What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil rights law enacted by the US Congress. Signed into law in July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, the ADA prohibits, under specific circumstances, discrimination based on disability.
The ADA aims to help the country benefit from the skills and talents of persons with disabilities, allow all Americans to gain from the increased purchasing power of persons with disabilities, and advocate more productive lives for everyone.
This law was amended in 2008 (ADA Amendments Act of 2008). The changes took effect on January 1, 2009.
Individuals Covered Under the ADA
The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who:
- Has a physical or mental disability that significantly affects the person’s life functions
- Has a proven record of such a disability
- Is regarded to be having the said disability
Titles of the ADA
The ADA has five major titles:
Title I – Employment
Under the ADA, covered entities must not discriminate against qualified persons with disabilities. This includes job applications, compensation, training, and other employment-related terms and conditions. Covered entities include employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees.
Also, employers must provide reasonable accommodation to support qualified employees with disabilities, as long as it will not cause undue hardship on the employer’s business. Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments that enable persons with disabilities to enjoy equal opportunities as with non-disabled individuals.
Title II - Public Entities (and public transportation)
Title II of The ADA states that public entities must not discriminate against persons with disabilities. A public entity refers to any state or local government; any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a state or local government; or certain commuter authorities as well as AMTRAK.
Title II also requires public entities to provide persons with disabilities with physical access facilities.
Title III - Public Accommodations (and Commercial Facilities)
Providers of public accommodations must not discriminate against persons on the basis of their disabilities. Public accommodations are entities that engage in commerce and fall under the following general categories:
- places of lodging
- establishments serving food or drink
- places of exhibition or entertainment
- places of public gathering
- sales or rental establishments
- service establishments
- public transportation terminals or stations
- places of public display or collection
- places of recreation
- places of education
Title IV – Telecommunications
Title IV states that all telecommunications companies in the country should ensure that their services are accessible to persons with disabilities, notably those with hearing disabilities and speech impairments.
Title IV paved the way for the installation of assistive technologies such as teletypewriters, Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, and Telecommunications Relay Services.
Title V - Miscellaneous Provisions
Title V includes technical provisions under the ADA. It also includes an anti retaliation or coercion provision, which protects individuals who exercise their rights, or who help others in exercising their rights, under the ADA.
Revision of ADA in July 2010
On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed the final regulations revising the ADA. The revision affects Title II and Title III of the ADA, and includes the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The changes made in the regulations include:
- Adoption of the Revised Design Standards – New accessible design standards are established for a variety of recreational facilities and specific public facilities.
- Element by Element Safe Harbor – mitigation of the cost of design changes by adopting a “safe harbor” wherein under certain conditions, ADA-compliant building elements would not be required to be brought into compliance with the 2010 revision.
- Ticketing – The addition of provisions that provide guidance to the sale of tickets for accessible seating and similar services.
- Service Animals – A specific definition of the term “service animals” by the revised regulations.
- Wheelchairs and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices – The creation of a two-tiered approach wherein wheelchairs and scooters are permitted in all pedestrian areas.
- Timeshares – The Title III regulation makes clear that timeshare and condominium properties that operate like hotels are subject to title III.
- Reservations at places of lodging – Provisions for reservations made by places of lodging, including requirements for procedures allowing individuals with disabilities to make reservations for accessible guest rooms as with other non-disabled guests.