click here: EEOC Reasonable Accommodation Guide.


Human Resources

 The Human Resources office is the primary place to file complaints regarding discrimination in City employment under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you experience, witness, or suspect discrimination within a City of Santa Fe workplace or City employment, please notify the City of Santa Fe Human Resources Department at 505-955-6604.


Accessible Format Communication and Documents

State and local governments must ensure equal, effective, and accessible communication with people with disabilities.

Accessible format documents are made available upon request to persons with disabilities. This means that if you are asked to provide a document in a specific accessible format, you should be aware of what that accessible format is and how to obtain it. An alternate format than the one requested may be offered, but if it is not accepted as an alternative or if it is not accessible to that person, the format requested is to be provided.

 Under the ADA, accessible alternate format documents are to be made available both via a website and in person. This means that you should be aware of what an accessible document is.

PDF: If you cannot select and copy and paste the text of a PDF document, then it is not in an accessible or screen reader format. Most Microsoft Word or Office programs and Adobe have accessibility features. If you create a document, select the "save as" option and select PDF in the drop-down menu. If you save a .doc as a PDF in Word, it should be an accessible text format.

Remember that PDF forms are not accessible for typing text via a computer, which an individual may need with disabilities. To make a PDF accessible, you must input an area where text can be entered. 

An alternate way to make accessible forms is to create a Word document:

Word .doc: This is usually an accessible format document. This format allows for both selecting the text with a mouse for screen reader options and for inputting text into the form via a computer.

Fonts: Typically, sans serif fonts like Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, and Verdana are preferred by people with visual and reading impairments over Times Roman or other serif fonts. Limit the use of decorative fonts.

Large Print:   Remember that when making a document "large print," merely copying text larger does not make the document accessible. Large Print typically means a font size 18 or larger, in sans serif font like Arial, Tahoma, etc., with line spacing of no less than 1.5 widths. Click here for more information.

Color Contrast:  Always be aware of "busyness" and reduce color and distraction as much as possible. Limit the use of tables and graphs.

Scanned Documents: Scanned documents are not usually in an accessible format. Standard scanning usually creates an "image" of the document. A person with a visual impairment cannot use a screen reader to read an image.

Other Formats: Accessible formats might include in-person meetings, audio format, closed captions on videos, transcripts of audio or video, etc.

Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS): Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), also called "the relay," allows communication between a Teletypewriter (TTY) and any phone. By dialing 711 from any phone, anyone may access the relay. The relay is a service where you speak to a TRS operator who types what you said to the person using a TTY device. The TTY message is then verbally relayed back by the TRS operator to the person using a regular phone. While this is acceptable for many things, some situations may not be. There are concerns raised regarding confidentiality and miscommunication that might occur when speaking and typing via an operator. 

 Teletypewriter (TTY): If the Telecommunications Relay Service is not appropriate, such as needing to communicate complex or confidential information, then the government entity is required to have and use a TTY with its own dedicated TTY number. All City employees who work with the general public should have access to and be trained to use a TTY. A dedicated TTY number and phone line should be available for use at all government offices that work with the general public. This number should be listed with other contact information on the website and directories.


Service Animals

The ADA only acknowledges dogs or miniature horses as being service animals. These service animals must be permitted in all areas and buildings, including all government and City buildings, regardless of whether or not the animal is wearing tags identifying them as a service animal. There are no official ADA tags or banners for service animals. Service animals perform essential functions that the individual is not able to perform without the assistance of the animal. 

Under the ADA, there are only two questions you may ask if the reason for the service animal is not obvious:

1. Is the animal a service animal for a person with a disability?

2. What is the animal trained to do?

Upon identification of the animal as a service animal, you cannot deny the animal access unless the animal has behavior issues. If animal behavior issues are present, you must always ensure that the person is invited to return to the building after removing the disruptive animal. In addition to ADA laws, New Mexico has additional provisions. Under Section 28-11-3 NMSA, Service Animal Act of NM, it is a misdemeanor to deny anyone access or use of a service animal, including service animals still in training, or to falsely represent a pet as a service animal. 



When addressing anyone with a disability, remember that they are a person first. Whether the person's disability is visual, mental, hearing, physical, developmental, or emotional, it is not acceptable to refer to people as "the disabled" instead refer to them as "people with disabilities."   Remember that not all disabilities can be "seen." If a person asks for assistance, respect them, and assist them as requested. If you feel unable to assist someone, contact a supervisor or co-worker who can.

Click here for more information on disability etiquette.



City employees do not pay for use of City transportation, including Santa Fe Trails and Santa Fe Ride (paratransit). You will need to show your City Employee Identification Card to the driver in order to waive the fee. 

 In addition to the fixed route Santa Fe Trails service, Santa Fe Ride provides ADA complementary paratransit service free of charge within city limits to qualified City employees with a City Employee ID. The cost for this service to non-City-employees is $2.00 for each one-way trip within City limits. Individuals who wish to be considered for this service must have a qualifying impairment. There is an approval process that requires individuals to complete an application, have the information verified by a medical professional, receive an interview, and be certified by us as ADA paratransit eligible. 

 Santa Fe Ride (paratransit) is an "origin to destination" transportation service for persons with disabilities who cannot use the regular bus service. It is primarily a curb-to-curb service, but door-to-door service is provided upon request. This service is provided during the same days and hours of operation of the fixed route service.

 The Santa Fe Ride transit operator will assist an individual in getting on or off the vehicle but will not load or unload the individual's personal belongings or carry-on items. If an individual needs assistance beyond this, they must be accompanied by a personal care attendant. Required personal care attendants ride free with the person they are assisting.

 All persons who are certified for the Santa Fe Ride ADA paratransit service may ride the fixed route buses at no cost with their Santa Fe Ride photo identification card. For more information, please contact Santa Fe Trails at 505-955-2001 or Santa Fe Ride at 505-473-4444.


Emergency Evacuation and Safety

It is required that each government location have an evacuation plan that includes procedures to assist in the safe evacuation of people with disabilities. For example, people with disabilities may not be able to evacuate via stairs, people with hearing impairments may not hear alarms, doors may automatically close, or there might be only one accessible main door with a button in a building. These types of things can cause a person with disabilities to become trapped in a building during an emergency. Training is available upon request.


How to Report ADA Violations

If you experience or witness an ADA violation or what you believe is a discriminatory or prejudicial action against a person with a disability, please file a grievance within 45 days of the incident to the City of Santa Fe ADA Coordinator and/or another Civil Rights Office.

Click here for more information on reporting ADA violations in the City of Santa Fe.


City of Santa Fe ADA Coordinator

The ADA Coordinator is available to process and investigate grievances, answer questions, and assist with ADA compliance in the City of Santa Fe.

Daniel Lopez, Jr.
Designated ADA Coordinator
Equity and ADA Manager
737 Agua Fria Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Additional Resources:

Click here for a printable or downloadable list of local, state, and federal resources and links to information.

This ADA Resource and Compliance Guide is also available online and in downloadable format at:

Last updated on 07-11-2019