The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, to promote equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, communications, and public accommodations, as well as private places open to the public. Since then, the ADA has helped to break down barriers that formerly prohibited equal access.
From 1990 through 2005, the ADA, through Department of Justice resolutions, has provided increased physical access to some iconic American structures, including the following:
- The Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, and Yankee Stadium in New York
- Olympic Stadium in Atlanta
- Colonial Williamsburg and the Natural Bridge in Virginia
- Washington Opera in the District of Columbia
- Jazz Fest in New Orleans
- Duke University in North Carolina
And from 2006 to 2020, these structures are among the many the ADA made accessible to people who formerly would not have been able to participate due to physical barriers:
- Mount Vernon in Virginia
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana
- Milwaukee Riverwalk
- Madison Square Garden, the Schubert Theater,and Lincoln Center in New York
- Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
- Idaho State Capitol
- Mills College in Oakland, California
What Is a Disability?
According to the ADA, an individual has a disability if he or she meets the following three-prong definition:
- He or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- He or she has a record of such an impairment
- He or she is regarded as having such an impairment
The ADA’s definition was broadened by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) in January 2009 because several Supreme Court cases up to 2008 had narrowly interpreted the ADA’s definition of “disability.” These rulings denied the law’s protection for many individuals with impairments such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy. The amendment makes it easier for individuals seeking protection under the ADA to establish that they have a disability.
“Major life activities” includes learning, reading, thinking, and concentrating and, therefore, provides for people with learning difficulties who need special accommodations in school, work, and testing situations. If a student meets the criteria under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), that student will qualify for protection under the ADAAA.
What Is Covered Under the ADA?
The ADA provides for the following accommodations:
- Title I—Employment: Requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations, such as restructuring jobs, worksites, and workstations for accessibility, for applicants and employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
- Title II—Public Services: Public services, such as state and local government agencies and transportation authorities, are not allowed to deny services to people with disabilitiesand must make accommodations for people who need added assistance.
- Title III—Public Accommodations: Title III provides that facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail spaces, and privately owned transportation services must be made accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- Title IV—Telecommunications: Telephone services to the general public must have a telephone relay service for individuals using telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or other such devices.
- Title V—Miscellaneous: Title V prohibits coercing or threatening of or retaliating against people with disabilities or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights granted by the ADA.
For assistance or concerns, contact the Pacific ADA Center (Region 9) at (800) 949-4232 or by email.
Sources: ADA National Network, https://www.adapacific.org/; ADA National Network, Contact Your Region/ADA Center, https://adata.org/find-your-region; ADA.gov, https://www.ada.gov/30th_anniversary/index.html; ADA.gov, Questions and Answers About the Department of Justice’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, https://www.ada.gov/nprm_adaaa/adaaa-nprm-qa.htm; Job Accommodation Network, The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Brief Overview, https://askjan.org/articles/The-Americans-with-Disabilities-Act-A-Brief-Overview.cfm?cssearch=1946925_1