Legal Disability Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that helps protect the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA became law in 1990, and it prohibits discrimination in all areas of public life. These areas include all public and private places (if open to the general public), schools, jobs, and transportation.
The ADA Law:
● Ensures that persons with disabilities get the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
● Provides civil rights protections to people with disabilities like the ones given to individuals based on race, sex, color, age, religion, and national origin.
● Guarantees equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in telecommunications, transportation, employment, public accommodations, and government services (state and local).
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law in 2008 and became effective on January 1, 2009. The amendment made significant changes to the definition of "disability," and it applies to all titles of the ADA.
The Five Titles of the ADA
Five titles related to various areas of public life make-up the ADA. According to the ADA National Network, these are:
Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities.
This title was designed to assist people with disabilities to gain access to the same benefits and job opportunities available to people without disabilities. The law mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees or applicants. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulates and enforces this section of the ADA.
Non-discrimination based on Disability in State and Local Government Services.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities who are qualified for all activities, programs, and public entity services, including transportation. This title applies to all state and local governments, including their agencies and departments. The U.S. Department of Justice regulates and enforces this section of the ADA.
Non-discrimination based on Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities.
Private places of public accommodation are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. Examples of public accommodations include hotels, restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, and more. This title mandates privately-owned facilities to have minimum standards for accessibility based on reasonable modifications. The U.S. Department of Justice regulates and enforces this section of the ADA.
Internet and telephone companies must provide telecommunications services for people with hearing and speech disabilities. All federally funded public service announcements also must have closed captioning enabled. The Federal Communication Commission regulates and enforces this section of the ADA.
The last title involves provisions that relate to the ADA as a whole. These include relationships to other laws, state immunity, and the impact on insurance providers, among others. This section also has a list of specific conditions not considered as disabilities.
Voter Accessibility Laws
The voting rights of Americans with disabilities are protected by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the ADA, and several other federal laws.
According to the law:
- Voters with disabilities have the right to vote in private without help.
- Voters with disabilities must have a polling place that is accessible and fitted with specialized voting machines.
- Polling venues must have wheelchair-accessible voting booths, handrails on all stairs, and 32" wide entrances and doorways.
- Polling places must have voting machines for visually impaired voters.
- Voters with disabilities may seek help from poll workers trained to use specialized voting equipment or bring along someone to assist them.
- Voters with disabilities can also ask their election office for other options.
Other Statutes Protected Against Discrimination
Statutes including the Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Fair Housing Act
The law states that it's unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of renting, selling, or denying housing because of a person's disability. There are three ways someone can be defined as having a disability under the Fair Housing Act:
- People with a mental or physical impairment that limits one or more life major life activities.
- Individuals who have such an impairment.
- People with a record of an impairment.
Individuals with Disabilities Act
This statute requires all public schools to provide eligible children with disabilities free education. Schools also need to make available the least restrictive environment that addresses the needs of disabled students.
Air Carrier Access Act
This statute prohibits air carriers from discriminating against qualified individuals with physical or mental disabilities.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
This law prohibits discrimination based on disability programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs getting federal financial aid, in hiring federal contractors, and in federal employment.