Monday, July 25, 2011

Getting to Know.. ADA

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)

    Related Laws:
  • 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.