The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was enacted as part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as did the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In 1986, the National Council on Disability had recommended enactment of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. The final version of the bill was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush. It was later amended in 2008 and signed by President George W. Bush with changes effective as of January 1, 2009.
The ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA and ADAAA also assure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities for access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications.
Celebrations of the signing of the ADA by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990 take place across the nation each year in July. WILS celebrates and acknowledges the importance of the Civil Rights Legislation American Disabilities Act and the opportunities it provides people with disabilities to live independently with an ADA Celebration with WILS’ ADA Celebration each July.
What is the definition of disability under the ADA?
An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.
There are four main types of disability discrimination.
Is when someone is treated differently and not as well as other people because of disability. For example, an employer does not employ individuals with disabilities just because it does not want disabled people in its workforce.
It breaks down into three different sorts of treating someone ‘less favorably’ because of:
their own disability (ordinary direct discrimination)
a perceived disability (direct discrimination by perception)
their association with someone who is disabled (direct discrimination by association).
Can occur where a workplace rule, practice or procedure is applied to all employees, but disadvantages individuals with disabilities. An employee with a disability or job applicant claiming indirect discrimination must show how they have been personally disadvantaged, as well as how the discrimination has or would disadvantage other employees with disabilities employees or job candidates.
In some limited circumstances, indirect discrimination may be justified if it is necessary for the business to work. For example, an employer may reject an applicant with a severe back problem where heavy manual lifting is an essential part of the job.
When unwanted conduct related to a person’s disability causes a distressing, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
Treating someone unfairly because they have made or supported a complaint about disability discrimination.
Are You Protected by The ADA in the workplace?
If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The ADA also protects you if you have a history of such a disability, or if an employer believes that you have such a disability, even if you don’t.
To be protected under the ADA, you must have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial, as opposed to a minor, impairment. A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning or working.
If you have a disability, you must also be qualified to perform the essential functions or duties of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation, in order to be protected from job discrimination by the ADA. This means two things. First, you must satisfy the employer’s requirements for the job, such as education, employment experience, skills or licenses. Second, you must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Essential functions are the fundamental job duties that you must be able to perform on your own or with the help of a reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot refuse to hire you because your disability prevents you from performing duties that are not essential to the job.
What is Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. For example, reasonable accommodation may include:
- providing or modifying equipment or devices
- job restructuring
- part-time or modified work schedules
- reassignment to a vacant position
- adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies
- providing readers and interpreters
- making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities
An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would be an undue hardship — that is, that it would require significant difficulty or expense.
Disability Information & Resources:
US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) was authorized by Congress in the Department of Labor’s FY 2001 appropriation. Recognizing the need for a national policy to ensure that people with disabilities are fully integrated into the 21st Century workforce, the Secretary of Labor delegated authority and assigned responsibility to the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. ODEP is a sub-cabinet level policy agency in the Department of Labor.