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Search GovSpot or Google |   Great Must-See sites   |   Read Articles and Lists | Find answers | Did you know?  
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The Americans with Disabilities Act

On July 26, 1990, the U.S. Government granted equal civil rights to disabled citizens. 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 ADATA.

Today, the definition of "disability" as 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 lawsuits. 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.

The Job Accommodation Network addresses many issues, and provides links for Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability and Small Employers And Reasonable Accommodation.

A decade of progress

In celebration of the ADA's decade anniversary, the DOJ released a report, entitled "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.




   --- M. Magnarelli

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