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FAQs: Individual/Advocate

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination and provides for equal access and opportunity. Former President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.

The ADA applies to situations in these five areas:

  1. Employment [Title I]
  2. State and local government [Title II]
  3. Public accommodations (private businesses) [Title III]
  4. Telecommunications [Title IV]
  5. Transportation and miscellaneous provisions [Title V]

Definition of Disability under the ADA

The ADA prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability. Specifically, the ADA protects three categories of individuals:

  1. Individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
  2. Individuals who have a record of a physical or mental impairment.
  3. Individuals who are regarded as having an impairment, whether they have an impairment or not.

The ADA does not include a list of covered disabilities under the law. Therefore, to determine if you are covered under the law, you need to determine if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

The definition of disability does not include simple physical characteristics, common personality traits, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages.

The ADA also excludes coverage for individuals who currently use illegal drugs, certain sexual disorders and preferences, and compulsive gambling, kleptomania, and pyromania.


FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions on ADA National Network

What is the ADA National Network?

The ADA National Network consists of ten (10) regional centers funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under the U.S. Department of Education.

The ADA National Network (formerly known as DBTAC - Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center) is the leader in providing information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet your needs. Its mission is to:

  • Facilitate voluntary compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
  • Conduct research to reduce and eliminate barriers to employment and economic self-sufficiency and to increase the civic and social participation of Americans with disabilities

What services does the ADA National Network provide?

The ADA National Network consists of ten (10) regional centers and is the leader in providing information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels. Each regional ADA Center offers the following core services:

  • Technical Assistance:Highly trained specialists are available to answer your questions about the ADA, including advice and information on what is required, who is covered, and how to work through ADA-related questions.Call the national toll free hotline at 1-800-949-4232 [voice/tty]. All calls are strictly confidential.

  • Education and Training: Provide customized training and distance education opportunities (i.e. Webcourses, Webinars, Podcasts, and National ADA Initiatives) about the ADA and disability-related laws to disability organizations, State and local government agencies, and private businesses.

  • Materials Dissemination: Distribute publications with accurate information about the ADA. Provide up-to-date ADA information via websites, social media, email, discussion lists, newsletters, and printed materials.

  • Information and Referral: Provide referrals to local organizations for advocacy assistance or issues outside of our work scope.

  • Public Awareness: Promote the ADA in a positive manner in media outlets.

  • Local Capacity Building: Work closely with business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to assist with ADA efforts in your State and local communities.

How do I contact the ADA National Network?

If you have questions, need resources or want training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contact your ADA Center for information, guidance, events, and various materials and online tools to make your efforts easier, as well as help you brainstorm and develop solutions for your customers.

  • Call National Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-4ADA [voice/tty] (1-800-949-4232)
    or complete the Questions and Help on the ADA [online form].

    All calls and contacts are strictly confidential. Highly trained specialists who have over 20 years of experience are available to answer your questions about the ADA, including advice and information on what is required, who is covered, and how to work through ADA-related questions.

  • Training on the ADA
    Find various Events & Educational Materials, including FAQs on the ADA and National ADA Initiatives to learn about the ADA and disability-related topics.

    Experienced staff and training specialists are available to help you design and/or conduct a customized workshop or presentation for your target audiences. Contact your ADA Center or call the National Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-4232 [voice/tty].

  • Visit website: ADA National Network

Southeast ADA Center


Individual/Advocate & the ADA

What are my employment rights as an individual with a disability?

If you are an individual with a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability.

In order to be protected from job discrimination by the ADA, you must be qualified to perform the essential functions or duties of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that helps an employee with a disability apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, or enjoy the benefits of employment. The ADA is not an affirmative action law. Therefore, you must meet the employer’s requirements for the job such as education, employment experience, or skills.

The ADA covers all private employers with 15 or more employees. All State and local government employers, regardless of size, are covered.

Are State and local government agencies required to make their programs and services accessible to me?

A State or local government agency may not deny the benefits of its programs, activities, and services to individuals with disabilities because its facilities are physically inaccessible. An agency’s services, programs, and activities, when viewed in its entirety, must be readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities. This standard applies to all existing facilities of a public entity. Public entities are not necessarily required to make all of their existing facilities and buildings accessible. When choosing a method of providing program access, a public entity must give priority to the one that results in the most integrated setting appropriate to encourage interaction among all users, including individuals with disabilities.

How does the ADA apply to a private business?

In general, all new buildings built since 1992 must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Examples include, but are not limited to: restaurants, movie theaters, doctors' offices, hotels, city bus stations, museums, and some office buildings. For older buildings, the ADA requires business owners to remove physical barriers that can be removed without much difficulty or expense.

Businesses open to the public must operate in a nondiscriminatory manner ensuring that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to participate in and benefit from the services, activities, and goods offered to all other customers, patrons, and clients.

I am individual who is deaf. Am I always entitled to a sign language interpreter?

Employers, State and local government agencies, and places of public accommodation must ensure that their communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as communication with others. In order to provide equal access, these groups are required to provide auxiliary aids and services that promote effective communication.

Examples of auxiliary aids and services include, but are not limited to: qualified interpreters, captioning, TTYs, large print materials, Braille materials, and computer software.

A sign language interpreter may be required when the information being communicated in a transaction is complex or is exchanged for a long period of time. An interpreter is not always required for all communication situations. Factors to be considered when deciding if the use of an interpreter is appropriate can include the context of the conversation, the number of people involved, and the importance of the communication.


More FAQs

  1. What obligations does an employer have if an employee discloses his or her HIV status?

  2. What is a reasonable accommodation for a person with HIV?

  3. To what extent does the ADA require that Internet web pages be accessible to people with visual disabilities?

  4. What is the relationship between requirements of the FMLA, the ADA, and Title VII?

  5. Are all employees who are protected by Title VII or the ADA also entitled to leave under the FMLA?

  6. Is there a conflict between the FMLA provision allowing employers to ask for certification that an employee have a serious health condition and ADA restrictions on disability-related inquiries of employees?

  7. Does title II of the ADA prohibit public schools from conducting drug and alcohol testing of students or employees?

  8. Does the ADA cover the Federal government?

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