When Senator Tom Harkin, author of the ADA, delivered his introduction speech in the US Senate, he did it mostly in sign language, in honor of his deaf brother. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on DISABILITY. It affords similar protections for those with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin illegal. Also, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
ADA disabilities include both mental and physical….there are a few good websites which have the complete list but my favorite is www.ada.gov Not only disabilities such as deafness, blindness, required use of a wheelchair, cancer, autism, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc., but illnesses such as alcoholism, diabetes and gender identity disorders are included.
Regarding Employment…. (Title I)
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that a ‘covered entity’ shall not discriminate against ‘a qualified individual with a disability’. This includes but is not limited to job application procedures, hiring advancement and discharge of employees, job training, etc. ‘Covered Entities’ include employers with 15 or more employees, as well as employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees. Prohibited discrimination may include, among other things, firing or refusing to hire someone with a real or ‘perceived’ disability, segregation, and harassment based on a disability. Reasonable accommodation may be changing the way things were done such as special equipment that allows a person to perform the job, scheduling changes, etc. An employer is NOT required to provide an accommodation that would involve undue hardship to the employer (significant difficulty or expense).
Regarding Public Entities and Public Transportation….(Title II)
The provision applies to all public entities at local/state and federal levels and it insures ‘access’ to all programs and services offered by the entity. Public entities must comply with Title II regulations by the US Department of Justice. All programs and services covered by the entity must be included. It applies to public transportation provided by public entities, including but not limited to the National Rail Service. It also applies to all state/local public housing, housing assistance and housing referrals.
Regarding Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities…(Title III)
No individuals may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods/services/facilities of accommodations of any place of ‘public accommodation’ by any person who owns, leases or operates a place of ‘public accommodation. The term ‘public accommodation’ includes most places of lodging, recreation, transportation, education, and dining….along with stores, care providers and places of public display. Also, under this provision, all ‘new’ construction must be fully compliant with the ADA guidelines.
This provision also applies to existing facilities; they must ‘remove barriers’….which can be a bit of a balancing act between the cost of the proposed ‘fix’ and the wherewithal of the business and/or owners of the business….what may be ‘readily’ achievable for a financially capable corporation may not be achievable for a small business. There are a few exceptions to this provision….private clubs and religious organizations….I guess the sentiment is that they can do what they want…
Regarding Telecommunications…(Title IV)
This section requires that all telecommunications in the United States take steps to ensure functionally equivalent services for those with disabilities….when this legislation took effect in 1990 it led to the installation of public teletypewriter machines (TTY) and TDD (telecommunications for the deaf). Title IV led to the creation in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, to what is known as TRS (telecommunication relay services), such as STS relay. Today, many TRS-mediated calls are made over the internet by consumers who use broadband connections.
Miscellaneous Provisions…(Title V)
This provision covers minor and major technicalities and I do not have the expertise to understand all that is considered but it does include an anti-retaliation or coercion provision. Basically, one cannot be threatened, intimidated, coerced, interfered with by requesting accommodations under the ADA or helping someone obtain/request accommodations under the ADA.
The Americans with Disabilities Act had a number of critiques along the way….business owners were not supportive…fearing that the accommodations would be cost prohibitive…religious groups were not supportive….they did not like being labeled ‘public entities’ and this legislation would have required churches to make costly structural changes to ensure access. These challenges prevailed and churches were not labeled ‘public entities’….however, many, many churches have accommodated the disabled on their own….as we would expect them to do…
Back to Employment Provisions….want to clarify what needs to be done up front and how a job application is to be handled:
Under the law, an employer may not ask disability-related questions and may not conduct medical examinations until after it makes a conditional job offer to the applicant.3 This helps ensure that an applicant's possible hidden disability (including a prior history of a disability) is not considered before the employer evaluates an applicant's non-medical qualifications.
An employer may not ask disability-related questions or require a medical examination pre-offer even if it intends to look at the answers or results only at the post-offer stage. Although employers may not ask disability-related questions or require medical examinations at the pre-offer stage, they may do a wide variety of things to evaluate whether an applicant is
qualified for the job, including the following:
Employers may ask about an applicant's ability to perform specific job functions. For example, an employer may state the physical requirements of a job (such as the ability to lift a certain amount of weight, or the ability to climb ladders), and ask if an applicant can satisfy these requirements.
Employers may ask about an applicant's non-medical qualifications and skills, such as the applicant's education, work history, and required certifications and licenses.
Employers may ask applicants to describe or demonstrate how they would perform job tasks.
Once a conditional job offer is made, the employer may ask disability-related questions and require medical examinations as long as this is done for all entering employees in that job category. If the employer rejects the applicant after a disability-related question or medical examination, investigators will closely scrutinize whether the rejection was based on the results of that question or examination.
This has been a very cursory overview of the ADA….shortly, I will have a VLOG available for viewing and one can, of course, contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the SCB Services, LLC office at 484-798-1236.