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Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act
Civil rights movements helped change the way many Americans are viewed and protected in the workplace. One of the groups that earned better protection are those people that are suffering from disabilities. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed through congress and became law.
The ADA was key to granting protections in all aspects of public life from discrimination. Schools, jobs, transportation and anywhere that is open to the public must ensure they treat anyone with a disability with equal respect and accommodation as they would any other member of the public.
The disability act has not remained static since its inception, as in 2008 the ADA Amendments Act was signed into law to alter the definition of what a disability is according to the law. It also affected how several of the sections of the law are interpreted and enacted.
The ADA Definition of Disability
The current definition of a disability is straightforward in the text, stating that any person with a physical or mental impairment which substantially affects at least one major life activity is a disabled person. The definition doesn’t exclude those with temporary disabilities, nor does it establish levels of severity that need to be met to be included in the protections outlined by the disability act.
There is a long list of maladies that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recognizes as legitimate disabilities. If one of those conditions is present in a person then they are entitled to be covered by the ADA for as long as the disability is affecting their life.
The Way the ADA Provides Protectionp
There are several sections of the ADA that actually set the rules for what must be done for those with disabilities. Those sections are broken down into what are the designated Titles of the act.
- Employment. This section of the act ensures that people with disabilities are treated the same, and given the same employment opportunities, as those without. In many instances this may mean that the employer provides additional accommodations for qualified individuals so that they can work in a business. Those accommodations must allow for the disabled individual to be able to participate in the hiring process and for any individual that is hired to be able to perform the essential functions they are required to perform.
- State and Local Governments. Under the guidance of this section, it is prohibited for any government agency to exclude anyone that is qualified from participating in the government or government provided programs. This includes accommodations for publicly provided activities, transportation, assistance programs or other services from public entities.
- Public Accommodations. Any business that is open to the general public must follow the guidelines established by this title. In order to prevent discrimination in places like theaters, hotels, restaurants, doctor’s offices and other industries this section sets minimum construction standards and modifications necessary for accessibility. It also includes guidance for communication with people that have hearing, vision and speech impairments.
- Telecommunications. The FCC enforces this portion of the disability act which requires that telephone and internet services must be designed so that people with speech and hearing disabilities can still regularly communicate over those services. It also established the need for public service announcements to be closed captioned.
- Miscellaneous. In the final section of the ADA, the ways in which the law interacts with other laws and requirements, insurance provider issues, retaliation protection, attorney’s fees and other outlying aspects that needed to be addressed are included. This title also excludes some conditions from being considered as disabilities.
The ADA is a broad bill, and covers such a large amount of issues that it can be difficult to know exactly what is and is not included in its protections. If a person has any questions about a disability and what must be done in regards to that condition, it’s best to seek out legal counsel, contact the EEOC or review the government’s website for the ADA.