AMERICAN WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law which makes it illegal or prohibits the discrimination against people with disabilities at school, in work and public places. Having a complete understanding of ADA can make it easy for you to seek help in the face of any discrimination against disabilities for yourself and child. This law protects anyone with “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities”. Here, life activities include seeing, eating, speaking, reading, thinking, communicating, learning and concentrating. The law is very broad and covers people with food allergies, anxiety, HIV, wheelchair, depression, and diabetes.
WHAT IS AMERICAN WITH DISABILITIES ACT?
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against humans with disabilities. It was first enacted in 1990 and amended in 2008. The purpose of this law is to ensure that persons with disabilities are entitled to the same treatment and privileges as everyone else.
The law guarantees equal rights and protection to individuals with physical and mental challenges in transportation, accommodation, employment, telecommunication, state and local government services.
RECENT AMENDMENTS TO THE ADA
The most recent amendment to the Americans with Disabilities act was in 2008. Referred to as the American with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAA), came into effect on January 1, 2009. The law made outstanding changes to the definition of the word “disability”. In relation to the different areas of life, the ADAA is divided into five titles as it applies to the definition of “disability”.
TITLES IN THE AMERICAN WITH DISABILITIES AMENDMENT ACT 2008
Title I: this section include employment practices of private employers with a minimum of 15 employees, employment agencies, state and local governments, labor unions, joint management-labor committees and agents of the employer.
Title II: this section focuses on the programs and activities of state and local governments organizations and entities.
Title III: private entities that are categorized as places of public accommodation.
BREAKDOWN OF ADAA
TITLE I – EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES
This section is intended to assist people with disabilities to access equal employment benefits and opportunities available to everyone else (people without disabilities). Employers are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees.
In this context, reasonable accommodation refers to all the adjustments and modifications to a job or working condition and environment that will allow an employee or applicant with a disability to take part in the application exercise or to perform important job tasks.
Employers with 15 or more members of staff must comply with the provisions of this law. This section of the law is enforced and regulated by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Title I of this regulation define disability and prohibits discrimination of any sort against qualified persons with disabilities during job application process, career advancement, job training, firing, hiring and every other aspect of employment.
TITLE II (STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
This section intends to address every form of discrimination against employees with disabilities in all programs and activities of public entities. It applies to all department and agencies understates and local governments.
This title outlines the requirements to be followed in self-evaluation and planning for making outstanding adjustments to policies, procedures, and practices where applicable to avoid discrimination, identifying architectural barrier and effective communication with people with speech, vision and hearing disabilities.
It is regulated and enforced by the US Department of Justice.
TITLE III (PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS AND SERVICES OPERATED BY PRIVATE ENTITIES
This section prohibits the public accommodation from discriminating against people with disabilities. Public accommodations include hotels, retail merchants, golf courses, restaurants, doctor’s offices, stadiums, day care centers, health clubs, private schools and much more.
The title sets the minimum requirement for accessibility for adjustments and new construction facilities. Public accommodations are mandated to remove barriers in existing structures and buildings where it is easy without much expense.
It further directs businesses to communicate effectively with persons with disabilities in vision, speech, hearing etc and to make necessary modifications in their ways of serving and attending to people with disabilities.
TITLE IV (TELECOMMUNICATIONS)
Title IV requires telephone and internet services providers to offer a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services within and outside the states that allow individuals with speech and hearing disabilities to communicate over the telephone.
It also allows for a closed captioning of all federally funded public service announcements. The regulation agency for Title IV is the Federal Communications Commission.
TITLE V (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS)
This title contains various provisions that relate to the American Disabilities Act in relation to other laws, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, state immunity, the prohibition against retaliation, attorney’s fees and drug abuse.
Under this title is the list of the conditions that are not to be considered as disabilities. The conditions that are viewed as anti-social or an illegal activity such as kleptomania, exhibitionism, pedophile, voyeurism etc are excluded from the definition of “disability”.
ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS OF THE ADA
The following are the additional information and provisions of the ADA:
- The law limits the medical information that an employer requests from a job seeker. It is prohibited for an employer to ask an applicant to submit to a medical examination or require about an applicant’s disability status before offering him the job. However, the employer can ask all applicants if they would need a reasonable accommodation.
- No employer should withdraw an employment offer from an individual with vision impairment except he can prove that the disability can affect his performance in the job with or without a reasonable accommodation or the applicant may have problems with his safety.
- An employer can only accommodate a known disability of a qualified applicant. This requirement will be made by the individual with a disability who can also suggest a convenient accommodation. Thus, accommodation must be made per an individual because the nature and extent of disabling among persons vary.
- An employer may ask questions about an employee’s medical condition or can mandate the employee to seek medical attention if the employer believes the disability has affected the employee’s job performance and safety. When an employee has requested for a reasonable accommodation, then a request for a medical examination can be made by the employer. However, such documents must be kept separate from the employee’s personal job files and must be treated as confidential.
ADVANTAGES OF ADA
Since its first passage in the 1990s, the American Disabilities Act strives to remove every form of discrimination against persons with disabilities all sectors of life such as transportation, public and commercial spaces and facilities, employment and telecommunication. The following are the distinct advantages of the ADA.
- It allows people with disabilities to have gainful employment.
- It helps in the implementation of workplace standards and government requirements to enable persons with disability to perform their job functions.
- The adjustments in the workplace to accommodate individuals with disabilities affords them the opportunity to compete for jobs with persons without a disability.
- In the aspect of telecommunication, the ADA provides that all federally funded service announcements must have closed captioning.
- Callers with speech and hearing disabilities can benefit from all aspects of telephone use.
DISADVANTAGES OF ADA
- Many people with minor cases of disability do not wish themselves to be classified and treated as a disabled individual.
- Increase in the number of disabled can put pressure on businesses to provide reasonable accommodation for each disabled person.
- Businesses are forced to comply with ADA at their own expense unless to provide a proof of hardship.
- Materials, structures, and equipment designed to meet the needs of individuals with a disability are more expensive than the regular models.
- The cost of amending an existing equipment and facility in compliance with ADA is often high for public and private business places.
HOW THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY
In compliance with the provisions of ADA, significant modifications had to be made in the facilities and equipment in schools, workplace, hospitals, hotels, offices and much more. The following are the ways which the ADA regulations have impacted on accessibility:
- It established standards for accessible designs for public accommodations that involve ramps, automatic doorways, and elevators to make way for wheelchairs.
- Water fountains must be sited at points where people with disabilities can access.
- A deaf applicant must be assisted during a job interview by supplying such with a sign language interpreter.
- Work schedule must be modified to meet the needs of persons with a disability who requires treatment.
- In comparison to the size of the company, an employer is only required to provide accommodation if doing so will not present an undue hardship to the business.
OPPOSITIONS TO AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
The debate on the ADA moved some religious groups to oppose it. The Association of Christian Schools International, opposed the act from the beginning because it required churches to make structural amendments to provide public accommodation. The ACSI clamored for a review of this clause and thus, churches and other religious institutions were removed from the list of “public accommodations”.
The National Association of Evangelicals rose against the ADA Title I which is based on employment provisions. The NAE believed that the Act is a direct interference with the internal employment of the church.
Majority of the members of the business community rose against the ADA and even testified before Congress. In a statement made by Greyhound Bus Lines, the act can “deprive millions of people of affordable means of traveling between different cities”.
The US Chamber of Commerce asserted that the cost of compliance with ADA will be very high and may have a negative impact on companies that are struggling to grow.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses, an organization that is into lobbying for small businesses referred to the ADA as “a disaster for small business”.
Another opposing voice was the Pro-business commentators, in its writing said that the ADA was “an expensive headache to millions”.
The ADA Act has enhanced the protection of those living with disabilities in numerous ways. The Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAA) signed into law in 2008 redefined the term disability and upturned many of the supreme court rulings that impeded the smooth implementation of the Act. To employers, the ADA is an additional responsibility or load while to the employee, it is a reliever.