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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Written by Iris García García August 02, 2023

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in their daily life. It is based on the same prohibition of discrimination for race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion. 

It was published in 1990 to guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to find a job, purchase goods, enjoy services and participate in state and local government programs.

In order to be protected by the ADA, a persona must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. But, how does the ADA define an individual with a disability? As a person who has a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a record of such an impairment, or a person who is recognized by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all the impairments covered.

Guide to Disability Rights Laws

The Act is divided in several titles, each of one of them addressing the different issues a person with disabilities can face on their activities.

ADA Title I: Employment

Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to offer qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related options available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It limits questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under this title.

ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities and Public Transportation

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. It requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).

State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. However, they are compelled to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.

On the other hand, the transportation provisions of this title cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit. Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessible used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner, and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems. Paratransit is a service where individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently (because of a physical or mental impairment) are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.

ADA Title III: Public Accommodations

This title covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations refer to private entities which operate in facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by title III.

Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. They also must observe specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources.

Courses and examinations related to professional, educational, or trade-related applications, licensing, certifications, or credentialing must be provided in a place and manner accessible to people with disabilities, or alternative accessible arrangements must be offered.

Commercial facilities, such as factories and warehouses, must comply with the ADA’s architectural standards for new construction and alterations.

ADA Tittle IV: Telecommunications Relay Services

Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common telephone companies to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use teletypewriters (TTY) or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDDs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. This title requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.

Amends to ADA

Additionally, ADA has been amended with several acts in order to improve certain points such as:


As you can see, ADA covers almost any issues a person with disabilities can face in their daily lives. Here in ADDAW we focus on the section 508 since it is the only one that addresses digital content in general. But we will analyze it more detail later on.


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Iris García García

Writer, proofreader, and translator of texts with good knowledge of office and general computer skills. These are three specialties that allow me to be in constant learning because language never stops evolving, and that is something beautiful.