The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that was intended to make American society more accessible to people with disabilities.
It's divided into five titles or sections.
1. Employment (Title I)
Businesses must provide reasonable accommodations to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. Possible changes may include restructuring jobs, altering the layout of workstations or modifying equipment. Employment aspects may include the application process, hiring, wages, benefits and all other aspects of employment. Medical examinations are highly regulated.
2. Public Services (Title II)
Public services cannot deny people with disabilities participation in programs or activities which are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
3. Public Accommodations (Title III)
All new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable. Public accommodations include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems.
4. Telecommunications (Title IV)
Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service available to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices.
5. Miscellaneous (Title V)
Includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening, or (b) retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid the disabled in asserting their rights under the ADA.
The ADA's protection applies primarily, but not exclusively, to "disabled" individuals. An individual is "disabled" if he or she meets at least any one of the following tests:
This legislation has had a huge impact on protecting the rights of people with disabilities in their attempts to return to work, as not only does it cover job rights, but building accessibility and transportation as well.
Title I says that employers cannot discriminate in their hiring practices if a person with a disability can perform the essential functions of that job with a 'reasonable' accommodation. In general, an accommodation is defined as any change in the work environment or in the way things are traditionally performed that allows an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Undue hardship refers to significant difficulty or expense to the employer in providing reasonable accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations must be made available to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Generally, the individual with a disability must inform the employer that an accommodation is needed.
Examples of reasonable accommodations:
It is the employee's responsibility to let employers (or prospective employers) know if accommodations will be necessary for the employee to fulfill job duties. Most employers are unfamiliar with how to make these accommodations, so it is a give and take communication process. There are resources available in your community and through the Job Accommodation Network to help employees and employers manage this process.