What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that was signed into being in 1990. But what does it do? At its simplest, the ADA makes sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Through its five titles, the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities including in jobs, schools, transportation, and all spaces (public and private) that are open to the general public.

Title I of the ADA covers employment and is designed to assist people with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities and benefits that are available to everyone else. It also states that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees or qualified applicants. Reasonable accommodations should not cause such things as too much difficulty or expense to the employer. Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the law. This portion of the ADA is enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. To learn more about ADA Title I or participate in events related to this particular title, please visit the ADA National Network’s page on Title I.

Title II deals with nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services. This means that public entities, such as programs, services, and activities operated by state and local governments, are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of disability. Public entities must also make sure that their programs, services, and activities are accessible to people with disabilities. Title II also outlines processes to be followed, requirements for making reasonable modifications so as to avoid discrimination; identification of architectural barriers, and the need for effective communication for people with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities. This title is regulated and enforced by the US Department of Justice. To learn more about ADA Title II and events related to it, please visit the ADA National Network’s page on Title II.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations and in commercial facilities. This means that places that are privately owned, leased, or operated but provide public accommodations, such as hotels, doctor’s offices, private schools, retail merchants, day care centers, and sports stadiums, cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. Through Title III, minimum standards are set for accessibility through alterations in existing structures and for new construction of facilities. This title also requires that businesses that are open to the public remove barriers where it is possible to do so without much expense or difficulty. Title III also requires that public accommodations take the steps necessary to make their communication with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities more effective. This Title is also enforced by the Department of Justice. To learn more about ADA Title III and events related to it, please visit the ADA National Network’s page on Title III.

Title IV is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission and requires companies providing telephone and Internet services to provide a system across the country and within each state of telecommunications relay services that allows people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. Closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements is also required. For more information or events about Title IV, please visit the ADA National Network’s page on Telecommunications and Title IV.

Title V, which is the final title of the ADA, is made up of various provisions dealing with the ADA as a whole, including how it relates to other laws, how it impacts insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal drug use, attorney fees, and state immunity. It also contains a list of certain conditions that are not considered disabilities.

We ran a search in REHABDATA and found many articles dealing with the ADA and related topics. Here, we list a sample of those articles:

  • The march goes on: Community Access for people with disabilities. (J70892). The article describes a study that examined the accessibility experiences of people with and without disabilities who were looking for information on local and state government facilities, programs, and services. Results suggest that some progress has been made, but barriers still persist and access for people with vision-related disabilities may still be problematic.
  • Service dogs, psychiatric hospitalization, and the ADA. (J70787). This article examines the problems that arise when a service dog’s handler requires hospitalization. It also reviews the literature and provides a base for the development of policies and procedures. In addition, the article shares how the ADA defines a service dog and how the ADA established certain rights and responsibilities for individuals with disabilities and healthcare providers.
  • Access New England: April, 2014. (O19584). This newsletter from the New England ADA Center summarizes new developments and issues related to the ADA and the activities of the Center. This issue includes articles on a youth advisory board meeting at the New England ADA Center; an introductory architecture plan reading workshop; and the Maine Department of Labor launching a data dashboard on Maine workers with disabilities.

We also search NIDILRR’s Program database and found multiple projects financed by NIDILRR.

  • In-Depth Investigation of Wheelchair Activities in Paratransit. (H133G130166). This project is made up of two tasks that are designed to gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute to the difficulties and incidents experienced by users of wheeled mobility devices. Data collected during this study contributes to ADA legislation and policy related to commercial vehicle lifts and allows for the development of wheeled mobility device lift design guidelines and operational recommended best practices for better safety, accessibility, and usability on paratransit vehicles for people who use wheeled mobility devices.
  • ADA Participation Action Research Consortium. (H133A120008). This project looks at what factors influence participation in society by people with disabilities within and at community and regional levels. To do this, the project is conducting multiregional strategic gap analyses across three primary participation areas mandated by the ADA.
  • Access to Success: Replication and Impact of a Training Program Supporting Post-Secondary Students in Requesting Disability Accommodations. (H133G140213.) This project investigates the efficacy of Access to Success, a training program, in its support of post-secondary students with disabilities in their request of accommodations from community college faculty and staff and to maximize their opportunity for success in their post-secondary career.

If you would like to learn more about the ADA, please contact the ADA National Network by calling 800/949-4232. The Network provides great information about the ADA including a glossary of ADA terms, acronyms and abbreviations, ADA publications, and Frequently Asked ADA Questions. The ADA National Network is comprised of 10 regional centers and an ADA Network Knowledge Translation Center that are more than happy to assist you with learning more about the ADA.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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One Response to What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  1. Pingback: ADA: Celebrate 26 Years on the 26th! (Part 1) | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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