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Tomorrow is the 21th anniversary of the day the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by then President HW Bush (July 26, 1990). This is a good time to remember what ADA does and does not do for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
ADA is a civil-rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability. ADA is not an entitlement program and does not deal with financial compensation, employment services or advocacy services.
Here’s a breakdown of what each section of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers:
Title I – employment by private employers with 15 or more employees
Title II - state and local governments, including access to programs and public transportation.
Title III - physical accessibility, access to goods and services and private transportation services.
Title IV - telecommunication standards, including relay services for people with hearing and speech disabilities and closed captioning.
Title V - funding of ten regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers. The DBTAC’s provide ADA advise and ADA training. For more information call (800) 949-4232.
Here’s what ADA does NOT cover:
- Private businesses with less than 15 employees
- Churches, private clubs and Native American tribes are excluded.
- Housing (housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act)
- Airplane rides (While ADA cover airports, it does not cover passengers once aboard a plane. That area is covered by the Air Carrier Access Act)
- The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers access to federal programs
- The Architectural Barriers Act covers physical accessibility of federal buildings.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act covers K-12 public schools.
ADA Enforcement: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA
What Qualifies: A hearing impairment is a disability under the ADA if it substantially limits a major life activity (or used to do so) or if an employer treated the individual as if though his or her hearing impairment was substantially limiting
Devices: The use of hearing aids or other devices that improve hearing must be considered in determining whether the individual has a disability under the ADA. Even someone who uses a mitigating measure may have a disability if the measure does not correct the condition completely and there are still substantial limitations.
Complaint Time Limit: You have 180 days to make a complaint against someone for violating ADA law. The only exception would be an opportunity to file a complaint under state or local law. This could extend the filing window to 300 days after the alleged discrimination. A complaint must be filed with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit in federal court.
More Questions: Got a question about ADA law? Call the Justice Department's ADA information line: 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD). Or you can access the department's ADA law homepage.