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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > ADA Childcare ADA Childcare

Finding quality child care is a difficult process for anyone. Finding quality and inclusive child care for children with disabilities can be extremely difficult.

A child that has special needs is one who, because of physical, emotional or health reasons, requires some special attention and care. Regardless of individual needs, all children have the right to belong, be active and play.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This law established protections for people with both physical and mental disabilities against discrimination in employment; public accommodations (including child care programs); state and local public services; telecommunications; and public transportation.

The ADA clearly requires child care programs of all sizes to care for and accommodate the needs of children with disabilities, whenever they are reasonably able to do so.

Child care centers and family day care homes are specifically included as public accommodations. However, child care programs operated by religious organizations might be exempt from ADA public accommodation requirements (although not exempt from employment requirements).

ADA Titles I, II and III affect child care businesses:

Title I - Privately operated centers/programs that employ 15 or more employees may not discriminate on the basis of disability in employment and must provide reasonable accommodations. The Indiana Civil Rights Statute says the same for businesses with six or more employees.

Title II - Centers receiving any state or local government funds must be operated in such a manner that enables the government to meet its Title II obligations.

Title III - Privately operated child care centers or family child care homes must provide equal opportunity for children, parents and others with disabilities to participate in programs and services. Child care programs cannot discriminate against individuals whose family members, caretakers or friends are disabled.

General modifications to ensure equal access to child care services may include:

  • Eliminating or modifying eligibility criteria
  • Removing physical barriers
  • Making reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures
  • Providing auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication
  • Eliminating per se restrictions which prevent children with disabilities who are not toilet-trained from being considered for admission
  • Providing alternative foods for lunches and snacks for children with food allergies
  • Making a schedule change for a child who takes medication and/or naps in the morning

How can I help a child care program meet my child's needs?

  • Share all you can with the program about what you think is important for the child care staff to know in caring for your child.
  • Maintain communication with your provider throughout the time your child is in care.
  • Facilitate communication between your child and provider and any other professionals who are helping your child (your written consent will be necessary).
  • Let the child care program know about any community agencies or state or national organizations which provide resources and information regarding the type of disability or disabilities your child has.
  • Assist the program in identifying any public or private subsidies, grants or loans available to support their efforts.


Eligibility Requirements

A child care program may not use eligibility requirements that exclude or segregate children with disabilities, unless they are necessary for the operation of the business or necessitated by safety considerations. A child care program may exclude an individual if they pose a direct threat to others which cannot be alleviated by modifications in policies, practices or procedures.

Removal of Barriers in Existing Facilities

Physical barriers to entering and using facilities must be removed when "readily achievable" or easily done. This may include rearranging tables, installing ramps, putting up grab bars in the restrooms, etc. View the Checklist for Readily Accessible Achievable Barrier Removal from the U.S. Department of Justice for more information.

Modifications in Policies, Procedures and Practices

Reasonable modifications must be made in child care programs' policies, procedures and practices in order to accommodate individuals with disabilities, unless those modifications would fundamentally alter the service or operation of the child care program.

Auxiliary Aids and Services

A child care program must provide auxiliary aids and services when they are necessary to ensure the effective communication with individuals who have vision, speech or hearing impairments. Auxiliary aids include large print, tapes, Braille, interpreters, etc.


Transportation services provided by the child care program are subject to ADA requirements. Barriers in existing vehicles must be removed when readily achievable.


The cost of taking measures to comply with ADA regulations cannot be charged to only the family of the child with special needs. It must be spread out among all of the families or taken as a tax credit for deduction. A center or home cannot impose strict rules that tend to screen out children with disabilities.

Personal Services (Toileting)

Centers that provide personal services such as diapering or toileting assistance for young children must reasonably modify their policies and provide diapering services for older children who need it due to disabilities.

Inclusive Child Care

An inclusive child care setting:

  • Allows all children, with and without disabilities, to have an opportunity to learn and play together.
  • Addresses the special needs and interests of each child, including those with disabilities.
  • Is based on the philosophy that all children have the right to be included with their peers in all age-appropriate activities throughout life.
  • Includes a child with a disability in the daily routines of an already high-quality child care program. It does not mean turning a program into a special education classroom.

Indiana licensing requires all center directors to be trained on caring for children with special needs. This training must be completed within six months of their hire date. The Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral (IACCRR) offers the training that assists center directors in meeting this regulation requirement. To see training dates, visit A Special Place: Inclusive Child Care in Indiana.

Source: The Inclusion Project;

ADA and Child Care Frequently Asked Questions Resources
Commonly Asked Questions about Child Care Centers and the ADA - U.S. Department of Justice

Helpful Resources
Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral
National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA)
Child Care Law Center - Official source for all U.S. government child care information; Children with Special Needs
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
Child Care Laws, Rules and Related Policies
CareFinder Indiana


If you feel that a child care program is not complying with the requirements of the ADA, you should first let the child care program know what your concerns are, and provide them with information about the legal requirements of the ADA. If you are still unable to get satisfaction, you might seek to mediate the dispute using a community meditation service. Alternatively, you have two options:

  1. You may hire a private attorney to bring an action against the program
  2. You can file a complaint with the attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice.

If you file a private action, you are entitled to a court order to stop the discrimination. If the attorney general brings the suit, he/she may seek monetary damages as well as civil penalties ($50,000 for the first violation; $100,000 for any subsequent violation).

A good source for more information about filing a complaint is the Child Care Law Center.