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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

 

Picture of the words 'Equal Justice Under Law' inscribed on West pediment of U.S. Supreme Court building.

This topic explains what the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is and how its provisions protect the rights of people with disabilities. Each Title of the act is explained and a procedure for filing a complaint under each Title is given. Resources for additional ADA information are provided at the end. You may read through the topic or jump to specific sections by using the links to sections of this topic below.

Also see the Disability Rights Laws - Overview topic.

Links to Sections of this topic:

           Overview

           ADA Title I -- Employment

o                   Title I Complaints

           ADA Title II -- Public Transportation

o                   Title II Complaints

           ADA Title III -- Public Accommodations

o                   Title III Complaints

           ADA Title IV -- Telecommunications

o                   Title IV Complaints

           ADA Title V -- Miscellaneous Provisions

           ADA Resources

o                   Text of the ADA

o                   Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC)

o                   U.S. Access Board

 

Overview

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336) is usually referred to by its acronym ADA. It is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation ever enacted to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, 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.

The ADA's protection applies primarily, but not exclusively, to individuals with disabilities. Other individuals who are protected in certain circumstances include 1) those, such as parents, who have an association with an individual known to have a disability, and 2) those who are coerced or subjected to retaliation for assisting people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

While the employment provisions of the ADA apply to employers of fifteen employees or more, its public accommodations provisions apply to all sizes of business, regardless of number of employees. State and local governments are covered regardless of size.

A brief summary of each Title (major section) of the ADA is provided below. Contact information is provided where appropriate. There is also a list of additional resources at the end of this topic.

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.

Business must provide reasonable accommodations to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. Possible changes may include restructuring jobs, altering the layout of workstations, or modifying equipment. Employment aspects may include the application process, hiring, wages, benefits, and all other aspects of employment. Medical examinations are highly regulated.

For information about tax incentives available to employers who remove barriers related to Title I, see the following topics:

                        Accessibility Tax Incentives

                        Barrier Removal Tax Deduction

                        Disabled Access Credit

Title I Complaints

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. EEOC contact information is located in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) topic. Field offices are located in 51 cities throughout the U.S. and are listed in most telephone directories under "U.S. Government." For the appropriate EEOC field office in your geographic area, contact:

(800) 669-4000 (voice)
(800) 669-6820 (TTY)

Internet: http://www.eeoc.gov

Publications and information on EEOC-enforced laws may be obtained by calling:

(800) 669-3362 (voice)
(800) 800-3302 (TTY)

For information on how to accommodate a specific individual with a disability, contact the Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network at:

(800) 526-7234 (voice/TTY)

Internet: http://www.jan.wvu.edu

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 accessible 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.

Public services, which include state and local government instrumentalities, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and other commuter authorities, cannot deny services to people with disabilities or participation in programs or activities which are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Title II Complaints

Questions and complaints about public transportation should be directed to:

Office of Civil Rights
Federal Transit Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Room 9102
Washington, D.C. 20590

(888) 446-4511 (voice/relay)
(202) 366-2285 (voice)
(202) 366-0153 (TTY)

Internet: http://www.fta.dot.gov/transit_data_info/transit_info_for/riders_with_disabilities/ada_information/4900_ENG_HTML.htm

ADA Title III -- 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 applications, 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.

All new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable. Public accommodations include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems.

Title III Complaints

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, contact:

Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738

(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

Internet: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm

ADA Title IV -- Telecommunications

Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices. The Title 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 telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), which are also known as teletypewriters (TTYs), 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 addresses television access for people with hearing and disabilities. It requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements.

Title IV Complaints

For more information about TRS, Closed Captioning, and other disability-related communications issues, contact the FCC at:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554

(888) 225-5322 (Voice)
(888) 835-5322 (TTY)

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/

ADA Title V -- Miscellaneous Provisions

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.

Additionally, Title V includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening or (b) retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

ADA Resources

Text of the ADA

The full text of the ADA is available online at the Department of Justice website http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/pubs/ada.txt.

Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC)

The Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) has established ten regional centers to provide information, training, and technical assistance to employers, people with disabilities, and other entities with responsibilities under the ADA. 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. To locate one of the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs), contact the ADA Program Assistance Coordinator:

(800) 949-4232 (Voice/TTY)

Internet: http://www.adata.org/

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 also provide important information on which buildings and facilities are subject to the standards.

Contact the Access Board at:

The Access Board
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111

(800) 872-2253 (voice)
(800) 993-2822 (TTY)

Internet: http://www.access-board.gov/index.htm

Also see:

Disability Rights Laws - Overview

Job Applicants and the ADA

Employment Rights and the ADA

Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) - Overview


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