Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Thirty years ago, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

The country's most popular and comprehensive disability rights legislation, the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in regards to employment opportunities, public goods and services, state and local government, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

During his remarks at the signing ceremony of the ADA, President Bush said:

This act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.

ADA Titles

Title I: Employment

Title I prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, including recruitment, hiring, pay, and other related aspects. Employers with 15 or more employees, and state and local governments, are covered by ADA Title I.

Under Title I, employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations, which the ADA stipulates may include:

  1. making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, and
  2. job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

More information about accessibility in the workplace

Title II: State and local governments

Title II prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services. Discrimination is prohibited under Title II regardless of whether state or local government entities receive federal funding or assistance.

General provisions of Title II outline that public entities may not deny aid, benefit, or service; provide different or separate aids, benefits, or services; make selections on site or location of a facility that excludes individuals with disabilities; or otherwise act, directly or in effect, to discriminate against or limit individuals with disabilities.

Title III: Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities

Title III prohibits discrimination that prevents equal access to public goods and services of public accommodations. Most private businesses that provide goods and services to the public are covered by ADA Title III.

The ADA identifies the following private entities as public accommodations, if they affect commerce: (A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor; (B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink; (C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition entertainment; (D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering; (E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment; (F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment; (G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation; (H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection; (I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation; (J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education; (K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and (L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.

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Helpful ADA resources