ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress.
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.
ADA Title I: Employment
Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under title I.
Title I complaints must be filed with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the date of discrimination, or 300 days if the charge is filed with a designated State or local fair employment practice agency. Individuals may file a lawsuit in Federal court only after they receive a “right-to-sue” letter from the EEOC.
Charges of employment discrimination on the basis of disability may be filed at any U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office. Field offices are located in 50 cities throughout the U.S. and are listed in most telephone directories under “U.S. Government.”
For more information, questions, and complaints about matters related to ADA Title I regulations, contact the appropriate Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) field office in your geographic area:
1-844-234-5122 (ASL Video Phone)
For information on how to accommodate a specific individual with a disability, contact the Job Accommodation Network:
ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities
Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts,
voting, and town meetings).
State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.
Complaints of Title II violations may be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department may bring a lawsuit where it has investigated a matter and has been unable to resolve violations.
For more information, questions, and complaints about matters related to ADA Title II regulations, contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division:
ADA Title II
Title II may also be enforced through private lawsuits in Federal court. It is not nec- essary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) or any other Federal agency, or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter, before going to court.
ADA Title II: Public Transportation
The transportation provisions of title II cover public transportation services, such
as city buses and public rail transit (e.g. subways, commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessi- ble used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner, and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems. Paratransit is a service where individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently (because of a physical or mental impairment) are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.
For more information, questions and complaints about matters related to public transportation, contact the Federal Transit Administration, Office of Civil Rights:
Department of Transportation ADA
ADA Title III: Private Businesses and Non-Profit Organizations (Public Accommodations)
Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by Title III.
Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. They also must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources.
Courses and examinations related to professional, educational, or trade-related ap- plications, licensing, certifications, or credentialing must be provided in a place and manner accessible to people with disabilities, or alternative accessible arrangements must be offered.
Commercial facilities, such as factories and warehouses, must comply with the ADA’s architectural standards for new construction and alterations.
Complaints of title III violations may be filed with the Department of Justice. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department is authorized to bring a lawsuit where there is a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of title III, or where an act of discrimination raises an issue of general public importance. Title III may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (or any Federal agency), or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter, before going to court.
For more information, questions, and complaints about matters related to ADA Title III regulations, contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division:
ADA Title III
ADA Title IV: Telecommunications
Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use TTYs (also known as TDDs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third-party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements.
For more information, questions, and complaints about matters related to ADA Title IV regulations and or TRS, contact the Federal Communications Commission, Disability Rights Office:
1-844-432-2275 (ASL Video Phone)
FCC Disability Rights Office
ADA Title V: Miscellaneous
Title V includes miscellaneous provisions that are intended to apply broadly across all the other titles. Many of these provisions, some of which are found nowhere else in the law itself, were subsequently included and interpreted by the various federal agencies that issued regulations to implement the other titles of the ADA.
Some significant provisions of Title V include:
The ADA does not invalidate or override any other laws (federal, state, or local) that provide equal or greater protections or remedies for people with disabilities.
Exclusion of certain conditions, regardless of whether they are impairments, from the definition of disability. These conditions include transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, other sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, and psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs. Homosexuality and bisexuality, since they are not impairments, cannot be considered disabilities under the ADA. Additionally, people who are currently engaged in illegal drug use are excluded from protection under the ADA.
A clause of “severability” states that if any part of the law is found by a court to be unconstitutional, that part is cut from the whole without affecting the remaining parts.
Certain federal agencies are directed to develop plans, produce materials, and disseminate information in order to provide technical assistance to entities and individuals who have rights and responsibilities under the law. Covered entities are not excused from compliance, however, if they do not receive technical assistance.
Extension of coverage to the U.S. Congress, making it the only branch of the federal government covered by the ADA.
Retaliation, intimidation, coercion, threats, or interference with people who seek to exercise their rights, or who encourage or aid others to do so, is prohibited. It is important that these provisions also protect people without disabilities if they do things like advocate or testify on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
Claims of “reverse discrimination” under the ADA; in other words, an individual cannot seek remedies if they feel they were discriminated against because they do not have a disability.
Title V clarifies that both States and Congress are covered by all provisions of the ADA. It also provides for recovery of legal fees for successful proceedings pursuant to the Act and establishes a mechanism for technical assistance along with specific instructions to many Federal agencies required to implement the Act. Title V also clarifies the roles of:
For more information, questions, and complaints about matters related to ADA Title V regulations, contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
ADA Title V
The 10 Regional ADA Centers
Each of the ten regional centers were set up to provide information, training, and technical assistance to employers, people with disabilities, and other entities with responsibilities under the ADA and is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The centers act as a “one-stop” central, comprehensive resource on ADA issues in employment, public services, public accommodations, and communications. Each center works closely with local business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to provide ADA information and assistance.
For more information, questions, and complaints about matters related to the Regional ADA Centers contact the ADA Program Assistance Coordinator:
ADA Center Technical Assistance
U.S. Access Board
The U.S. Access Board is an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. It develops and maintains accessibility guidelines for buildings, facilities, and transit vehicles and provides technical assistance and training on these guidelines. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) serve as the basis of standards issued by the departments of Justice (DOJ) and Transportation (DOT) to enforce the law. The building guidelines cover places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and State and local government facilities. The vehicle guidelines address buses, vans, a variety of rail vehicles, trams, and other modes of public transportation. Regulations issued by DOJ and DOT contain standards based on ADAAG and provide important information on which buildings and facilities are subject to the standards.
For more information about matters related to the Access Board, contact the U.S. Access Board:
U.S. Access Board