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Who does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect?



The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that guarantees everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy and participate in American life. A person with a disability under the law is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities. Life activities include learning, working, self care, performing manual tasks, walking, hearing and many more. How long a person’s impairment lasts is a factor used to decide if a person is considered disabled under the ADA. Impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically not covered, although they may be covered if very severe. A person may be protected under this law based on an existing disability, a record of a disability, or because she is perceived by others as having a disability.

The ADA protects people with disabilities in the work place. An employer must provide a qualified applicant or employee with the full range of employment opportunities. For example, the employer must provide recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, pay, and the same social activities to all employees including those with disabilities. An employer is not permitted to ask about an individual’s disability, severity, and treatment. An employer may ask about an applicant’s ability to do specific job functions. An employer may be required under the ADA to accommodate an employee who has a disability by modifying equipment or schedules. The ADA requires employers to post a notice that explains the law and its requirements.

The ADA protects people with disabilities in public accommodations. Examples of public accommodations include doctor’s offices, theaters, hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Existing facilities must ensure that individuals are not excluded so long as there is not an undue hardship on the owner. This is accomplished by modifying existing facilities, constructing additional facilities, or relocating to an accessible building. All new construction of places of public accommodations must be accessible. For example, public buildings should provide access for wheelchairs.

Additionally, the ADA protects people with disabilities when they use public transportation like buses or rapid transits. This law also requires the establishment of telephone relay services for individuals who use telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD’s).

For more information about the ADA, or to file a complaint if you feel there is a violation of the ADA, you may contact the Justice Department at www.ada.gov or 1-800-514-0301 (voice) 1-800 514-0383 (TTY).

This article was written by Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!