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Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local governments, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications.

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.Man at the top of a flight of stairs

There are five different titles within the ADA. Those include standards for employment, state and local governments, public accommodations, telecommunications, and technical assistance. You can find more information on each section below.

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.

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. Field offices are located in 50 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)

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 Job Accommodation Network at:

(800) 526-7234 (voice/TTY)

Title II: State and Local Government Activities

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity's size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting and town meetings).

State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity being provided.

Complaints of title II violations may be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department may bring a lawsuit where it has investigated a matter and has been unable to resolve violations. For more information, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

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

Title II may also be enforced through private lawsuits in Federal court. It is not necessary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) or any other Federal agency, or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter, before going to court.

Title III: Public Accomodations

Public accommodations include the broad range of privately-owned entities that affect commerce, including sales, rental, and service establishments; private educational institutions; recreational facilities; and social service centers. In providing goods and services, a public accommodation may not use eligibility requirements that exclude or segregate individuals with disabilities, unless the requirements are "necessary" for the operation of the public accommodation. As an example, restricting people with Down's Syndrome to a certain area of a restaurant would violate Title III. It also requires public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures, unless those modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided by the public accommodation.

Title III also requires that public accommodations provide auxiliary aids necessary to enable persons who have visual, hearing, or sensory impairments to participate in the program, but only if their provision will not result in an undue burden on the business. Thus, for example, a restaurant would not be required to provide menus in braille for blind patrons if it requires its wait persons to read the menu. The auxiliary aid requirement is flexible. A public accommodation may choose among various alternatives as long as the result is effective communication.

With respect to existing facilities of public accommodations, physical barriers must be removed when it is "readily achievable" to do so (i.e., when it can be accomplished easily and without much expense). Tax write-offs are available to minimize the costs associated with the removal of barriers in existing buildings or in providing auxiliary aids, including interpreters for the deaf. Modifications that would be readily achievable in most cases include the ramping of a few steps. However, all construction of new building facilities and alterations of existing facilities in public accommodations, as well as in commercial facilities such as office buildings, must comply with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) so they are accessible to people with disabilities. New privately owned buildings are not required to install elevators if they are less than three stories high or have less than 3,000 square feet per story, unless the building is a shopping center, mall, or a professional office of a health care provider.

Title III also addresses transportation provided by private entities.

Title IV: Telecommunications

Title IV requires that telephone companies provide telecommunications relay services that allow individuals with hearing impairments to communicate using a TTY or other non-voice device. Relay services may be accessed by dialing 7-1-1.

Title IV also requires that all television public service announcement produced by or funded in whole or in part by the federal government include closed captioning.
Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

Title V

Title V includes information regarding the ADA's relationship with other federal and state laws, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, requirements relating to the provision of insurance, construction and design regulations by the U.S. Access Board, prohibition of state immunity, inclusion of Congress as a covered entity under the law, promotion of alternative means of dispute resolution, and establishment of technical assistance resources.

Information taken from

Great Plains ADA Center:

For more information on the ADA, you can visit the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Page.