News from Northwest ADA Center – Idaho

Q. Can a museum charge admission for personal assistants on duty when they accompany an individual with a disability?
Specifically if the individual with the disability is unable to independently access the museum without their personal assistant.

A. Although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not issued regulatory language addressing this, it has been found a surcharge is not applicable requiring a personal care assistant (PCA) to pay while on duty to assist a person with disability. This would be like charging double what a person without disabilities would pay to visit the museum. Without a personal care assistant it would be impossible to visit the Franklin Institute or any other venue. The PCA is no more a “guest” of the museum than the wheelchair is. A museum would need to “modify their policy and procedures” to ensure equal access to services and programs for people with disabilities.

This was brought to the public in the US District Court’s May 2016 case Anderson vs Franklin Institute. In this case it was decided that the type of assistance needed and the impact on the individual with a disability to be able to access the museum warranted the modification of the Franklin Institutes policy (Title III entity).

Specifically, in this case Plaintiffs argue that The Franklin Institute discriminates against people with disabilities by charging an additional and separate admission fee to government-funded personal care attendants, whose sole purpose is to provide severely disabled individuals with the opportunity to fully participate in the services offered by the museum. This covered both the fees for general admission as well as admission to the IMAX Theater and Special Exhibitions.

The museums defense argued that disabled individuals are the same as children, and by waiving fees for the PCA’s would throw the museum off a financial cliff. Judge McHugh reasonably wanted to know just how many of the 760,0000 annual visitors were PCAs, to threaten the museums bottom line they have to number in the thousands. The museum admitted they couldn’t give even a ballpark number since they don’t track how many disabled people attend the museum. It was ruled the museum must adopt clear and enforceable policy waiving any and all admission frees for PCA accompanying severely disabled clients (ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq). That’s a win!



Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 711