What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal legislation passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The law made it illegal to discriminate against a disabled person in terms of employment opportunities, access to transportation, public accommodations, communications, and government activities. The law prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against the disabled.

Under the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations in order for a disabled person to perform their job function.

Key Takeaways

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a piece of employment law passed by congress in 1990 to prevent workplace and hiring discrimination against employees with disabilities of all kinds.
  • The ADA applies to all businesses with 15 or more employees and includes private enterprise as well as state and local government employers.
  • The ADA also had the effect of increasing accessibility and mobility for disabled persons by mandating handicap-accessible ramps and other accommodations in public places and businesses.

The Americans With Disabilities Act Explained

The Department of Justice holds responsibility for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law holds authority over employers who have 15 or more employees. This includes state and local governments. Three major sections comprise the primary protections introduced by the ADA.

  • Title I of the law prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities during job application procedures, hiring, firing, the pursuit of career advancement, compensation, job training, and other aspects of employment.
  • Title II applies to state and local government entities. This part of the law further extends the protection from discrimination to qualified individuals with disabilities. Title II requires that these individuals have reasonable access to services, programs, and activities provided by government entities.
  • Title III of the law prohibits discrimination of individuals with disabilities with regard to access to activities at public venues. This includes businesses that are generally open to the public and include restaurants, schools, day care facilities, movie theaters, recreation facilities, and doctors' offices. The ADA lists 12 different categories that fall under Title III’s jurisdiction. The law also requires newly constructed, rebuilt, or refurbished places of public accommodation to comply with the ADA standards. Title III also applies to commercial facilities that include privately owned, nonresidential facilities such as factories, warehouses or office buildings.

How the Americans With Disabilities Act Increased Accessibility 

The ADA established standards for accessible design for public accommodations that include creating automatic doorways, ramps, and elevators to accommodate wheelchairs. Water fountains must be made available at heights that individuals with disabilities can reach.

Some examples of accommodations in the workplace include supplying a deaf applicant with a sign language interpreter during a job interview, modifying a work schedule to meet the needs of a person who needs treatment, or restructuring an existing facility to make it readily accessible to persons with disabilities.

An employer is not required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make reasonable accommodations if doing so presents an undue hardship for the business and requires significant expenses in comparison with the size of the company.