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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) United States

The Legislation and Act
Evaluation of Legislation
Links to Other American Disability Sites

The Legislation and Act

Wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal.

  • The ADA covers governments, non-profit and the private sectors.
  • The ADA establishes standards in:
    • Employment
    • State and Local Government Activities
    • Public Transportation (1988 Air Carrier Act covers airlines and airports)
    • Public Accommodations
    • Telecommunications
  • Compliance is based on complaint system with various federal government departments responsible for handling and taking action

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law on September 25, 2008, clarify and reiterate who is covered by the law’s civil rights protections. The “ADA Amendments Act of 2008” revises the definition of “disability” to more broadly encompass impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. The amended language also states that mitigating measures, including assistive devices, auxiliary aids, accommodations, medical therapies and supplies (other than eyeglasses and contact lenses) have no bearing in determining whether a disability qualifies under the law. Changes also clarify coverage of impairments that are episodic or in remission that substantially limit a major life activity when active, such as epilepsy or post traumatic stress disorder. The amendments took effect January 1, 2009.

Evaluation of Legislation

Americans with disabilities have greater access to goods and services from businesses, state and local governments, and their local communities. Service animals for people with vision and other impairments are more accepted than ever before. There is a greater availability of relatively inexpensive assistive technology has helped people with vision and hearing impairments overcome information and communication barriers to all forms of community participation. People with mobility impairments have experienced substantial improvements in physical access to transportation, businesses and government agencies. As workers, people with disabilities are more likely to receive accommodations and less likely to be terminated due to their disabilities.

Reliance on a complaint process is seen to have placed most of the burden of enforcement on individual persons with disabilities. Government bodies investigation and enforcement.

A number of Supreme Court rulings have denied ADA protection to many people with ‘lesser’ disabilities who have experienced discrimination. There is a suggestion that ADA employment standards have had unintended consequences by creating additional legal risks for employers who then quietly avoid hiring people with disabilities to avoid these risks.

Based on findings from The Impact of the American with Disabilities Act: Assessing the Progress Toward the Goal of the ADA, National Council on Disability, July 26, 2007

A Status Report from the Department of Justice

This Status Report covers the ADA activities of the Department of Justice during the third quarter (July - September) of 2007. This report, previous status reports, and a wide range of other ADA information, including the consent decrees and formal settlement agreements mentioned in this report, are available through the Department’s ADA Home Page at

A Guide to American Disability Law

Implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Link to PDF

Links to Other American Disability Sites

Disability Law Lowdowns

A series of podcasts (English or Spanish), ASL or transcripts by nationally recognized leaders in the field of disability law. The Disability Law Lowdown Podcast delivers the latest in disability rights information every other week. You can subscribe for free and have shows automatically delivered, or you can listen to the show and read the transcripts from this site.