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Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: LIFE Center

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Summary of Key Points

Reviewed September 2016
Author: Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed in 1990. This legislation made it a violation of federal law to discriminate against people with disabilities, just as similar civil rights laws protect people against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, and religion.

The ADA provides equal opportunities for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, state and local government, public accommodations and telecommunications. It protects anyone in the United States with mobility, visual, or hearing impairments as well as people with cognitive disabilities.

The act is divided into four main sections, called “Titles.”

Title One: Employment

Title One prevents discrimination in the workplace. Private employers who have more than 15 employees, state and local government, labor unions, and employment agencies cannot discriminate against qualified job applicants and employees on the basis of their disability. This means that it is illegal to ask a person about a disability during the employment interview. A person can choose to talk about a disability when asking for changes that will help in doing a job. This includes job restructuring and equipment modifications. If necessary, employers must make some changes to enable the qualified job applicant with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.

Title Two: State & Local Governments/Transportation/Public Services

Title Two prevents government and other public agencies from denying service to persons with disabilities. This means that government facilities, services, and communications must be accessible and that no one can be prevented from using a program, service or activity because of their disability. The ADA developed rules for new transportation systems, specifying that all new bus and rail cars must be accessible and any new bus or train station must be designed to be accessible for persons who have disabilities. In places where public transportation is not accessible, other types of transportation must be provided. Modes of transportation that are covered include bus, commuter transit, subway and intercity rail systems.

Title Three: Public Accommodations

Public places (restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, grocery stores, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, entertainment venues, social service establishments, schools, day care facilities) may not discriminate on the basis of disability and must be made accessible. New construction and modifications to existing public facilities must be accessible. Existing facilities must try to remove any barriers if possible. If current barriers are not fixable, other ways of providing the service must be found. People with disabilities must have an equal chance to take part in an organization's goods or services.

Title Four: Telecommunications

Telephone companies must provide systems for people who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) or similar devices. They can not charge extra for these types of service. Organizations must have other ways of providing information that is easily usable and accessible to employees and consumers who are disabled.
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