“Nearly 40 million people in America have a disability of some kind (one in eight people, approximately) and this important Act has changed the lives of Americans with various forms of disability, both visible and invisible”
A civil rights statute, that restricts discrimination with regards to disability on the basis of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, and religion against human beings who are specially-abled for conducting day-to-day activities, is known as The Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA.
1. Understanding The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA is known as the first federal law, that was created in order to provide equality for individuals with disabilities.
The rules, regulations, and guidelines, for allowing a better form of accessibility to the aforementioned people, were a result of the collaborations that rose between both major political parties, the legislative and the executive branches, state and federal agencies, and specially-abled individuals.
From extending equal employment opportunities, having the provision to purchase goods and services without any bias, to giving way for these specially-abled individuals to engage in various state as well as local programs, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a statute that ensures that any person with a disability enjoys and are given the same provisions just as the general public.
The preamble of the Act states: The act is created “to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. “
Hence, to uphold the vision and mission of the preamble, which is to have a life for people with disabilities that oozes out with ease and acceptance, served as the core reason for The Americans with Disabilities Act to be constantly revolving around developing, sustaining, and bettering it.
The aforementioned has been reinforced by Nancy M, a woman in her seventies, having a partial loss of eyesight, who uses a walker, stating that “Thanks to the ADA, people with disabilities now can get around by themselves. Most public buildings now have ramps so they can be entered and wheelchair-accessible elevators and bathrooms where a person in a wheelchair can turn around to use the facilities. In my case, there are handrails to help me get up off the toilet, something that is very difficult for me without those supports.”
1.1. Protections Offered Under The Americans with Disabilities Act
For the statute to function as well as to comprehend how the Act offers protection, it is essential to dive deeper into understanding the exact definition of a ‘disability’ which is as follows:
Any specially-abled person who:
- Has physical or mental limitation that restricts one or more crucial activities of living or otherwise,
- Has a record of such limitations such as cancer or otherwise,
- Is perceived by others as having such an impairment, taking as an example a person who has scars from a severe burn or otherwise.
Any person falling under any of the abovesaid categories is entitled to protection under The Americans with Disabilities Act. It is crucial to highlight that, the aforementioned act is nowhere a benefits program, but a full-fledged law, precisely why an individual is not required to propose any application for seeking coverage or protection under the said Act.
1.2. Disabilities Under The Americans with Disabilities Act
Disabilities are of numerous kinds; however, The Americans with Disabilities Act is not equipped for regulating all of them as some disabilities are visible to the naked eye and some are not. Hence, the following states a few of those types of disabilities that fall under the purview of the Act:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Cerebral palsy
- Deafness or hearing loss.
- Blindness or low vision
- Mobility limitations such as individuals who are in need of a wheelchair, walker, or cane.
- Intellectual disabilities
- Major depressive disorder
- Traumatic brain injury
2. Prohibition of Discrimination Under The Americans with Disabilities Act
From various employers, state and local governments, and businesses that entertain the public at large, to several commercial facilities, transportation providers, and telecommunication companies, the Americans with Disabilities Act has put forth a set of guidelines that must be adhered to by the aforementioned authorities to vehemently restrict discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, and religion against individuals with any type of disability.
In order to further deepen the understanding, the said act is divided into 5 precise categories, known as the ADA titles, that regulate and prevent discrimination. Targeted for different authorities, these titles set out the parameters which the specified organization must follow and be in sync with.
Taking an example, Title I of the said Act focuses on the requirements that must be adhered to by the employers, Title II of the aforementioned revolves around the criteria that must be fulfilled by the state and local governments and so on and so forth which are elaborated as below.
2.1. ADA Title I: For the Employers
Title I has made it abundantly clear that any employer running an organization comprising of 15 or more employees, must provide individuals with disabilities with proper qualifications, an equal opportunity to perform duties and extend their contribution in the employment sector just as it would have been available for any other human being.
To understand better, the said title prohibits any kind of discrimination that could be witnessed under the arenas of recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities and all the other benefits that shall arise from the employment category.
From making sure, no questions are put forth to the applicant [pertaining to their disability prior to the job offer, to ensuring proper measures are taken for placing the said individual into the job position, that is to be mindful of the physical or mental limitations that are possessed by the qualified applicant with disability so it does not burden the individual with unwanted stress and pressure, the Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on easing the pathways of individuals with disabilities who oozes out talent, dedication and sincerity.
Any complaint under Title I must be entered in and filed with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the EEOC either within 180 days of the initial date of when the discrimination began or within 300 days if the charge is filed with a particular federal fair employment practice organization. Only post receiving a “right to sue” authorization in a way of a letter from the EEOC, can the individuals with the grievance file for a lawsuit in the Federal court.
2.2. Title II- Part 1- For the State and Local Government
Irrespective of the size, authority or funding that backs the branches, the ADA title II is responsible for looking over all the activities, transactions, and tasks of the State and local governments.
From accessing public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, and courts to being a part of social services, voting, and town meetings, the State and local governments are bound to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to take advantage of their various programs, events and services under the said title.
Apart from the above stated, it is mandatory for these government branches to take into account certain, specific architectural developments in areas which have recently begun construction and make necessary alterations to the already built apartments.
On the same lines, they are also required to either alter the programs or grant access in terms of physical movement as well as provide for effective communication with regards to hearing, vision, or speech limitations in the older built buildings that render it inaccessible for the individuals with any kind of disability.
Public entities must not indulge in actions that cause unwanted financial burdens but must make proper, reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures wherever deemed necessary to avoid any sort of discrimination unless they are capable of putting ahead as doing so would radically change the nature and outlook of the service, program, or activity that is being extended.
In a nutshell, the ADA title II puts forth the administrative processes that need to be adhered to by the branches which stand inclusive of marking the requirements pertaining to self-evaluation and regulation, asserting the criterion for making proper rectifications to policies, practices, and procedures that leads to demolishing discrimination, identifying the architectural barriers to cater to every individual especially those with disabilities and providing effective communication for people who come with hearing, vision and speech limitations.
Any violation of title II must be filed as a complaint with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. However, only in certain demanding situations, may cases be referred to a branch of mediation that is regulated by the Department.
2.3. ADA Title II: Part 2- The Public Transportation
The ADA Title II, under part 2, ensures no discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, and religion is meted out against individuals who are specially abled with regards to the public transportation facilities such as city buses and public rail transit that comprise subways, commuter rails, Amtrak.
From restricting discrimination against individuals with limitations under the provision of transportation services to adhering to the criterion for ensuring accessibility in any recently purchased vehicles, as well as remanufacturing buses to make sure the aspect of accessibility remains intact to avoid any unwanted discrepancy, and unless it would result in an undue burden, the public transport authorities must ensure the above are well taken care of.
The authorities are also bestowed with the duty to offer paratransit facilities, a service where individuals who are not able to use the regular transit system on their own due to either physical or mental limitations, are picked up and dropped off at their destinations by fixed route or rail systems.
2.4. Title III (Public Accommodations)
From public accommodations falling under sectors of businesses and non-profit agencies, private institutions offering courses, study materials, and conduction examinations to transportation facilities provided by private entities and serval commercial benefits, ADA Title III, takes all of the above states under its scrutiny.
Individuals or companies who privately own, rent, rent out to or manage arenas such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie halls, private schools, convention complexes, medical clinics, shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, daycare centres, as well as recreation centres that are inclusive of sports stadiums and fitness clubs are the types of public accommodations that take precedence under the said title from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
On the same lines of preventing discrimination of any sort against individuals with physical and/or mental limitations, ADA Title III also looks over the idea that the provision of courses and examinations pertaining to professional, educational, or even trade-centred applications, licensing, certifications or credentialing must be positioned in a place and in such a manner that deems it easily accessible to people with disabilities, or an alternative provision pertaining the ease of accessibility must be provided.
Apart from the above stated, all the commercial facilities, which are inclusive of factories and warehouses, are bound to adhere to the guidelines put forth under the ADA’s architectural standards for new construction and alterations.
2.5. Title IV- For the Telecommunication Sector
Focusing on providing accessibility via telephones, phones, and internet-serviced technologies for individuals who have limitations pertaining to hearing and speech is the entire essence of ADA title IV.
From offering a nationwide operation of interstate and intrastate telecommunications services that allow individuals with disabilities to communicate over smartphones and other technologies to extending closed captioning of government-funded public service announcements, regulated by the Federal Communication Commission is the idea behind the said title which is to provide equal opportunities of communication for the individuals who are specially-abled.
2.6. Title V- The Miscellaneous Provisions
Comprising of the ideas about the said statute’s relation with other laws, state immunity, the impact on insurance providers and the benefits that come from them, the prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, as well as the concept of attorney’s fees, the final title, ADA title V is inclusive of several such provisions that focus on The Americans with Disabilities Act as whole in a nutshell. Not to forget, the said title also looks over the aspect of conditions that do not fall under the criteria of a disability.
However, it marks essential to understand that any religious agencies are exempted from the criterion falling under the ADA title III.
Along the same lines, it has been deemed necessary for religious organizations to hands down comply with the state of local building codes or any other law that restricts all kinds of discrimination on the basis of disability.
4. History of The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act came into existence when more than 2000 advocates of disability rights came together on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. On July 26, 1990, as the aforementioned gathered, at the said location, they were privy to one of the most iconic civil rights victories which was President George Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act also known as the ADA, making it into federal law.
Not only did The Americans with Disabilities Act bestow comprehensive protections under the civil rights for individuals but also enlightened the general public about disability rights. Not to forget, this movement also altered the attitudes of the population pertaining to the physical and/or mental limitations that individuals come with, towards the better.
The Rise of The Act
From being denied the opportunity to study in a public school, forced to be sterilized, pushed to live in state-manged institutions, barred from voting, to having the infrastructure not being disabled-friendly such as buildings and elevators lacking ramp facilities as well having no accommodations for the hearing, vision and speech impaired, the individuals with such limitations were not only ridiculed for being so but also cornered radically till the iconic movement of the 1970s.
In the era of the 1970s, major changes were witnessed, from advocates vehemently voicing the violations falling under the disability discrimination arena to the officers of law winning a place in the Rehabilitation Act as section 504 revolves around restricting activities of gaining state funds from the discrimination put forth against individuals with disabilities. The gradual growth in awareness under the said field gave rise to the most crucial statute, The Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has not only been restricted to just being revolutionary but also has been termed as a saviour for all the individuals who come with any kind of physical or mental limitations.
From understanding the essence of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the types of disabilities that fall in the purview of the Act, to highlighting the origin of the Act, this statute has not only served to be an iconic development but also truly life-changing.