In July 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section published a document entitled “A Guide to Disability Rights Laws”.
This document describes, among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While many Americans have heard of the ADA, few are aware of its details. The ADA aims to stop discrimination due to disability in employment, government, Congress, and other areas. It stipulates a number of regulations to this end. The regulations are organized into different “titles”, each covering a general area.
In order to be protected under the ADA, you must be disabled or be associated with someone who is disabled. A disabled person in this context is defined as a person who suffers limitations in a major area of life due to a physical or mental impairment. Not all impairments that might be covered are listed, presumably because they would be too numerous.
Under the first title of the ADA, businesses that employ fifteen or more individuals are required to provide equal opportunities to those with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination in all areas relating to employment, including hiring and recruitment, training and promotions, pay, and more. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to the limitations of disabled persons to the extent that it is feasible. Title I includes religious institutions that employ fifteen or more people.
State and local government
This part of the ADA says that State and local governments must give equal opportunities to people with disabilities, including all of their programs and services.
Title II also includes an interesting tidbit of information regarding the construction of government buildings. It stipulates that State and local governments must follow specific architectural designs when they construct new buildings or alter existing ones. This is why you may have noticed your local city hall, government welfare office, public healthcare provider, or other government buildings being designed with features to accommodate those with disabilities. For example, wheelchair ramps and door-opening buttons serve to assist those who cannot walk.
Title II also includes public transportation such as subways and Amtrak. The rules that must be followed here mirror closely those of State and local government. The authorities who manage public transportation must not discriminate against disabled people. They have to comply with certain rules regarding the accessibility of their vehicles, both new and used. They are also required to offer something called paratransit in the event they provide a fixed route transportation service such as buses or rails. The term “paratransit” refers to a parallel service that takes individuals along the same route as the original service but provides accommodations that could not otherwise be implemented upon the main transportation method.
Title III covers public accommodations. This includes a number of nonprofit organizations, commercial facilities, and select portions of the private sector. The private sector services covered under public accommodations are quite broad. They must abide by the same general rules set forth in Titles I & II.
For questions regarding the ADA or any disability-related concerns, please contact our office today.