On July 26, 1990, the U.S. Government granted equal civil rights to disabled
The Americans with Disabilities Act
called for an end to discrimination based on disability, and equal accessibility to buildings
and services, including transportation and telecommunication.
An act of ability
The idea of a legislation that would provide rights to the disabled began in
the civil rights era, and progressed into the context of 1970s activism. The
ADA took many forms before it was ratified in 1990. Read about the
historical progression of the act at
Today, the definition of
written by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is lengthy.
Generally, however, the provisions apply to someone who has an impairment,
mental or physical, that affects the function of at least one life activity.
The act is divided into five titles, based on the area of society to which
they pertain. Title I regards employment access and opportunity; Title II
addresses public services like transportation; Title III applies to public
accommodations, such as restaurants; Title IV is telecommunications; and
Title V is miscellaneous.
Today, the ADA is administered under the
Department of Justice. One key aspect of the law is
enforcement through mediation and
The Mediation Program
was enacted in 1994 as a way to resolve disputes by involving a non-partisan
third party, to avoid the cost and time of litigation. The Department of
Justice is also beginning to
monitor lawsuits in which the U.S. is not a party.
If you know of any, they ask that you
submit a form.
For employers, builders and others required to follow the terms of the act,
there is assistance available to help them understand obligations under the
law. The Title I, the
Title II and the
Title III technical assistance
manuals are all reprinted online. The National Institute on Disability and
Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) established
regional centers. These offices offer information,
technical assistance, and referrals for both persons with disabilities and
those responsible for following the statute.
In celebration of the ADA's decade anniversary, the DOJ released a report,
"Enforcing the ADA: Looking Back on a
Decade of Progress". The piece digests the
effects of the ADA and includes remarks from former Attorney General Janet Reno. The story
"Faces of the ADA"
profiles some of the people who benefited from the act, including law
student Jackie Okin, who sued the College Board for more SAT dates for
disabled students. The most recent
status report is available
from the Department of Justice.
CNN wrote an independent assessment of the law. The article
"Is the Disabilities Act Working?"
chronicles the successes and losses, both in court and out. You can also
take a quick quiz to test your own knowledge of the act.