In a nutshell, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including:
access to state and local government programs & services
An individual with a disability is a person who:
has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
has a record of such impairment
is regarded as having such an impairment
The employment part of the ADA protects the rights of both employees and job seekers. It prohibits many kinds of employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. Whether the discrimination be through job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, etc., it is all prohibited. A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is considered someone who can perform the essential functions of the job in question - even if they require reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodation may include:
Making existing facilities readily accessible to and usable by a person with disabilities
job reconstructing, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position
acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, training materials, or providing qualified readers or interpreters
An employer is required to make reasonable accommodations to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an ‘undue hardship’ on the business. These reasonable accommodations are provided to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations may vary, and some individuals with disabilities may not need accommodations. An ‘undue hardship’ is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considering factors such as an employer’s size, financial resources, and nature/structure of its operation.
The communications section of the ADA covers the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). TRS allows those with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. There are minimum standards for TRS: most forms of TRS must be available 24/7, TRS providers must ensure user confidentiality, the conversation must be relayed in real-time, etc. These types of things accommodate deaf/hard-of-hearing individuals - allowing them to communicate at the touch of a button, just like hearing individuals. Title IV of the ADA, regulated by the FCC, requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements as well.
Who regulates this stuff?
The U.S. Department of Labor and several other agencies have a role in enforcing and investigating claims involving the ADA.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): enforces employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities
U.S. Department of Transportation: enforces regulations governing transit; issues guidance to agencies on how to comply with the ADA to ensure that public transportation and facilities are accessible
Federal Communications Commission (FCC): enforces regulations covering telecommunication services; telecommunications relay services
U.S. Department of Education: enforces Title II, which prohibits discrimination in programs/activities that receive federal/financial assistance from the department
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): enforces access to programs, services, and activities receiving HHS federal financial assistance; eg. sign language interpreters
Ultimately, many agencies and government departments work towards enforcing the ADA. More information can be found on our Facebook page and in our last blog. For further information regarding the specifics of the ADA, visit https://www.ada.gov/