The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives civil rights protections to disabled individuals that are similar to those provided on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for disabled individuals in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications.

The ADA was passed in 1990 and subsequently amended in 2008 to provide a clear national mandate for eliminating discrimination based on disability.

The ADA and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) is designed to eliminate discrimination based on disability by providing consistent and enforceable standards.

Under the ADAAA, disability is defined as:

  1. A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  2. A record of such an impairment; or
  3. Being regarded as having such an impairment.

Major life activities include but are not limited to: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. It also includes the operation of a major bodily function.

Employer implications

The ADA and ADAAA apply to private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions. Employers with 15 or more employees are covered.

Among the steps employers can take to ensure compliance are:

  1. Train supervisors and managers about the rules;
  2. Review existing protocols to ensure conformance;
  3. Review job descriptions for job function clarity;
  4. Ensure that supervisors pass along disability related questions to Human Resources; and
  5. Consult with an employment attorney about how the changes affect your company specifically.

Additional resources

There’s a lot to know. The U.S. Department of Labor’s tool, Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor, helps employers determine which federal nondiscrimination laws apply to their businesses:

Other reference material:

EEOC final regulations:

ADAAA final regulations: