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Published: May 15, 2013
Disability Law Series: The Americans with Disabilities Act


The Americans with Disabilities Act

The road to civil liberties and rights for those with disabilities has been a long one.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the most influential Federal civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
The most notable act is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA prohibits any kind of
discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. 

What is a Disability?

1) Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or major life activities OR The ADA has a three-part definition of disability.  Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who:
2) Has a record of such an impairment OR
3) Is regarding as having such an impairment
A physical impairment is defined by the ADA as “any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine. A mental impairment is a mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

The Details of the ADA

Title I of the ADA requires employers to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. This means it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment.
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. This could include public education, recreation, health care, social services, and voting.
The transportation section of Title II covers public transportation services, such as city buses and public transit. According to the ADA, public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in regards to the provision of their services.
Title III of the act covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations. 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.

More Resources:

For more information on the ADA, visit their website:

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