Disability Etiquette Handbook

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  • Physical Address
  • Municipal Plaza Building
    114 W. Commerce, 9th Floor
    San Antonio, TX 78205   
  • Mailing Address
  • P.O. Box 839966
    San Antonio, TX 78283-3966
  • Phone
  • 210.207.7135


  • Razi Hosseini, P.E.
    Director/City Engineer
  • Anthony Chukwudolue, P.E.
    Deputy Director
  • Christie Chapman
    Assistant Director
  • Nefi Garza, P.E.
    Assistant Director
  • Luis Maltos, P.E.
    Assistant Director
  • Paul Berry
    Chief Communications Officer


The City of San Antonio, Disability Access Office (DAO) and the Disability Access Advisory Committee (DAAC) have prepared this Disability Etiquette Handbook to enhance opportunities for persons with disabilities to pursue their careers and independent lifestyles.

The Disability Etiquette Handbook is yet another step toward making San Antonio one of the most accessible cities in the nation. It contains information that can help make San Antonio a better place for all who visit, live and work here.


People with disabilities are not conditions or diseases. They are individual human beings. For example, a person is not an epileptic but rather a person who has epilepsy. First and foremost they are people. Only secondarily do they have one or more disabling conditions. Hence, they prefer to be referred to in print or broadcast media as People with Disabilities.

In any story, article, announcement or advertisement, "people with disabilities" should be used either exclusively or, at a minimum, as the initial reference. Subsequent references can use the terms "person with a disability" or "individuals with disabilities" for grammatical or narrative reasons. In conclusion, the appropriate and preferred initial reference is "people with disabilities."

Please refer to the Glossary of Acceptable Terms for a complete listing of acceptable terms and appropriate applications.


A Disability is a condition caused by an accident, trauma, genetics or disease which may limit a person's mobility, hearing, vision, speech or mental function. Some people with disabilities have one or more disabilities.

A Handicap is a physical or attitudinal constraint that is imposed upon a person, regardless of whether that person has a disability. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines handicap as "to put at a disadvantage".

Example: Some people with disabilities use wheelchairs. Stairs, narrow doorways and curbs are handicaps imposed upon people with disabilities who use wheelchairs.

People with disabilities may have one or more of the following:    

  • mobility impairments
  • blindness and vision impairments
  • deafness and hearing impairments
  • speech and language impairments
  • cognitive and learning impairments


The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 went into effect in January, 1 2009. The purpose of the Act is to:

  • Provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
  • Provide enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
  • Ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing these standards on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

The ADA Amendment Act (ADAAA), effective January 1, 2009, mandates ‘Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services.’ The Department of Justice released regulations that clarify Congress’ intent that the ADA be applied as strictly as possible. The ADAAA does away with the practice of evaluating disabilities in their corrected state. Under the amendment, people with disabilities that can be controlled with "medication", medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices, prosthetics, hearing aids and mobility devices are still considered to have a disability.

An individual is considered to have a "disability" if she/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment. Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are protected.

The second part of the definition protecting individuals with a record of a disability would cover, for example, a person who has recovered from cancer or mental illness.

The third part of the definition protects individuals who are regarded as having a substantially limiting impairment, even though they may not have such impairment. For example, this provision would protect a qualified individual with a severe facial disfigurement from being denied employment because an employer feared the "negative reactions" of customers or co-workers.

The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered. This is the same definition used in Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives people with disabilities civil rights protection that is like that provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in:

  • employment
  • public accommodations
  • transportation
  • state and local government services
  • telecommunications


The Revised ADA Standards were adopted on September 15, 2010, and were effective as of March of 2011. These regulations implement updated ADA standards for new construction and alterations and apply to both Title II and Title III. Compliance with the 2010 standards was mandatory beginning March 15, 2012. Use of the new standards is allowed as an alternative to the original 1991 standards.

The revised regulations include new provisions covering the sale of tickets for accessible seating in assembly areas, service animals, powered devices used as alternatives to standard wheelchairs, use of video remote interpreting to provide effective communication, reservation policies governing accessible accommodations in places of lodging, dwellings units made for sale by government entities, and detention and correctional systems.


  • Employers with 15 or more employees are covered under the ADA.
  • Employers must reasonably accommodate the disabilities of qualified applicants or employees, unless an undue hardship would result.
  • Employers may reject applicants or fire employees who pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace.
  • Applicants and employees are not protected from personnel actions based on their current illegal use of drugs. Drug testing is not affected.
  • Employers may not discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee because of the known disability of an individual with whom the applicant or employee is known to have a relationship or association.


State and local governments may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. All government facilities, services, and communications must be accessible consistent with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


  • Public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers may not discriminate on the basis of disabilities, effective January 26, 1992.
  • Reasonable changes in policies, practices, and procedures must be made to avoid discrimination.
  • Auxiliary aids and services must be provided to individuals with vision or hearing impairments or other individuals with disabilities so that they can have an equal opportunity to participate or benefit, unless an undue burden would result.
  • Physical barriers in existing facilities must be removed if removal is readily achievable (i.e. easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.) If not, alternative methods of providing the services must be offered, if those methods are readily achievable.
  • All new construction in public accommodations as well as in "commercial facilities" such as office buildings must be accessible. If such facilities are located in multi-story buildings, accessible elevators are generally required to serve all floors. Exemptions may be granted under certain conditions outlined in ADA Access Design Standards and/or The Texas Accessibility Standards.
  • Alterations must be accessible. When alterations to primary function areas are made, an accessible path of travel to the altered area (and the bathrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving that area) must be provided to the extent that added accessibility costs are not disproportionate to the overall cost of the alterations. Elevators are required as described above.
  • Entities such as hotels that also offer transportation generally must provide equivalent transportation service to individuals with disabilities. New fixed- route vehicles ordered on or after August 26, 1990, and capable of carrying more than 16 passengers, must be accessible.
  • Public accommodations may not discriminate against an individual or entity because of the known disability of an individual with whom the individual or entity is known to have a relationship or association.


Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use telecommunications devices to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements.


Reasonable accommodations enhance the opportunity for qualified persons with disabilities who may not otherwise be considered for reasons unrelated to actual job requirements to be or remain employed. The purpose of providing reasonable accommodations is to enable employers to hire or retain qualified job candidates regardless of their disability by eliminating barriers in the work place.

According to the Department of Justice government-wide regulations, Section 41.53, Reasonable Accommodation, "A recipient shall make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified handicapped applicant or employee unless the recipient can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its program."

Inquiries made of an individual about limitations in job performance must be directly related to the prospective or existing position. Accommodations are tailored for a certain job or situation that an individual is hired to perform. The law requires that each person with a disability must be consulted prior to the planning and be involved in the implementation of an accommodation.

Types of accommodations include assistive devices, reassignment, modified work schedules, job modifications, relocation, or a change in the physical plant.

Examples of assistive devices often used in the work place include teletypewriter (TTY), telephone amplifier, or video relay often used by persons with hearing impairments, wooden blocks to elevate desks and tables for wheelchair users, large-type computer terminals and Braille printers to assist persons with vision impairments.

Decisions to implement an accommodation should include making a choice that will best meet the needs of the individual by minimizing limitation and enhancing his or her ability to perform job tasks, while serving the interests of the majority work force. Solutions should be developed in consultation with the individual requesting the accommodations.


Know where accessible restrooms, drinking fountains and telephones are located. If such facilities are not available, be ready to offer alternatives, such as the private or employee restroom, a glass of water or your desk phone.

  1. Use a normal tone of voice when extending a verbal welcome. Do not raise your voice unless requested.
  2. When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands.
    • Shaking hands with the left hand is acceptable.
    • For those who cannot shake hands, touch the person on the shoulder or arm to welcome and acknowledge their presence.
  3. Treat adults in a manner befitting adults:
    • Call a person by his or her first name only when extending that familiarity to all others present.
    • Never patronize people using wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.
  4. When addressing a person who uses a wheelchair, never lean on the person's wheelchair. The chair is part of the space that belongs to the person who uses it.
  5. When talking with a person with a disability, look at and speak directly to that person rather than through a companion who may be along.
  6. If an interpreter is present, speak to the person who has scheduled the appointment, not to the interpreter. Always maintain eye contact with the applicant, not the interpreter.
  7. Offer assistance in a dignified manner with sensitivity and respect. Be prepared to have the offer declined. Do not proceed to assist if your offer to assist is declined. If the offer is accepted, listen to or accept instructions. 
  8. Allow a person with a visual impairment to take your arm (at or about the elbow.) This will enable you to guide rather than propel or lead the person. 



Although the most familiar types of service animals are guide dogs used by people who are blind, service animals are assisting persons who have other disabilities as well. Many disabling conditions are invisible. Therefore, every person who is accompanied by a service animal may or may not "look" disabled. A service animal is NOT required to have any special certification.

What is a Service Animal?
A service animal is NOT a pet!

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations and Standards, service animal means any dog that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Functions of a service animal include, but are not limited to: assisting individuals who are blind or low-vision with navigation, alerting individuals who are deaf to the presence of people or sounds, pulling a wheel-chair, assisting an individual during a seizure, retrieving items such as medication or the telephone, and providing physical support for balance. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

Dogs and Miniature Horses that have been trained as service animals, which are under control of the handler, who have been housebroken and are not any threat to others shall be allowed in public spaces.

Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a public entity’s facilities where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go. (35.136 Service animals (g))

Service Animal Etiquette
  • Do not touch the Service Animal, or the person it assists, without permission.
  • Do not make noises at the Service Animal; it may distract the animal from doing its job.
  • Do not feed the Service Animal; it may disrupt his/her schedule.
  • Do not be offended if the person does not feel like discussing his/her disability or the assistance the Service Animal provides. Not everyone wants to be a walking-talking "show and tell" exhibit.


Mobility devices, or manually-powered mobility aids include wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, braces or other similar devices designed for use by individuals with mobility impairments in any area open to pedestrian use. (35.137 Mobility Devices)


Other power-driven mobility devices include a range of devices not designed for individuals with mobility impairments, such as the Segway, but which are often used by individuals with disabilities as their mobility device of choice. Other power-driven mobility devices must be permitted to be used unless the covered entity can demonstrate that such use would fundamentally alter its programs, services, or activities, create a direct threat, or create a safety hazard. The rule also lists factors to consider in making this determination. This approach accommodates both the legitimate business interests in the safe operation of a facility and the growing use of the Segway as a mobility device.


The professional interpreter is always considered as an extension of and part of the event. Interpreters are part of the team meant to deliver accurate and intended messages given by the presenters.

The further in advance notice is provided that an interpreter is needed, the more prepared an agency will be to provide the interpreter(s). This process will allow the interpreter to have the proper time needed to prepare for the event. 

With this in mind, the following information is needed to schedule an interpreter:  

  • Name and type of event
  • Name of event contact person with a phone number
  • Correct billing address 
  • Clear address and directions to the event and the location where the interpreter is to check-in.
  • Parking passes or information on any kind of special arrangements for parking.
  • Communication and shared information to all persons directly involved with the event regarding the arrangements for the interpreter.

If any information to be presented other than English, a written interpretation in English will be needed in advance. "OR" an advance notice of at least 3 weeks may be needed to allow adequate time to secure an appropriate interpreter.



  1. When talking to a person with a disability, look at and speak directly to that person, rather than through a companion who may be along.

  2. Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted common expressions such as "See you later" or "Got to be running along" that seem to relate to the person's disability.

  3. To get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, naturally and slowly to establish if the person can read lips. Not all persons with hearing impairments can lip-read. Those who can will rely on facial expression and other body language to help in understanding. Show consideration by placing yourself facing the light source and keeping your hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking. Keep mustaches well-trimmed. Shouting won't help. Written notes may.

  4. When talking with a person in a wheel chair for more than a few minutes, use a chair, whenever possible, in order to place yourself at the person's eye level to facilitate conversation.

  5. When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. EXAMPLE: On my right is Penelope Potts. When conversing in a group, give a vocal cue by announcing the name of the person to whom you are speaking. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate in advance when you will be moving from one place to another and let it be known when the conversation is at an end.

  6. Listen attentively when you're talking to a person who has a speech impairment. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting. Exercise patience rather than attempting to speak for a person with speech difficulty. When necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod, or a shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you understand, or incorporate the interviewee's statements into each of the following questions. The person's reactions will clue you in and guide you to understanding.

    If you have difficulty communicating, be willing to repeat or rephrase a question. Open-ended questions are more appropriate than closed-ended questions.

    Closed-Ended Question: You were a tax accountant in XYZ Company in the corporate ADA department for seven years. What did you do there? Open-Ended Question: Tell me about your recent position as a tax accountant.
  7. Do not shout at a hearing impaired person. Shouting distorts sounds accepted through hearing aids and inhibits lip reading. Do not shout at a person who is blind or visually impaired -- he or she can hear you!

  8. To facilitate conversation, be prepared to offer a visual cue to a hearing impaired person or an audible cue to a vision impaired person, especially when more than one person is speaking.


Some interviewees with visual or mobility impairments will phone in prior to the appointment date, specifically for travel information. The scheduler should be very familiar with the travel path in order to provide interviewees with detailed information.

  1. Make sure the place where you plan to conduct the interview is accessible by checking the following:
    • Are there accessible parking spaces available and nearby?
    • Is there a ramp or step-free entrance?
    • Are there accessible restrooms?
    • If the interview is not on the first floor, does the building have an elevator? 
    • If an interview site is inaccessible (e.g., steps without a ramp or a building without an elevator), inform the person about the barrier(s) prior to the interview and offer to make arrangements for an alternative interview site.
  2. When scheduling interviews for persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time:
    • When giving directions to a person using a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills.
    • Use specifics such as "left a hundred feet" or "right two yards" when directing a person with a visual impairment.
    • Be considerate of the additional travel time that may be required by a person with a disability.
  3. Familiarize the interviewee in advance with the names of all persons he or she will be meeting during the visit. This courtesy allows persons with disabilities to be aware of the names and faces that will be met.
  4. People with disabilities use a variety of transportation services when traveling to and from work. When scheduling an interview, be aware that the person may be required to make a reservation 24 hours in advance, plus travel time. Provide the interviewee with an estimated time to schedule the return trip when arranging the interview appointment.

    Expect the same measure of punctuality and performance from people with disabilities that is required of every potential or actual employee. People with disabilities expect equal treatment, not special treatment.


  1. Conduct interviews in a manner that emphasizes abilities, achievements and individual qualities.
  2. Conduct your interview as you would with anyone. Be considerate without being patronizing.
  3. When interviewing a person with a speech impediment, stifle any urge to complete a sentence of an interviewee.
  4. If it appears that a person's ability inhibits performance of a job, ask: How would you perform this job?

Inappropriate: I noticed that you are in a wheelchair, and I wonder how you get around. Tell me about your disability.

Appropriate: This position requires digging and using a wheelbarrow, as you can see from the job description. Do you foresee any difficulty in performing the required tasks? If so, do you have any suggestions how these tasks can be performed?

Interviewing Courtesies for Effective Communication
Interviewers need to know whether or not the job site is accessible and should be prepared to answer accessibility-related questions.

Interviewing a person using Mobility Aids

  1. Enable people who use crutches, canes or wheelchairs to keep them within reach.
  2. Be aware that some wheelchair users may choose to transfer themselves out of their wheelchairs (into an office chair, for example) for the duration of the interview.
  3. Here again, when speaking to a person using a wheelchair or crutches for more than a few minutes, sit in a chair. Place yourself at that person's eye level to facilitate conversation.

Interviewing a person with Vision Impairments

  1. When greeting a person with vision impairment always identify yourself and introduce anyone else who might be present.
  2. If the person does not extend their hand to shake hands, verbally extend a welcome. EXAMPLE: Welcome to the City of San Antonio Public Works Department, Disability Access Office.
  3. When offering seating, place the person's hand on the back or arm of the seat. A verbal cue is helpful as well.
  4. Let the person know if you move or need to end the conversation.
  5. Allow people who use crutches, canes or wheelchairs to keep them within reach.

Interviewing a person with Speech Impairments

  1. Give your whole attention with interest when talking to a person who has speech impairment.
  2. Ask short questions that require short answers or a nod of the head.
  3. Do not pretend to understand if you do not. Try rephrasing what you wish to communicate, or ask the person to repeat what you do not understand.
  4. Do not raise your voice. Most speech impaired persons can hear and understand.

Interviewing a person who is Deaf or Hearing Impaired

  1. If you need to attract the attention of a person who is deaf or hearing impaired, touch him or her lightly on the shoulder.
  2. If the interviewee lip-reads, look directly at him or her. Speak clearly at a normal pace. Do not exaggerate your lip movements or shout. Speak expressively because the person will rely on your facial expressions, gestures and eye contact. (Note: It is estimated that only four out of ten spoken words are visible on the lips.)
  3. Place yourself in front the light source and keep your hands away from your mouth when speaking.
  4. Shouting does not help and can be detrimental. Only raise your voice when requested. Brief, concise written notes may be helpful.
  5. In the United States most people who are deaf use American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is not a universal language. ASL is a language with its own syntax and grammatical structure. When scheduling an interpreter for a non-English speaking person, be certain to retain an interpreter that speaks and interprets in the language of the person.
  6. If an interpreter is present, it is commonplace for the interpreter to be seated beside the interviewer, across from the interviewee.
  7. Interpreters facilitate communication. They should not be consulted or regarded as a reference for the interview.


Do learn where to find and recruit people with disabilities. Don't assume that persons with disabilities do not want to work.

Do learn how to communicate with people who have disabilities.

Don't assume that alcoholism and drug abuse are not real disabilities, or that recovering drug abusers are not covered by the ADA.

Do ensure that your applications and other company forms do not ask disability-related questions and that they are in formats that are accessible to all persons with disabilities.

Don't ask if a person has a disability during an employment interview.

Do consider having written job descriptions that identify the essential functions of each job.

Don't assume that certain jobs are more suited to persons with disabilities.

Don't hire a person with a disability if that person is at significant risk of substantial harm to the health and safety of the public and there is no reasonable accommodation to reduce the risk or harm.

Do ensure that requirements for medical examinations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.)

Don't hire a person with a disability who is not qualified to perform the essential functions of the job even with a reasonable accommodation.

Don't assume that you have to retain an unqualified employee with a disability.

Do relax and make the applicant feel comfortable.

Don't assume that the work environment will be unsafe if an employee has a disability.

Do provide reasonable accommodations that the qualified applicant will need to compete for the job.

Don't assume that reasonable accommodations are expensive.

Do treat an individual with a disability the same way you would treat any applicant or employee -- with dignity and respect.

Don't speculate or try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant's disability.

Do know that among those protected by the ADA are qualified individuals who have AIDS, cancer, who are intellectually disabled, traumatically brain-injured, deaf, blind and learning disabled.

Don't assume that you don't have any jobs that a person with a disability can do.

Do understand that access includes not only environmental access but also making forms accessible to people with visual or cognitive disabilities and making alarms and signals accessible to people with hearing disabilities.

Don't assume that your work place is accessible.

Do develop procedures for maintaining and protecting confidential medical records.

Don't make medical judgments.

Do train supervisors on making reasonable accommodations.

Don't assume that a person with a disability can't do a job due to apparent or non-apparent disabilities.

Don't assume that the cost of accident insurance will increase as a result of hiring a person with a disability.

Don't assume that your current management will need special training to learn how to work with people with disabilities.


Department of Assistive & Rehabilitative Services [link 25] (DARS)
210.805.2200 Voice
210.805.2203 TTY

Relay Texas: (800) 735-2989 Voice/TTY or dial "711"

Texas Health and Human Services Commission (Includes Divisions for Blind Services and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services)
1.888.834.7406 Voice
1.888.425.6889 TTY or dial "211"

Additional Information and Assistance Numbers
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 
800.669.4000 Voice
800.669.6820 TTY

The United States Department of Housing and Development 
800.669.9777 Voice
800.927.9275 TTY

Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities 
512.463.5739 Voice
Or call "Relay Texas" for deaf and hard of hearing assistance

Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers 
800.949.4232 Voice / TTY

U.S. Access Board 
800.872.2253 Voice
800.272.5449 TTY


Acceptable: Person with a disability.

Unacceptable: Cripple, cripples - the image conveyed is of a twisted, deformed, useless body.

Acceptable: Disability, a general term used for functional limitation that interferes with a person's ability, for example, to walk, hear or lift. It may refer to a physical, mental or sensory condition.

Unacceptable: Handicap, handicapped person or handicapped.

Acceptable: People with cerebral palsy, people with spinal cord injuries. Cerebral palsied, spinal cord injured, etc. Never identify people solely by their disability.

Acceptable: Person who had a spinal cord injury, polio, a stroke, etc., or a person who has multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, etc.

Unacceptable: Victim. People with disabilities do not like to be perceived as victims. 

Acceptable: Has a disability, has a condition of (spina bifida, etc.), or born without legs, etc.

Unacceptable: Handicapped, invalid. 

Acceptable: Deafness/hearing impairment. Deafness refers to a person who has a total loss of hearing. Hearing impairment refers to a person who has a partial loss of hearing within a range from slight to severe.

Hard of hearing describes a hearing-impaired person who communicates through speaking and speech-reading, and who usually has listening and hearing abilities adequate for ordinary telephone communication. Many hard of hearing individuals use a hearing aid.

Acceptable: Intellectually disabled. In response to "Rosa’s Law", signed into law October 6, 2010.

Unacceptable: Mentally Retarded, moron, imbecile, and idiot. These are offensive. 

Acceptable: Use a wheelchair or crutches; a wheelchair user; walks with crutches.

Unacceptable: Confined/restricted to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound. Most people who use a wheelchair or mobility devices do not regard them as confining. They are viewed as liberating; a means of getting around.

Acceptable: Able-bodied; able to walk, see, hear, etc.; people who are not disabled. 

Acceptable: People who do not have a disability.

Unacceptable: Normal. When used as the opposite of disabled, this implies that the person is abnormal. No one wants to be labeled as abnormal.

Acceptable: A person who has (name of disability.) Example: A person who has multiple sclerosis.

Unacceptable: Afflicted with, suffers from. Most people with disabilities do not regard themselves as afflicted or suffering.

Unacceptable: Afflicted with, suffers from. Most people with disabilities do not regard themselves as afflicted or suffering continually. A disability is not an affliction.


The Federal Government has changed the tax code to help businesses improve accessibility. Congress legislated the annual tax credit of $5,000:

For the purpose of enabling...eligible small businesses to comply with applicable requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (Section 44 of Internal Revenue Code).

Any qualified expenditures made after November 5, 1990, the date of enactment, are eligible for the Section 44 credit. Additionally, Section 190 of the Internal Revenue Code allows $15,000 to be deducted annually for qualified architectural and transportation barrier removal expense. This provision became effective with tax year 1991.

Provisions of Section 44

A small business may elect to take a general business credit of up to $5,000 annually for eligible access expenditures to comply with the requirements of ADA. Small business is defined as a business with gross receipts of $1 million or 30 or fewer full-time employees. Expenditures must be geared toward ADA compliance and must be reasonable and necessary expenses. Included are amounts related to removing barriers, providing interpreters, readers or similar services and modifying or acquiring equipment and materials. The amount that may be taken as a credit is 50% of the amount exceeding $250, but less than $10,250 per tax year. For instance, if $7,500 is spent to provide an interpreter, the credit would be $3,625 ($7,500 minus $250 divided by 2.)

A business may take this credit each year it makes an accessibility improvement, be it purchases of equipment, provision of communication assistance or removal of an architectural barrier.

This tax credit, called the Disabled Access Tax Credit, should be claimed on IRS Form 8826.

Section 190
Section 190 applies to all businesses and has a narrower base for deductions. Qualified expenditures for the removal of architectural and transportation barriers include expenses specifically attributable to the removal of existing barriers (such as steps or narrow doors) or inaccessible parking spaces, bathrooms and vehicles. They may be fully deducted, up to a maximum of $15,000 for each taxable year. Expenses from the construction or comprehensive renovation of a facility or vehicle or the normal replacement of depreciable property are not included.

For further information contact your local IRS Office or www.irs.gov

The IRS Home Page also has information on these deductions, including library of forms and publications that you can download.


Accessibility Manual (PDF)

This manual was developed by the City of San Antonio (City) Disability Access Office as a guide and reference on new construction and remodeling jobs requiring access. Many small jobs, such as electrical outlets, stair work and door changes will continue to be done without design. City work crews will need to be aware of requirements to carry out these typical jobs.

It should be remembered that these guidelines are the bare essentials of a Barrier Elimination Program. The City of San Antonio, Disability Access Office, will continue to consult on any questions or details that might arise from these types of jobs.

The Design Standards presented in the Accessibility Manual are those related to Texas laws referring to the elimination of architectural barriers. The primary reference for this text is the Architectural Barriers Act, Article 9102, Texas Civil Statutes, as administered by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). These design standards will be updated by the TDLR to reflect changes included in the 2010 ADA requirements.

A survey form to use in determining site and facility access problems is available through the DOJ website.

Accessibility on the River Walk

During the 1980s the City became very active in eliminating architectural barriers and creating wheelchair accessible pathways along the River Walk. The City recognized and met the need head-on by upgrading 40 locations with new ramps, pathways, and elevators with the emphasis on accessibility continuing.

Since the developed River Walk is approximately 85% accessible and there are numerous access points, a person with a disability can use to reach it. Starting your journey down the River Walk at the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel, you can travel on either the left or right bank of the river. In all, there are 18 accessible elevators and 7 ramps located along the River Walk leading from the street level down to the River.

In addition, a 1.3 mile stretch from Lexington Ave. to Josephine Street known as the Museum Reach Urban Segment opened in May 2009. The Museum Reach connects to the existing River Walk and includes accessible paths, ramps, lighting, signage, water features, public art, and boat landings. In 2010, an extensive accessible downtown way-finding and signage installation project was completed. This project provides directional information both at street level and on the River Walk.

The City continues to move toward making the entire River Walk accessible to persons with disabilities, while at the same time, maintaining the old-world charm of the River Walk. Accessible River Walk Maps illustrating paths-of-travel are available.