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 What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

In July of 1990, the federal government passed a law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The purpose of the ADA is to combat discrimination against persons with disabilities.

More specifically, the ADA provides civil rights protections to individuals who have disabilities. For instance, the ADA guarantees disabled persons the right to equal opportunity in employment, public accommodations, transportation, and housing.

What Does “Employment” Mean under the ADA?

One of the most important aspects of the ADA is that it prohibits both public and private employers from discriminating against an employee or job applicant who has a disability. In particular, Title I of the ADA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled employees or job candidates throughout the entire employment process, including when:

  • A candidate is applying for a job;
  • During the interview process;
  • If the application involves testing (e.g., grammar tests) or the job requires special training (e.g., company software);
  • When being considered for a job offer;
  • An employer is assigning work projects or tasks;
  • During an employee evaluation or job performance review; and/or
  • Making decisions regarding terminations or promotions.

In addition, the ADA also prohibits employers from discriminating against someone because they are related to or associated with another individual who has a disability.

What Types of Public Accommodations Does the ADA Cover?

Title III of the ADA mandates that any entity that is open to the public must be accessible to people with disabilities. What this means is that if a public place is covered by the ADA, then it will be required to provide certain accommodations like handrails, wheelchair ramps, and service animal exceptions to “no pet” policies.

Public places that fall under Title III may also have to provide devices or resources that allow persons who have a vision, speech, or hearing disability to communicate effectively. For example, a library may have to install certain computer software to accommodate people who are blind.

It should be noted that these standards will still apply even if an entity was constructed before the ADA was passed.

The following list provides some of examples of public places that may be subject to ADA requirements, such as:

  • Restaurants;
  • Hotels;
  • Retail stores;
  • Sidewalks;
  • Public restrooms;
  • Schools;
  • Office buildings; and
  • Movie theaters.

In contrast, places like private clubs and religious organizations generally do not have to comply with the ADA. Thus, they will not be required to offer public accommodations.

What are Some ADA Requirements for Transportation?

The ADA also aims to provide disabled persons equal opportunity access to reliable and convenient transportation services that are sensitive to their needs. As a result, the ADA has created numerous rules and regulations for the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) to follow in order to improve transportation services for the disabled.

These rules mandate that all public transportation services obey the following guidelines:

  • Vehicles are handicap accessible through means, such as wheelchair ramps; handicap seating spaces, and various other necessary arrangements;
  • Do not impose special charges or fees to accommodate disabled travelers or commuters;
  • Do not require disabled persons to have personal attendants travel with them; and
  • That they refrain from harassing or humiliating disabled passengers in any way that may discourage their future use of public transportation services.

What are Some Laws that Cover Housing Discrimination?

The provisions of the ADA also strictly prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of disability. In addition, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) has passed several federal laws to enforce the ADA’s prohibitions. These laws include:

  • Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968: This law is better known as the “Fair Housing Act.” It prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and disability.
  • Title II of the ADA: This section of the ADA is intended to prohibit discrimination due to disability in programs, services, and activities provided or made available by public entities. HUD is the government agency responsible for enforcing Title II when it relates to state and local public housing, housing assistance, and housing referrals.
  • The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA): The ABA requires that buildings and/or facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with certain federal funds after September 1969, must be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

Note that individual states may also have their own laws governing specific disabilities issues. These can vary from region to region. For instance, California disability laws may differ from those in New York and other states.

Do I Need to Hire a Special Attorney for a Disability Discrimination Case?

As discussed above, the ADA offers disabled individuals many protections against discriminatory practices. The ADA also strives to guarantee disabled persons equal treatment throughout many aspects of society. Its legal restrictions have come a long way since its passing and its provisions are constantly being updated to ensure the strongest protections are in place.

Thus, if you or your loved one believes that they have been discriminated against on the basis of a disability, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local civil rights attorney for further legal advice. However, if your issue involves employment-related discrimination, then you may want to speak to a local discrimination lawyers instead.

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