In enacting the ADA, Congress specifically encouraged the use of alternative means of dispute resolution, including mediation, to resolve ADA disputes. Through its ADA Mediation Program, the Department refers appropriate ADA disputes to mediators at no cost to the parties. The mediators in the Department of Justice program are professional mediators who have been trained in the legal requirements of the ADA. The Department's program has resolved many ADA disputes quickly and effectively.
Mediation is an informal process where an impartial third party helps disputing parties to find mutually satisfactory solutions to their differences. Mediation can resolve disputes quickly and satisfactorily, without the expense and delay of formal investigation and litigation.
Mediation proceedings are confidential and voluntary for all parties. Mediation typically involves one or more meetings between the disputing parties and the mediator. It may also involve one or more confidential sessions between individual parties and the mediator.
Representation by an attorney is permitted, but not required, in mediation. While mediators may not give legal advice or interpret the law, they will refer parties to impartial outside experts within the disability and legal communities when questions or issues needing clarification arise.
A successful mediation results in a binding agreement between the parties. If mediation is unsuccessful and an agreement cannot be reached, parties may still pursue all legal remedies provided under the ADA, including private lawsuits. Complaints under both title II (public entities) and title III (private entities) can be mediated. Disputes involving barrier removal or program accessibility, modification of policies, and effective communication are most appropriate for mediation.
To work to resolve an ADA dispute through the Department's program, simply follow the usual procedure for filing a complaint with the Department and note on the complaint that you want to take your dispute to mediation. While the Department cannot guarantee that everyone who wants mediation will be able to participate in the program, it will make every effort to comply with requests for mediation.