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10 Things Everyone Should Know About The ADA

A simple guide to protecting your rights, and making sure you don't trample the rights of your fellow Americans.

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1. What's ADA?

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ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This civil rights law was passed on July 26, 1990 to help secure the rights and freedoms that disabled citizens are entitled to. It was expanded in 2008 by the ADA Amendments Act.

2. Why do we need the ADA?

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America is known "as the land of opportunity," but discrimination prevents many disabled people from participating in everyday life. People who are disabled are regularly denied access to businesses, hospitals, schools, workplaces, and many other locations. Unfortunately, a lack of cultural understanding about disabilities results in a prejudiced population.

3. What does the ADA do?

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The ADA protects against discrimination based on disability by requiring public and private entities to consider the needs of people who are disabled.

Living in a large multicultural country, it is our responsibility to be accepting and competent of other lifestyles. Instead of just assuming every person who enters a business or uses the services of an organization has the same abilities, the ADA requires these entities to plan for diverse consumers.

4. Who is the ADA for?

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From deafness to mobility issues to intellectual disabilities, the ADA protects the rights of ALL Americans who have mental and/or physical medical conditions. The list of disabilities also includes autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and other physical or mental health conditions.

5. How does the ADA effect jobs?

Title I: Employment is a critical piece of the ADA which helps disabled individuals access employment opportunities. It prohibits employers from inquiring about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability or medical condition until after a job offer has been made.

Title I makes it clear that organizations may not reject qualified job candidates on the basis of their disability, and requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for disabled employees.

6. What is a reasonable accommodation?

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Reasonable accommodation often calls for a minor alteration to the typical workflow, which varies on a case-by-case basis. Some examples include adding a wheelchair ramp to enter the building, hiring interpreters to provide communication access during meetings, or offering a modified work schedule for a person whose disability requires it.The best way to figure out what a reasonable accommodation might be is to simply ask the disabled employee.

7. Where else does the ADA apply?

Under Title II, agencies which operate at a local or state level are required to provide equal access to all services offered by the organization. This includes public hospitals, municipal government buildings, public schools, police stations, and public transportation.

Title III expands the ADA to privately owned places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, such as business offices, social service centers, entertainment events, airports and so on. Disabled individuals aren't asking for special treatment, they simply expect the same quality of access as everyone else.

8. What happens when a person’s rights have been violated?

Disabled people need to be aware of their rights and ask, preferably in writing, for the accommodations they are entitled to receive under the ADA. If they are still denied these accommodations, they can contact a local advocacy organization or a licensed civil rights lawyer. While a lawsuit is not the ideal course of action, discrimination based on disability is an act of oppression. Liability lawsuits are often far more costly than providing equal access in the first place.

9. How can businesses ensure they are ADA compliant?

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Awareness about these issues usually begins from the top level down. All employees, but especially those who work in administration and management positions, should receive thorough cultural competency training. Additionally, we need to see more disabled employees and consultants in the workforce. The more the general population is exposed to disability, the better they will be able to understand the needs of disabled individuals.

10. How does the ADA help everyone?

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At the end of the day, most disabled people just want the opportunity to participate in society. Diversity is a great asset, and providing reasonable accommodation for our diverse population should be an expected cost of doing business. Welcoming disabled individuals into all spaces is the law, yes. But it is also the right thing to do.

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