Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place to protect the rights of those living with disabilities. The ADA covers a wide range of topics related to disability, from employment to education to public accommodations.
This comprehensive law makes it illegal for any business or organization to discriminate against someone based on their disability. If you experience discrimination or difficulty accessing services due to a disability, the ADA may be able to help. Learn more about your rights and how the ADA can provide protection below.
What is ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that has been in effect since July 26, 1990. The ADA is a piece of legislation designed to protect the civil rights of Americans with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations in both private and public settings.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all settings, including work, school, transportation, and public and private places open to the general public.
The landmark civil rights legislation mandates that commercial facilities, employment environments, public transportation infrastructure, and telecommunications networks provide equal access to all individuals, regardless of their abilities or needs.
The main purpose of Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
The main goal of the ADA is to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the same benefits and opportunities as everyone else.
What legal issues does the ADA cover?
The ADA covers:
- Title I Employment.
- Title II Government programs.
- Title III Places of public accommodation.
- Title IV Telecommunications.
- Title V Attendant issues such as retaliation and attorney representation.
Title I – Employment
Employers must understand their obligations under Title I of the ADA, The ADA, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which cover all aspects of employment, from hiring to pay, training, layoffs, and everything in between.
Employers are not permitted by law to discriminate against qualified individuals based on their disability. However, if a candidate with a disability is not qualified for the job, an employer is not required to hire them.
Before extending a job offer, an employer may not ask job applicants medical questions or require them to take a medical exam during the recruiting and hiring process. An employer may also not ask job applicants if they have a disability or what kind of disability they have.
Once an employer hires someone with a disability, the company must provide reasonable accommodations if that person requires them to perform the job successfully. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) helps employers understand reasonable accommodations.
Title I main points:
- Aids people with disabilities in gaining access to the same employment opportunities and benefits as people without disabilities.
- Employers with 15 or more employees are eligible.
- Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants or employees. A “reasonable accommodation” is a modification that allows employees with disabilities to perform their duties without causing the employer “undue hardship” (too much difficulty or expense).
- Disability is defined, guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process are established, and medical examinations and inquiries are addressed.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulates and enforces these laws in the United States.
Frequently asked questions
- What employment practices are covered under ADA Title I?
A: Title I Employment Rights provisions cover all employment practices, including job application, recruitment, hiring, training, promotions, compensation, employee benefits, events, leave, layoffs, termination, and advertising as employment conditions.
- What if an employer refuses to hire me because the HR person thinks it wouldn’t be safe to have me around?
A: The ADA allows employers to set risk management standards for their own workplace. This includes determining whether an employee poses a direct health or safety risk to himself or herself or others in the workplace. Liability for direct threat to safety is defined as a significant tortious risk in which substantial harm to the individual’s or others’ health and safety is a liability with the potential for negligence complaint. If a risk cannot be reduced or eliminated through reasonable accommodation, an employer has the right to exempt that individual from ADA job protections.
Title II – Public Services: State and Local Government
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all public agencies/organizations’ programs, activities, and services. This regulation applies to all State and local governments, their departments and agencies, as well as any other institutional instruments or special purpose areas of local and state government.
Title II applies to State and local government entities, and subtitle A protects qualified individuals with disabilities from disability discrimination in State and local government services, programs, and activities.
Title II extends the anti-discrimination prohibition established by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 794, to all activities of state and local governments, regardless of whether these entities receive Federal financial assistance.
Title II main points:
- Discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by “public entities,” such as state and local government agencies.
- Requires government agencies to make their programs, services, and activities accessible to people with disabilities.
- Outlines the requirements for self-evaluation and planning; making reasonable changes to policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination; identifying architectural barriers; and effectively communicating with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities.
- The United States Department of Justice regulates and enforces the law.
Title III – Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by “private entities” using “public domain” locations. Title III businesses include banks, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, shopping malls, privately owned sports areas, movie theaters, and day care centers. private institutions, schools, accounting or insurance offices, law and doctor’s offices, museums and health clubs.
Title III main points:
- Discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited in public accommodations. Privately owned, leased, or operated facilities such as hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, and movie theaters are examples of public accommodations.
- Establishes the minimum accessibility standards for commercial facility alterations and new construction, as well as privately owned public accommodations. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where doing so is simple and inexpensive.
- When serving people with disabilities, businesses must make “reasonable modifications” to their usual practices.
- Businesses must take the necessary steps to effectively communicate with customers who have vision, hearing, or speech disabilities.
- Regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice
Title IV – Telecommunications
Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires telephone companies to provide continuous voice transmission relay services that enable people with hearing and speech impairments to communicate over the phone via teletypewriter.
Title IV main points:
- Requires telephone and Internet service providers to provide a nationwide network of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that enable people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the phone.
- Closed captioning is required for federally funded public service announcements.
- The Federal Communications Commission regulates it.
Frequently asked questions:
- What requirements apply to a public entity’s emergency telephone services, such as 911?
A: State and local governments that provide emergency telephone services must provide “direct access” to people who use a teletypewriter (TTY, also known as a telecommunication device for deaf people or TDD) or computer modem to communicate. Telephone access via a third party or a relay service does not meet the requirement for direct access.
A public entity that provides 911 telephone service may not use a separate seven-digit telephone line as the sole means of access to 911 services for nonvoice users. A public entity, on the other hand, may provide a separate seven-digit line for the exclusive use of nonvoice callers in addition to direct access to its 911 line for such calls.
- How will the ADA make telecommunications accessible?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandated the establishment of telephone relay services for people who use teletypewriters (TTYs, also known as telecommunications devices for deaf people or TDDs) or similar devices. The Federal Communications Commission has issued regulations outlining the requirements for these services’ operation.
President Barack Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law on October 8, 2010. The CVAA modernizes federal communications law to improve access to modern communications for people with disabilities. The CVAA ensures that accessibility laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s are brought up to date with new digital, broadband, and mobile innovations.
Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions
Title V emphasizes that “no one shall discriminate against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this Act or because such individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this Act.” This title assists people with disabilities who require legal assistance to protect their civil rights.
Title V also governs the availability of medical insurance and state worker’s compensation, as well as providing supplemental guidelines for the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board’s regulations.
Other provisions include technical assistance for entities seeking compliance assistance, a report on Federal Wilderness Areas, and amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. Later Amendments to the Act included these to supplement the other titles of the ADA.
Title V main points:
Contains a number of provisions relating to the ADA in general, such as its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition on retaliation and coercion, illegal drug use, and attorney’s fees.
A list of conditions that are not considered disabilities is provided.
- Title II of the ADA applies to public transportation provided by a state or local government. Bus and passenger train (rail) service are examples of publicly funded transportation. Subways (rapid rail), light rail, commuter rail, and Amtrak are all forms of rail service.
- Title III applies to transportation provided by a private company. Taxis, airport shuttles, intercity bus companies such as Greyhound, and hotel-provided transportation are examples of privately funded transportation.
- The Federal Transit Administration of the United States Department of Transportation issues transportation-related information, guidance, and regulations.