Have you tried to use a program or service in your community but couldn’t because of your disability? Were you denied your request for a reasonable modification so that you could participate in a program or service?

These are frustrating experiences. However, there is a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that protects you from this type of discrimination. It protects your right to use programs and services in “public entities.”

What is a public entity?
What is an ADA coordinator and what do they do?
How do I contact the ADA Coordinator?
How do I file an ADA grievance? Do I have to file an ADA grievance?
What if my grievance is not resolved?
Steps to enforcing your rights under the ADA
Sample letters (separate document)

Public entities

So what is a public entity? A public entity is just a fancy name for some of the public services and programs that make up our community. Here are some examples:

  • N.C. Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Public universities
  • Community colleges
  • Public school systems
  • County’s sheriff’s office
  • Parks & recreation
  • Police departments
  • A city’s revenue department

If a public entity discriminates against you because of your disability, you can resolve your dispute without a lawsuit by contacting the ADA coordinator for that entity. This information packet describes what an ADA coordinator is, and how to file a grievance with them.

What is an ADA coordinator and what do they do?

An ADA coordinator is an employee who makes sure that the public entity complies with its “responsibilities” under the ADA. All public entities that have at least 50 employees must have an ADA coordinator. They also must make the ADA coordinator’s contact information available to anyone who asks.

The purpose of an ADA coordinator is to prevent discrimination and to make sure that people can easily get help if they are discriminated against because of their disability. For instance, the coordinator can help educate employees of their responsibilities under ADA. They also make sure people with disabilities receive the accommodations and modifications they need to access the services and programs that agency provides.

Additionally, all agencies covered by this rule must investigate all complaints of discrimination. Part of this requirement is that they must have a grievance procedure and make it available. The grievance procedure must resolve complaints quickly and equitably.

How do I contact the ADA Coordinator?

If you have been discriminated against by a public entity with more than 50 employees, you may contact the ADA coordinator. You should be able to find their contact information by calling the agency or searching for the information online.

If you can’t find out who the ADA coordinator for the agency is, you might need to make a written request to their director or chief officer. Use this sample letter to make this request. If you can’t identify the ADA coordinator through this process, contact us.

If you need an accommodation specifically with the NC Department of Transportation, you may contact their ADA Coordinator, Mark Whisenant. He can answer ADA-related questions about the medical review program and handle reasonable accommodation requests as well as provide information on established procedures for filing a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of a disability. The NC DOT ADA Coordinator can be contacted at (984) 236-1210, through email at, or by regular mail at 1511 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1511. See this link for more information.

How do I file an ADA grievance? Do I have to file an ADA grievance?

Once you have contacted the ADA coordinator, you should ask for their grievance procedure. Read the grievance procedure carefully and make sure to meet any deadlines. Most grievance procedures require a written complaint. However, usually a letter or email will be enough to start the process. See the sample letter if you need some ideas for what to write.

You do not have to file a grievance with the ADA coordinator before making a complaint in court or with a federal agency (see below). If you choose to file a lawsuit, please keep in mind that there are some strict time limits in court.

What if I cannot resolve my grievance?

You can choose to file a complaint or lawsuit with federal enforcement authorities. You will file with different agencies depending on what type of public entity discriminated against you.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s Project Civic Access investigates ADA complaints against counties, cities, towns and villages to ensure the elimination of physical and communication barriers. You can also contact the U.S. Department of Justice’s ADA information line at (800) 514-0301.

Other U.S. departments, such as the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Housing and Urban Development, and Federal Transit Administration, have offices of civil rights. These offices investigate and enforce ADA compliance for state public entities they oversee.

Steps to enforcing your rights under the ADA

1. Report your concern

  • If you haven’t reported your concern to the public entity, first tell the employee who is helping you.
  • If you need a reasonable accommodation or communication aid, you must notify the agency of your needs. It is always a good idea to make this request in writing so that you have a written record.

View the sample letter.

2. Get the contact information for the ADA coordinator

  • If you do not get the accommodation you need or your concern isn’t addressed, then ask the employee to give you the name and contact information for the ADA coordinator.
  • If you are told that they do not have an ADA coordinator, then make a request in writing to the public entity’s manager, director or chief officer.

View the sample letter.

3. File a grievance

  • Once you contact the ADA coordinator, tell them you would like to file a grievance.
  • Read the grievance procedure carefully.
  • Follow the grievance procedure and make sure you do not miss any deadlines.

View the sample letter.

4. Ask for help if you need it.

  • If you can’t figure out who the public entity’s ADA coordinator is, ask for help.
  • Contact DRNC, or a private attorney to help you stand up for your rights.
  • File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. If you have questions about how to file a complaint or would like to request a complaint packet, you may call the Department’s ADA Information Line at (800) 514–0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD). Their website can be found at You may also write to them at:

U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section–NYA
Washington, DC 20530

  • File a complaint with the appropriate federal agency: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, or Department of Interior. If you have questions about with which federal agency you should file a complaint, contact us.

Learn more about ADA coordinators and view the legal references for this information packet.