Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/02/14
Synopsis: Information on The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ADA regarding laws and rules for disability employment accommodation and other important information.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush, and later amended with changes effective January 1, 2009.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal.
In addition, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services.
Two agencies within the Department of Labor enforce portions of the ADA.
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has coordinating authority under the employment-related provisions of the ADA.
- The Civil Rights Center is responsible for enforcing Title II of the ADA as it applies to the labor- and workforce-related practices of state and local governments and other public entities.
To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.
If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The ADA also protects you if you have a history of such a disability, or if an employer believes that you have such a disability, even if you don't.
ADA Title I - Employment
The ADA states that a covered entity shall not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. This applies to job application procedures, hiring, advancement and discharge of employees, worker's compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment - FAQ and Americans with Disabilities Act - ADA Employment Information
ADA Title II
Public Services including public transportation - Title II has two sections. One covers public agencies (local, county, state, etc., government and their units). That section generally requires the agencies to comply with regulations similar to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These rules cover access to all programs offered by the entity. Access includes physical access described in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards or the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and access that might be obstructed by discriminatory policies or procedures of the entity. The other section of Title II is specific to public transportation provided by public entities. It includes the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, along with all other commuter authorities. This section requires the provision of paratransit services by public entities.
ADA Title III
Public Accommodations (and Commercial Facilities) - No individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation. "Public accommodations" include most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels), recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers, and places of public displays, among other things. FAQ and Americans with Disabilities Act - Building and Stores ADA Information
ADA Title IV
Telecommunications - This section requires that all of the 1,600 some-odd telecommunications companies in the U.S. take steps to ensure functionally equivalent services for consumers with disabilities, notably those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with speech impairments.
ADA Title V
Here is the current text of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm), as amended. It was originally enacted in public law format and later rearranged and published by subject matter in the United States Code.
ADA Documents outlining technical requirements for accessibility to buildings and facilities
For documents outlining the technical requirements for accessibility to buildings and facilities by individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) including technical requirements to be applied during the design, construction, and alteration of buildings and facilities covered by titles II and III of the ADA required by Federal agencies and the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation, under the ADA visit ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (www.access-board.gov/adaag/html/adaag.htm).
How is "disability" legally defined?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC) website, a person with a disability is anyone who:
- 1. Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- 2. Has a record of such an impairment
- 3. Is regarded as having such an impairment.
This definition is somewhat controversial.
Some people feel that the wording is so vague a person with any "minor" problem could file frivolous lawsuits for easy money. For example, they say, a person with a stiff neck could neglect certain job duties while hiding behind the ADA. However, this argument demonstrates a couple of misunderstanding about the nature of disabilities and the rules spelled out by this legislation.
First, it is difficult to objectively categorize health problems as "major" and "minor." Many people live with what are called "invisible disabilities." These are problems that are not immediately obvious to an observer because the person who lives with them may not require an apparatus such as a wheelchair or cane, and he or she may not be in any visible pain. However, these health issues can create serious obstacles for the people who live with them. There are certain kinds of heart and muscle conditions that greatly limit how much a person can move about each day.
There are also mental and emotional problems that may not be visible to other people, but pose real challenges for those who live with them. An effort to only protect the rights of those with "major" disabilities while overlooking the "less" disabled could create real problems for people considered "not disabled enough."
Another common misconception about the ADA is that it requires businesses to change their standards, or to be overly accommodating of people with physical or mental challenges to the point of losing profit.
The truth is, this law does not require employees to change the job description of any position. This legislation is intended to target employers who will not hire, or make their offices accessible to, qualified people with disabilities. For example, a studio would not be required to hire a blind photographer, but they would be not be allowed to turn down a photographer who uses a wheelchair simply because they do not want to build a ramp.
Eight symbols representing different disabilities.
The U.S. Access Board has released new chapters of its online guide to accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act.
This guide features a series of technical bulletins covering requirements for accessible routes in Chapter 4 of the ADA and ABA Standards, including doors and gates, ramps and curb ramps, and elevators and platform lifts. There is also a bulletin on referenced requirements for accessible means of egress. The documents explain and illustrate requirements in the standards, answer common questions, and offer best practice recommendations.
The online guide features a popular series of animations that covers wheelchair maneuvering, entrances and doors, and toilet and bathing facilities. The new installment adds to the series an animation on hazards that protruding objects pose to people with vision impairments.
- The Guide to the ADA Standards covers design requirements for places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities covered by the ADA.
- The Guide to the ABA Standards addresses similar standards that apply under the ABA to facilities that are designed, constructed, altered, or leased with federal funds.
Telephone Numbers for more ADA Information
This list contains the telephone numbers of Federal agencies that are responsible for providing information to the public about the Americans with Disabilities Act and organizations that have been funded by the Federal government to provide information through staffed information centers. The agencies and organizations listed are sources for obtaining information about the law's requirements and informal guidance in understanding and complying with the ADA.
ADA Information Line U.S. Department of Justice For ADA publications and questions
- 800-514-0301 (voice)
- 800-514-0383 (TTY)
- www.ada.gov or ada.gov
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- For publications 800-669-3362 (voice) - 800-800-3302 (TTY)
- For questions - 800-669-4000 (voice) - 800-669-6820 (TTY)
U.S. Department of Transportation - ADA Assistance Line for regulations and complaints
- 888-446-4511 (voice)
- TTY: use relay service
Federal Communications Commission
- 888-225-5322 (voice)
- 888-835-5322 (TTY)
U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
- 800-872-2253 (voice)
- 800-993-2822 (TTY)
U.S. Department of Labor - Job Accommodation Network
- 800-526-7234 (voice & TTY)
U.S. Department of Education - Regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
- 800-949-4232 (voice & TTY)
U.S. Department of Transportation - Project Action
- 800-659-6428 (voice) - TTY: use relay service
Associated Sub-Topics and Pertinent Documents
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