The Places We Share Belong to Everyone: The ADA Anniversary
July 26, 2017 marks the 27th anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, the ADA was passed to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities as it pertains to public life and to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as everyone else. The Act also prohibits discriminating against a qualified applicant with disabilities, hiring, firing, promoting, training, and other privileges associated with employment.
This article addresses the subject of disability law and the titles within the ADA relevant to employers.
The ADA protects individuals with mental and/or physical impairments that place significant limitations on one or more major life activity, such as breathing, walking, or standing. In 2008, the definition of ‘disability’ was deemed too narrow and was modified to include a broader range of individuals with disabilities as well as offer an additional layer of protection to those individuals with disabilities seeking gainful employment. To ensure compliance with the ADA, most employers began to adopt a written policy that outlined their respective approaches to employing individuals with disabilities. Such policies may include a listing of available company-provided resources such as modified work schedules and written documents available in larger print or alternate readers, as well as office accommodations such as doorway expansions and elevated conference room tables. While employers are not permitted to ask job applicants about the nature of their disability, applicants may be asked about their ability to perform the required job functions.
Title I of the ADA, regulated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, a change that will accommodate an employee with a disability without causing the employer difficulty or added expenses. In order to qualify for the accommodation, the employee must be qualified for the position and must be able to perform the essential functions of the job.
Title III of the ADA, regulated by the U.S. Department of Justice, prohibits facilities of public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, retail shops, health clubs, movie theaters, etc. from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Such privately leased or owned facilities are required to make reasonable modifications to communicate effectively with customers who have hearing, vision, and/or speech disabilities.
Title IV of the ADA, regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), requires telephone companies and Internet providers to provide interstate and intrastate telecommunication relay services that allow individuals with disabilities the ability to communicate over the telephone.
As we celebrate this anniversary year, let’s continue to focus on establishing common goals of equality and self-efficiency through inclusion enforcement efforts. In addition to providing equal access for individuals with disabilities, employers are also implementing training initiatives for employees across the board to ensure program success. Employers have become more sensitive and proactive with their implementation plans. Disability management programs have increased awareness and have raised the level of acceptance for individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Due to advanced education and diversity and inclusion outreach, this country has come a long way toward equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. Gainful employment is a fundamental right for adults with and without disabilities and is essential for self-efficiency. As a result of the ADA, applicants are now allowed access to programs and services and increased opportunities for competitive employment that didn’t exist prior to July 26, 1990 and 27 years later, the ADA continues to be the gateway to equality in the workplace.