What is the Americans With Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of the broadest and most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the late 20th Century. The Act was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and age; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination in public schools on the basis of disability.
In creating the Act, Congress concluded:
“The Act should provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Physical and mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society, but that people with physical or mental disabilities are frequently precluded from doing so because of prejudice, antiquated attitudes, or the failure to remove societal and institutional barriers.” ADA.gov
The ADA is composed of five sections based on the areas of regulation. These are:
- Public accommodations
- State and local government services
Who is protected by the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees equal opportunities for people with disabilities. The law applies to U.S. citizens, whether they are employed by the government or private industry. The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” Congress was intentional about not identifying all of the conditions to which the Act applies because they wanted it to provide broad coverage.
Are there any amendments to the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and maintained the same definition of a handicapped individual as in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, in 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 547 U.S. 471 (1999), that this definition had to be narrowed further. The Court did so again in 2002 in Toyota Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002).
Following the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), lower courts removed protections from many individuals that Congress believed would have been eligible for protection under the original ADA. In response, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008 in an attempt to restore the expansive definition of the term “disability” as it was originally intended.
“As a result of these Supreme Court cases, lower courts have incorrectly found in individual cases that people with a range of substantially limiting impairments are not people with disabilities;” EEOC
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 became effective January 1, 2009.
Who enforces the ADA?
The Department of Labor and several other government agencies enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in various areas of application. Of most concern to U.S. employers is the role of the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC regulates Title I of the ADA which bans public and private employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in employment issues such as hiring, reasonable accommodation, and job training.
The Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services enforce aspects of the ADA in areas under their jurisdiction.
- Introduction to the ADA, Americans With Disabilities Act
- Employers’ Responsibilities, US Department of Labor
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, US Department of Labor