What You Need to Know About Public Accommodation Passed by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was the nation's first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities. Most child care programs, under ADA, are considered to be places of "public accommodation" and therefore cannot exclude a child from attending their program based solely on the child's disability. The only exception to this rule is when the program is under the direct management of a religious agency (e.g., church, mosque, temple, etc.). If you have concerns or questions about a child's development (physical, social-emotional, or cognitive), contact: Wisconsin First Step Information and Referral Hotline at 1-800-642-STEP (7837). What Parents Need to Know Child care providers are very skilled and have a lot of experience caring for children with a variety of needs. Most child care providers are able to care for a child with special needs. Providers cannot deny enrollment to a child with special needs by claiming their staff lacks the necessary training to care for a child with a disability. Not all child care providers may be aware of their legal responsibilities under ADA. Parents may need to inform providers of their responsibilities and support them in carrying out those responsibilities Parents may also need to help providers understand that working with a child who has a disability can be a positive and rewarding experience. Parents should become familiar with the many resources available to them. Parents can help providers by sharing the information and resources they have acquired over time, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the child care program to locate and access training opportunities that will help them to make the necessary accommodations for the child. What Providers Need to Know When a parent asks if a child care program accepts children with disabilities, the provider, in most cases, is required by law to answer, "Yes." Many families of children with disabilities have struggled to find quality child care; they may have even been denied care by providers in the past. For this reason, it may be difficult for them to share information. As a provider, you can help make them feel more comfortable by taking the time to listen and understand their point of view. Asking too many questions before accepting a child into your program could be interpreted as "screening out" children with special needs. See Questions to Ask to make sure you're not in violation of ADA. Having family involvement and support can make all the difference when learning how best to care for and include a child with special needs in your program. By being positive and working together, difficult situations can become manageable and, in time, be overcome. Children are always people first. Their unique gifts and talents should far outweigh any special need or disability they may have. Get to know the many resources that are available to you.