The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990, prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same basic opportunities as all Americans: to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in State and local government programs and services. This past July marked the 26th anniversary of the Act’s enactment.
To invoke the protection of the ADA, an individual must have a disability defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. However, the ADA does not specifically name literally all of the impairments that are covered by the Act. In fact, there is a clause that generates portection if you are treated as if you had a significant disability. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.
In addition to the Department of Labor, four federal agencies enforce the ADA:
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces regulations covering employment.
- The Department of Transportation enforces regulations governing transit.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces regulations covering telecommunication services.
- The Department of Justice enforces regulations governing public accommodations and state and local government services.
- The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB), also known as the Access Board, issues guidelines to ensure that buildings, facilities, and transit vehicles are accessible and usable by people with disabilities.
- Two Department of Labor agencies enforce certain portions of the ADA. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has coordinating authority under the employment-related provisions of the ADA. The Civil Rights Center is responsible for enforcing Title II of the ADA as it applies to the labor- and workforce-related practices of state and local governments and other public entities.
My law office does not handle pure ADA cases. We primarily handle disability claims (SSA cases, Kentucky Disability Retirement cases, ERISA disability claims, Long term and Short Term disability cases. True ADA cases involve serious employment questions which are beyond my chosen field of practice. We usually see some ADA issues in conjunction with a disability case, and refer those cases out to other competent counsel. Sometimes, the disability case must be sacrificed to allow the employment case to proceed (or vise versa). Again, if it is a genuine ADA question, my advice is to consult a good labor lawyer.