Getting What You Need Out Of The Americans With Disabilities Act

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  is an important piece of legislation for those with disabilities. Here are the basics. The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life: to enjoy employment opportunities, to have access to public accommodations and public transportation, to be given physical and academic accommodations to pursue educational goals, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 -- the ADA is an "equal opportunity" law for people with disabilities.

The ADA is divided into four titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.

Title I - Employment

  • Helps people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities.  Title I requires employers who have 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified job applicants and employees. This section of the ADA also defines what constitutes a disability, what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, and provides guidelines for the provision of reasonable accommodations.
  • The US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulates the Title I provisions and makes sure that they are followed.

Title II - Public Services: State and Local Government

  • Protects those with disabilities from discrimination by state and local government agencies and requires all public services, programs and activities to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • Provides guidelines for agencies to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures  to avoid discrimination, to minimize architectural barriers and to communicate effectively with people with hearing, vision and speech disabilities.
  • Public Transportation provided by state or local government transportation includes, but is not limited to, bus and passenger rail service. Rail service includes subways (rapid rail), light rail, commuter rail, and Amtrak.
  • The US Department of Justice regulates Title II provisions and makes sure that they are followed. The transportation issues are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration.


Title III - Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities

  • Prohibits places open to the general public from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. This includes privately owned, leased or operated facilities such as hotels, restaurants, shops, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports arenas and movie theaters.
  • Stipulates the minimum standards for accessibility, for alterations and for new construction of commercial facilities and privately owned public accommodations. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings if it is easy to do without much difficulty or expense.  
  • If transportation is offered by a private company, it is covered by Title III. Privately funded transportation includes, but is not limited to, taxi cabs, airport shuttles, intercity bus companies, such as Greyhound, and hotel-provided transportation.
  • Businesses are to make "reasonable modifications" to their usual procedures when serving people with disabilities and businesses must take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.
  • The US. Department of Justice regulates the Title III provisions and makes sure that they are followed.  The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration releases information, guidance and regulations on transportation and the ADA.

Title IV - Telecommunications

  • Requires telephone and internet companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that allows individuals with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone.  Also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.
  • The Federal Communication Commission regulates the Title IV provisions and makes sure that they are followed.

To find out more, visit: The Americans With Disabilities Act

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