1 – ADA – The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Seeking and Maintaining Employment

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. One of the first booklets to educate the public about the ADA was produced by the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) working with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). It was published in May 1992 entitled “Questions and Answers about the ADA.” The introduction of that booklet made it clear that there were high hopes for the ADA:

Barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications have imposed staggering economic and social costs on American society and have undermined our well-intentioned efforts to educate, rehabilitate, and employ individuals with disabilities. By breaking down these barriers, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will enable society to benefit from the skills and talents of individuals with disabilities, will allow us all to gain from their increased purchasing power and ability to use it, and will lead to fuller, more productive lives for all Americans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act gives 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. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

Fair, swift, and effective enforcement of this landmark civil rights legislation is a high priority of the Federal Government. 

On the seventh anniversary of the ADA, the National Council on Disability (NCD) published a history of the making of the ADA, entitled “Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” In their introduction, NCD says:

Future historians will come to view the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as one of the most formative pieces of American social policy legislation in the 20th century. Its enactment codified into law important principles that would hence forth govern the relationship between society and its citizens with disabilities. The ADA is universal. It champions human rights themes by declaring that people with disabilities are an integral part of society and, as such, should not be segregated, isolated or subjected to the effects of discrimination. The ADA is also distinctly American. It embraces several archetypal American themes such as self-determination, self-reliance and individual achievement. The ADA is about enabling people with disabilities to take charge of their lives and join the American mainstream. It seeks to do so by fostering employment opportunities, facilitating access to public accommodations, and ensuring the use of our nation’s communication systems. Citation: National Council on Disability, Equality of Opportunity, The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 1997, 2010. Washington, DC.

The ADA is arguably the best known of disability civil rights laws. But it’s not the only law that impacts people with disabilities. This section will provide a brief overview of several federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities, at work, getting to meetings and during meetings, and while visiting a public place.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Title I: Employment 

The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title I of the ADA covers employment by private employers with 15 or more employees and state and local government employers of the same size. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act provides the same protections for federal employees and applicants for federal employment. Most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Some of these state laws may apply to smaller employers and provide protections in addition to those available under the ADA.

The ADA defines disability as an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Hearing is considered a major life activity. Employers are required to provide adjustments or modifications that enable qualified people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless doing so would result in undue hardship, i.e., significant difficulty or expense. Employers should not assume that all persons with hearing impairments will require an accommodation or even the same accommodation.

Applicants or employees with hearing disabilities may request accommodations at any point for all employment related activities, including during the recruiting and interview process and on the job. The employee may request one or more of the following accommodations, or another accommodation as needed:

Employers are prohibited from harassing or allowing employees with disabilities to be harassed in the workplace. When harassment is brought to an employer’s attention, management and/or the supervisor must take steps to stop it.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
P.O. Box 7033
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
(800) 669-4000 (Voice), (800) 669-6820 (TDD)

Architectural and Transportation Barriers
Compliance Board
1111 18th Street, NW, Suite 501
Washington, DC 20036

Job Accommodations Network
(800)526-7234 (Voice)
(877)781-9403 (TTY)


US Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide to Disability Rights Laws (September 2005, updated September, 2006)

A Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment, US DOJ, EEOC, SSA (October, 2000, updated October, 2008)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability (Updated March, 2005)

The Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). JAN is the leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

Title II: State and Local Government 

Title II covers all activities of state and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that state and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services and activities, e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting and town meetings.

State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity being provided.

Complaints of title II violations may be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the department. The department may bring a lawsuit where it has investigated a matter and has been unable to resolve violations. Title II may also be enforced through private lawsuits in Federal court.

Title II: Public Transportation 

The transportation provisions of title II cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit, e.g. subways, commuter rails and Amtrak. Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessible used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner, and unless it would result in an undue burden, provide paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems. Paratransit is a service where individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently because of a physical or mental impairment, are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.

Title III: Public Accommodations 

Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by title III.

Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation and unequal treatment. They also must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources.

Courses and examinations related to professional, educational or trade-related applications, licensing, certifications or credentialing must be provided in a place and manner accessible to people with disabilities or alternative accessible arrangements must be offered.

Commercial facilities, such as factories and warehouses, must comply with the ADA’s architectural standards for new construction and alterations.

Complaints of title III violations may be filed with the Department of Justice. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the department. The department is authorized to bring a lawsuit where there is a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of title III, or where an act of discrimination raises an issue of general public importance. Title III may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (or any Federal agency), or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter, before going to court.


For more information contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section – NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530


(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

The U.S. DOJ also has a series of reports on the ADA, targeted to the business community, including the booklet “Accessible Information Exchange: Meeting on a Level Playing Field,” which says:

Meetings between businesses and people with disabilities – whether related to researching customer preferences, developing a business education curriculum, or discovering effective ways to comply with the ADA – can result in innovative ideas and powerful collaborations that bring greater access to customers with disabilities and attract new customers to businesses.

For these meetings to be successful, everyone involved must have an equal opportunity to participate. Three components are key to presenting meetings that are accessible to people with disabilities: where the meeting is held, how the meeting room furniture is arranged, and how the meeting information is communicated. Event organizers will find that when these elements are accessible, they serve not only the participants with disabilities but also a wide range of others, including older adults, baby boomers and people with temporary disabilities.

Auxiliary Aids and Services

If auxiliary aids and services are requested by guests, meeting organizers will need to address before the meeting takes place how to provide such services as interpreters, realtime captioning, and notetakers.

•To provide effective communication  for participants who are deaf or have hearing loss or who are blind or have low vision, meeting organizers may need to provide auxiliary aids and services, which may include for example: (for people who are deaf or have hearing loss) qualified interpreters, notetakers, realtime captioning, written materials, assistive listening systems, and open and closed captioning.

See Expanding Your Market: Gathering Input from Customers with Disabilities

ADA Business Briefs

Communicating with Guests Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hotels, Motels, and Other Places of Transient Lodging

Communicating in Transient Lodging (PDF version)

Communicating in Transient Lodging ( PDF version)

Communicating in Transient Lodging (HTML version)

Service Animals (PDF screen version)

Service Animals (PDF) print version

Service Animals (HTML version)

ADA Questions and Answers

ADA Regulations for Businesses

(title III) – Department of Justice requirements for businesses and non-profit service providers

ADA and Employment

Department of Justice ADA Publications

See more information

Title IV: Telecommunications Services

Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), which are also known as teletypewriters (TTYs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements.


For more information about TRS, contact the FCC at:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554


(888) 225-5322 (Voice)
(888) 835-5322 (TTY)