The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title I of the ADA specifically prohibits discrimination in employment. Titlee II prohibits discrimination by public entities and in public transportation.

Public entities include, for example, government parks, museums, and court buildings. Title III prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation and commercial establishments. Places of public accommodation include movie theaters, malls, and recreation facilities. These places are open to the public.

What Does Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act Require?

Under Title 1 of the ADA, employers (public and private) may not discriminate against qualified individuals with a disability. A disability is defined as an impairment. An impairment can be mental or physical. The impairment must be substantially limiting to be a disability. It must substantially limit a person’s ability to perform one or more major life activities. Life activities are activities that are performed on a daily basis. They include eating, walking, and lifting, among others. Not every disabled employee is covered by the ADA. To be covered, the disabled individual must be a “qualified” individual. This means someone who is capable of performing the job they hold or seek.

The ADA also requires that employers offer reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are changes in how a task is normally performed. Reasonable accommodations can include an employer’s making its facility more usable. For example, an employer can provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee who uses a wheelchair. The employer can do so by changing the height of the employee’s desk and equipment.

An employee is only entitled to a reasonable accommodation if the employee can perform the essential functions of their position. Employees must be able to do this regardless of whether reasonable accommodations are provided. “Essential functions” are considered those functions a person holding the job or role absolutely must be able to do.

Consider the example of an employee with arthritis, who works as an accountant. The person is in constant physical pain. However, they can perform required essential job functions, such as math computations, with or without accommodation. The employee may ask for a reasonable accommodation on account of arthritis. The law requires that the employer provide a reasonable accommodation on account of the arthritis. Assume that the arthritis inhibits the employee’s ability to walk and sit. Walking and sitting are major life activities. An accommodation for arthritis may include, for example, moving the employee’s work desk closer to the restroom. An accommodation may also include providing the employee with a back pillow. Another type of accommodation can be an ergonomic keyboard. Employers need not provide reasonable accommodations when doing so would unduly burden business operations.

What Does Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act Require?

Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to provide equal opportunities to disabled individuals to government services, programs, and activities. These include public schools, social services, state and local parks, courtrooms, and departments of motor vehicles, to name a few. The law requires that state and local governments take the following measures:

  • To follow architectural standards during construction that make buildings accessible to disabled individuals;
  • To relocate programs or provide access to services in buildings that are currently not accessible to disabled individuals; and
  • To make any reasonable necessary modification to services, activities, or programs, unless doing so would either:
    • Fundamentally change the nature of the program; or
    • Result in undue and administrative burden.

With respect to public transportation, Title II requires that public transportation authorities make good faith efforts to lease or buy accessible buses. Under Title II, the government must purchase new vehicles that meet accessibility requirements. The government must take these measures unless doing so would result in an undue burden.

What Does Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act Require?

Title III applies to private businesses and nonprofits that are generally open to the public (places of public accommodation). Such places include hotels, cleaners, and restaurants. Title III applies to commercial facilities, such as banks. Title III applies to privately owned transportation facilities, such as airports. Title III applies to landlords and building owners.

Under Title III, these above entities may not exclude, segregate, or provide unequal treatment to disabled individuals.This means these entities must, if it is not an undue burden, make buildings and services accessible to disabled individuals. Title III also requires that new buildings be constructed to be accessible.Title III requires that places of public accommodation provide auxiliary aids and services (such as interpreters or notetakers) to disabled individuals.

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for ADA Compliance?

If you are subject to the ADA and have an issue with ADA compliance, you should contact an employment lawyer or personal injury lawyer. These attorneys can advise you on ADA requirements and what steps, if any, you can take to bring your place of business or public accommodation into ADA compliance.