The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in all aspects of life on the basis of disability. The ADA was signed in 1990 by President George W. Bush Sr.
There are five Titles within the ADA that outline rights and responsibilities of employers, state and local government, businesses and non-profits, architects and designers and individuals and advocates.
Employers (Title I)
Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Employers may hire, fire, and promote the most qualified individual, regardless of his/her disability. Title I covers all aspects of the hiring process, including posting of available positions, interviewing, job offers, and hiring. It requires all employers to make necessary reasonable accommodations for known disabilities of a qualified applicant or employee, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations include modification of work schedules, altering a workspace, restructuring job duties, and reassignment. Tax credits may be available for employers that comply with the law.
Title I prohibits employers from giving pre-employment medical exams or inquiries to determine if an individual is disabled. It also prohibits the use of employment tests and other selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities unless the tests are shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers must also keep results of any medical exams confidential. The law permits employers to inquire about the ability of a job applicant or employee to perform essential job-related functions at any time.
To learn more about employment, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the enforcement agency for Title I.
State & Local Government (Title II)
Title II regulations prohibit state and local government agencies, departments, special purpose districts, and other instrumentalities from discriminating against people with disabilities in their programs, services, and activities. Public entities must make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices, and procedures to allow equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate, unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity. They must also provide auxiliary aids and services, integrated program access through nonstructural and architectural modifications, and meet Title I employment provisions with all employees and contractors. Public entities do not need to remove all physical barriers in existing buildings as long as programs provided in those buildings are readily accessible to users with disabilities in another facility. All new construction must be accessible.
The U.S. Department of Justice, (DOJ), has enforcement responsibility for all State and local government entities not specifically assigned to other designated agencies. Title II also seeks to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to existing public transportation services. All newly purchased buses and other vehicles must be accessible. In cases of inaccessible fixed route systems, public entities must provide paratransit services comparable to the level of service provided by the fixed route system.
Individuals can file transportation complaints for violations under the ADA by contacting the Department of Transportation.
Businesses and Non-Profits (Title III)
All places of public accommodation, including both for-profit and nonprofit establishments, that affect commerce must follow Title III guidelines. These businesses include sales and service establishments, restaurants, theaters, hotels, libraries, and doctors’ offices. Title III also applies to all commercial facilities including office buildings, factories, and warehouses.
Public accommodations must provide goods and services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting possible. The law also requires businesses to eliminate eligibility requirements that exclude or segregate individuals with disabilities unless the requirements are necessary for the operation of the accommodation. These entities must make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices, and procedures that deny access unless the modification would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods or services provided. When necessary, public accommodations are required to provide auxiliary aids, such as Braille material, to ensure effective communication unless it would cause an undue burden for the public accommodation. Public accommodations must also remove all architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities where readily achievable. Transportation provided by private entities must also be accessible.
When constructing new building facilities or altering existing facilities, public accommodations must follow the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (also known as the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design). These standards include general design requirements for building and site elements such as parking, accessible routes, ramps, and elevators.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) enforces Title III of the ADA.
Architecture and Design
When constructing new building facilities or altering existing facilities, architects and designers must follow the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These design standards include general design requirements for building and site elements such as parking, accessible routes, ramps, and elevators.
Individuals and Advocates
Have rights and responsibilities under all Titles of the ADA.