What is the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The American’s with Disabilties Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. It was signed into law on July 26th, 1990 by president George H.W Bush.
What does the ADA do?
The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. These five titles include the following:
Title I (Employment): Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities
Title I is designed to help people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.
Title II (State and Local Government): Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies of state or local governments. It also establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems.
Title III (Public Accommodations): Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities
Title III prohibits private places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Examples of public accommodations include privately-owned or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, fitness centers, sports stadiums, movie theaters, etc. This title sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of facilities. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense such as adding in a ramp when there are only stairs. This title directs businesses to make "reasonable modifications" to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities. It also requires that they take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities. All of this is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Title IV (Telecommunications)
Title IV requires phone and internet companies to provide a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services that allows individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. Such as visual interpreters for hearing impaired individuals. This title also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements. This title is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
Title V (Miscellaneous Provisions)
The final title contains a variety of provisions relating to the ADA as a whole, including its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs etc. This title also provides a list of certain conditions that are not to be considered as disabilities.
Has the ADA been updated in the last 20 years?
In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA.