Americans with Disabilities Act
As stated by the United States Department of Labor, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled individuals, prohibiting the discrimination against them in a number of areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA became law in 1990, with the intention of providing equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities, and is divided into 5 sections that relate to different areas of public life.
Since its inception, the ADA has evolved, in 2009, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) became effective, making changes to the definition of “disability,” applying to all 5 sections, or titles, of the ADA.
The first title in the ADA is intended to help individuals with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities and benefits that are afforded to others. As such, employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees with a disability.
The regulations for this title, as enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, states that employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the ADA.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The ADA applies to all state and local governments, prohibiting the discrimination against qualified disabled individuals in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. To avoid discrimination, reasonable modifications must be made to policies, practices, and procedures.
Under the ADA, examples of public accommodations include privately owned, leased, or operated facilities such as hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, movie theaters, and so on. Such facilities are prohibited from discriminated against disabled individuals, requiring a minimum standard for accessibility to accommodate those with disabilities, where it is easy to do so without immense difficulty or expense.
Regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), this title states that Internet and telephone companies must provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that also allows individuals with hearing and speech difficulties to communicate via telephone. This includes closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.
This refers to the ADA as a whole, addressing its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, as well as prohibition against retaliation and coercion. It also clarifies certain conditions that are considered disabilities.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED A DISABILITY UNDER THE ADA?
The ADA defines disabilities through a three-prong system. If an individual satisfies any of the three prongs, he or she is considered to be disabled by law.
- Physical or mental impairment: Physical impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss. Mental impairment is defined as any mental or psychological disorder, such as an organic brain syndrome, or emotional or mental illness.
- Substantial limitations: The impairment an individual is suffering from must substantially limit one of more major life activities. Any limitations caused by the impairment must be compared to a normal or average person.
- Major life activity: Examples of major life activities, as defined by the ADA, include walking, breathing, speaking, performing manual tasks, working, hearing, seeing, and other such basic tasks.
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