Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities that are like those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

  1. Employment
  • Employers with 15 or more employees may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. For the first two years after July 26, 1992, the date when the employment provisions of the ADA go into effect, only employers with 25 or more employees are covered.
  • Employers must reasonably accommodate the disabilities of qualified applicants or employees, unless an undue hardship would result.
  • Employers may reject applicants or fire employees who pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace.
  • Applicants and employees are not protected from personnel actions based on their current illegal use of drugs. Drug testing is not affected.
  • Employers may not discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee because of the known disability of an individual with whom the applicant or employee is known to have a relationship or association.
  • Religious organizations may give preference in employment to their own members and may require applicants and employees to conform to their religious tenets.
  • Complaints may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Available remedies include back pay and court orders to stop discrimination.
  1. Public Accommodations
  • Public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers, may not discriminate on the basis of disability, effective January 26, 1992. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt.
  • Reasonable changes in policies, practices, and procedures must be made to avoid discrimination.
  • Auxiliary aids and services must be provided to individuals with vision or hearing impairments or other individuals with disabilities so that they can have an equal opportunity to participate or benefit, unless an undue burden would result.
  • Physical barriers in existing facilities must be removed if removal is readily achievable (i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense). If not, alternative methods of providing the services must be offered, if those methods are readily achievable.
  • All new construction in public accommodations, as well as in “commercial facilities” such as office buildings, must be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in buildings under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center, mall, or a professional office of a health care provider.
  • Alterations must be accessible. When alterations to primary function areas are made, an accessible path of travel to the altered area (and the bathrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving that area) must be provided to the extent that the added accessibility costs are not disproportionate to the overall cost of the alterations. Elevators are required as described above.
  • Entities such as hotels that also offer transportation generally must provide equivalent transportation service to individuals with disabilities. New fixed-route vehicles ordered on or after August 26, 1990, and capable of carrying more than 16 passengers, must be accessible.
  • Public accommodations may not discriminate against an individual or entity because of the known disability of an individual with whom the individual or entity is known to have a relationship or association.
  • Individuals may bring private lawsuits to obtain court orders to stop discrimination, but money damages cannot be awarded.
  • Individuals can also file complaints with the Attorney General who may file lawsuits to stop discrimination and obtain money damages and penalties.

III. Transportation

Public bus systems

  • New buses ordered on or after August 26, 1990, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • Transit authorities must provide comparable paratransit or other special transportation services to individuals with disabilities who cannot use fixed route bus services, unless an undue burden would result.
  • New bus stations must be accessible. Alterations to existing stations must be accessible. When alterations to primary function areas are made, an accessible path of travel to the altered area (and the bathrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving that area) must be provided to the extent that the added accessibility costs are not disproportionate to the overall cost of the alterations.
  • Individuals may file complaints with the Department of Transportation or bring private lawsuits.

Public rail systems

  • New rail vehicles ordered on or after August 26, 1990, must be accessible.
  • Existing rail systems must have one accessible car per train by July 26, 1995.
  • New rail stations must be accessible. with new bus stations, alterations to existing rail tions must be made in an accessible manner.
  • Existing “key stations” in rapid rail, commuter rail, and light rail systems must be made accessible by July 26, 1993, unless an extension of up to 20 years is granted (30 years, in some cases, rapid and light rail).
  • Existing intercity rail stations (Amtrak) must be made accessible by July 26, 2010.
  • Individuals may file complaints with the Department of Transportation or bring private lawsuits.

Privately operated bus and van companies

  • New over-the-road buses ordered on or after July 26,1996 (July 26, 1997, for small companies), must be accessible. After completion of study, the President may extend the deadline by one year, if appropriate.
  • Other new vehicles, such as vans, must be accessible, unless the transportation company provides service to individuals with disabilities that is equivalent to that operated for the general public.
  • Other private transportation operations, including station facilities, must meet the requirements for public accommodations.
  • Individuals may file complaints with the Attorney General or bring private lawsuits under the public accommodations procedures.
  1. State and local government operations
  • State or local governments may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. All government facilities, services, and communications must be accessible consistent with the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Individuals may file complaints with Federal agencies to be designated by the Attorney General or bring private lawsuits.
  1. Telecommunications Relay Services
  • Companies offering telephone service to the general public must offer telephone relay services to individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD’s) or similar devices.
  • Individuals may file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission.

This document is available in the following accessible formats:

  • Braille
  • Large Print
  • Audiotape
  • Electronic file on computer disk and electronic bulletin board (202) 514-6193

For additional information contact:

Coordination and Review Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O.Box 66118
Washington, D.C. 20035-6118
(202) 514-0301 (Voice)
(202) 514-0381 (TDD)
(202) 514-0383 (TDD)

Date of Document 1990
CRD-10
GP0: 1990 – 273-170

 

54 thoughts on “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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