The Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is wide-ranging legislation intended to make American society more accessible to people with disabilities.

It’s divided into five titles, or sections.


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.


Public Services (Title II) People with disabilities cannot be denied access or participation to 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.


Public Accommodations (Title III) All new construction and modifications to public places 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.


Telecommunications (Title IV) Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices.


Miscellaneous (Title V) This section includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening, or, (b) retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid people with disabilities 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:

He or she has a physical or mental impairment that substatially limits one or more of his/her major life activites;


He or she has a record of such an impairment;


He or she is regarded as having such an impairment.

This legislation has had a huge impact on protecting the rights of persons with a disability 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 activities 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:

  • Making existing facilities accessible (i.e. ramps)
  • Part-time or modified work schedules
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • Reassignment to a vacant position

It is your responsibility to let your prospective employer know that you need these accommodations if you are going to meet their expectations for fulfilling your 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 you and your employer manage this process.


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