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Americans with Disabilities Act


John Patrick Evans,

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Ė Corporate Consultant

Washington State Department Social and Health Services

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation




Why should we be interested in the ADA?

Individuals with disabilities are the nationís largest minority and the only one that any person can join at any time. Over 54 million people (1 out of 5) in United States have a disability. The number of individuals with a disability will continue to increase for a variety of reasons, some of which include: an increasing number of people surviving injury, trauma, illness; the aging of the population in United States; and the 12 million children living in poverty, poor prenatal care, fetal alcohol syndrome, malnutrition. Individuals with disabilities cross all racial, gender, educational, socioeconomic, and organizational lines. Unlike race, ethnicity, or gender, disability is a condition that can emerge suddenly, at any time in life. It could happen to you or a loved one.

  • 3 in 10 were disabled at birth or childhood
  • 4 in 10 were disabled in their 20ís, 30ís or 40ís
  • 3 in 10 were disabled later in life
Individuals with disabilities face discrimination in the community as well as the workplace. This is due to societyís lack of exposure to people with disabilities; medical labels and associated stereotypes; perpetuation of negative images in media; and other attitudinal barriers. This discrimination is especially evident when looking at unemployment rates: for the general population, the figure is approximately 4.5%, for working age individuals with disabilities, the figure is 75%.

The ADA was passed in July, 1990 with overwhelming support in both houses of Congress (91-6 Senate; 377-28 House of Representatives). The intent behind the ADA is fourfold:

  • Integrate people with disabilities into the community and workplace.
  • Change focus from disabilities to abilities, assets and potential contribution to society.
  • Increase percentage of people with disabilities employment.
  • Support the independence of people with disabilities.


Coverage of the ADA

Title I - Employment: prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment.
Title II - State & Local Government Activities and Public Transportation: 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). In addition, public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services.
Title III - Public Accommodations: 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.
Title IV - Telecommunications Relay Services: 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.
Title V - Miscellaneous: covers a variety of other topics including: the exemption of Indian Tribes; Illegal Abuse of Drugs; Federal Wilderness Areas; Prohibition Against Retaliation & Coercion; Technical Assistance; Attorney Fees & Other Remedies; and Certain conditions not covered.

The ADA, Titles I and II in particular, addresses a variety of reasonable accommodation obligations, which includes physical access, the establishment of policy and procedures concerning requesting accommodations and grievances, posting notification concerning your rights as an individual with a disability, confidentiality of records (e.g., medical records must not be kept with personnel records), the need to seek technical assistance to identify solutions to problems, the requirement that the process for requesting and providing accommodations is interactive, and that it be individualized.

Text of the ADA, or PL 101-336, can be found at http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.txt . A variety of materials, regulations and updates on the ADA can be found at http://www.ada.gov/ .

The remainder of this document will focus on Title I of the ADA which covers employment in businesses with 15 or more employees. Under the ADA, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. Congress designed the law so that it would be balanced. It ensures that the employer can maintain its business operations. It is the employerís right to determine their operations and what requirements are necessary to ensure that businessís success. At the same time, it protects the individual with a disabling condition from discrimination.

Read through the following eight areas in sequence. Each section builds on the information from the previous section to assist you in understanding how the ADA impacts the entire employment process, from the development of the job description and identifying the essential functions of the job, inquiring about an individual's ability to do a job, information that can be gleaned from medical examinations before and after a position is offered, who is a qualified individual with a disability, what are reasonable accommodations, when does an accommodation become an undue hardship, and how is direct threat defined, and how does it apply to the safety of self and others.


 Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to:
Annette Leonard, Coordinator
WROCC Outreach Site
at Western Oregon University
Regional Resource Center on Deafness
Western Oregon University
Monmouth OR 97361
503-838-8642 (v/tty)
503-838-8228 (fax)
Last updated on 01SEP04.