Disability Facts, Law & Awareness

People with disabilities have fundamental civil and human rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and by various federal and state laws.

The Americans with Disabilities Act


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), PL 101-336 is modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The purpose of the ADA is to extend to people with disabilities civil rights similar to those now available on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in:

  • Employment,
  • Services of State and Local Government,
  • Public Accommodations,
  • Transportation, and
  • Telecommunications.


The ADA prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability in employment and includes specific features related to reasonable accommodation, qualification standards and other labor-management ‘Issues.

“No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.”

Public Services

The ADA addresses services and activities of State and local governments including public transportation. Transportation provisions of the ADA are intended to improve access in equipment (buses, rail coaches), facilities, and demand response systems. Some of these requirements include: the purchase of new accessible public transportation equipment, special transportation services that are comparable to fixed-route services. modification of key existing facilities to assure access and inter-city and commuter-rail accessibility improvements.

“No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by a department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or a local government.

Public Accommodations

The ADA addresses public accommodations and businesses and services operated by private entities. Privately owned transportation is also included. Specific features of the Act vary from section to section laying out how equal access is to be achieved by particular entities.

“No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and quality enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.”


The ADA mandates that telecommunications relay services be offered by private companies and includes services operated by States.

“…shall ensure that interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services are available …to hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals in the United States.”

ADA’s Impact on Employment

ADA prohibits discrimination against workers with disabilities. ADA employment provisions apply to private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees.

ADA requires equal opportunity in selection, testing and hiring of qualified applicants with disabilities. ADA requires equal treatment in promotion and benefits. ADA requires reasonable accommodation for workers with disabilities when such accommodations would not impose an “undue hardship. Reasonable accommodation is a concept already familiar to and widely used in today’s workplace.

For more information and regulations contact:

ADA Regulations for Title 1 –Employment contact:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

1801 L Street, N W

Washington, DC 20507

800-669-3362- Voice

800-800- 3302- TTY

Alternative formats are available.

Information on making job accommodations contact:

JAN (Job Accommodation Network)

800-526-7234–U.S. (Voice/TTY)

Regulations for Transportation contact:

Urban Mass Transportation Administration

400 7th Street, SW

Room 9315

Washington, DC 20590

202-366-4390 or 1656- Voice


Alternative formats are available on request.

ADA Regulations for Title III-Public Accommodations contact:

U.S. Department of Justice

PO Box 66738

Washington, DC 20035-6738

202-514-0301- Voice

202-514-0333- TTY

Alternative formats are available.

ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities and those for Transportation Vehicles contact:

1331 F Street. NW

Suite 1000

Washington, DC 20004-1111

202-272-5434- Voice

202-272-5449- TTY

800-872-2253- Voice/TTY

Alternative formats are available.

ADA Regulations for Title IV–Telecommunications contact:

Federal Communications Commission

Office of Public Affairs

1919 M Street NW

Room 254

Washington, DC 20554

202-632-7000- Voice

202-632-6999- TTY

For more information visit:



The Job Accommodation Network at West Virginia University


For a challenging game featuring questions on the ADA and real-life applications visit:


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Protection from Discrimination in Transportation

Title II of the ADA specifically covers publicly funded programs, activities and services on the federal, state and local levels. This includes transportation rights.

The ADA protects the right of people with disabilities to use public transportation, regardless of their disabilities. You do not have to be in a wheelchair, use a scooter or have any visible signs of a disability to be covered under the law. Disability may be physical, psychological or developmental in nature. The ADA defines disability as any “impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Medical documentation, however, usually is needed.

Public modes of transportation that are covered under the ADA include the following:

  • Urban transit
  • Paratransit (door-to-door transport service)
  • Rail systems and transit facilities (such as Amtrak)
  • Buses
  • Boats, ships or ferries
  • All government-funded transportation

ADA coverage does not extend to air travel because air travel rights already are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act.

The right to transportation also is protected by the ADA if a person uses any privately owned transportation system or service whose “primary business is transporting the general public.” One example is a privately owned bus company.

Businesses that offer transportation to the general public also must provide services to all people regardless of disability. Examples include the following:


Private colleges

Funeral homes

Social centers

Day care centers

Other federal, state and local laws exist to turther protect people with disabilities and their right to transportation.

Implementing ADA standards takes time and may sometimes be costly. For example, vehicles covered under the law may need to be structurally altered or new vehicles may need to be purchased or rented. “Reasonable accommodations” such as paratransit services may have to be provided by some transportation services that do not meet ADA standards. However, exceptions exist. For example, while taxis cannot deny service to people with disabilities, they do not have to structurally alter their vehicles to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.

For more information on the specifics of the ADA, to ask questions or to file a complaint, visit the United States Department of Justice at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/add/adahom1.htm

You may also contact the U.S. Department of Transportation:

400 7th Street, S. W.

Washington, D.C. 20590



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Protection from Discrimination in Public Accommodations

Title III of the ADA protects the right of people with disabilities to access the same public accommodations as the general public, regardless of physical or mental disabilities. These include the following:

  • Places of lodging (hotels, inns, motels)
  • Places of exhibition or entertainment (movies, theaters, concert halls, stadiums)
  • Places of public gathering (auditoriums, conventions centers, lecture halls)
  • Places of public display or collection (museums, libraries, galleries)
  • Places of recreation or entertainment (parks, zoos, amusement parks)
  • Places of exercise or recreation (gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses)
  • Places of education (nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate schools, including private)
  • Establishments serving food or drink (restaurants, cafes, bars)
  • Sales or rental establishments (Stores, shopping centers, malls)
  • Service establishments (hospitals, health care providers, laundromats, dry cleaners, banks, beauty parlors, barbershops, repair shops, gas stations, funeral parlors, and offices of accountants, lawyers, insurance agents)
  • Social service establishments (day care or senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, food banks, adoption agencies)
  • Stations used for public transportation (terminals, depots)

People with disabilities are also protected from discrimination in public accommodations that are privately owned.

The rights of people with disabilities go beyond access to buildings. People with disabilities have the right to the same services, programs and activities offered to the general public. For example, people with disabilities cannot be held to different standards or requirements nor screened from participating due to disability. They may not be segregated from the general public unless doing so offers equal opportunity access and then only if the disabled per-son chooses to do so. Safety requirements may be established but only if they indeed offer protection; they cannot be based upon stereotypes or fears of the disabled.

Title III of the ADA establishes the building requirements for all public accommodations. These include making changes to “architectural barriers” when “readily achievable.” Examples of this may include modifying or removing curbs or steps; widening doorways, aisles and bathroom stalls; lowering telephones and drinking fountains; adding ramps and grip bars; and when necessary, relocating programs and services.

All new buildings must be accessible to people with disabilities. Elevators, however, usually are not required in buildings “under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor.” Exceptions to this would include public transit stations, shopping malls and health care facilities. Structures must pass local building code requirements as well.

Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from ADA requirements. Private residences (apartments and homes) also are exempt. However, people with disabilities are protected from discrimination in both renting and selling practices under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA). The Department of Housing and Urban Development, often known as simply “HUD,” administers the FHAA.

For more information on the ADA and protection from discrimination in public accommodations, or to file a complaint, visit the United States Department of Justice at: www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adagin1.htm

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

What is the Purpose of IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is an education act which provides federal financial assistance to State and local education agencies to guarantee special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities.

Who Is Protected?

Children ages 3-21 who are determined by a multidisciplinary team to be eligible within one or more of 13 specific categories of disability and who need special education and related services. Categories include autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, hearing impairments, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.

What is a Free, Appropriate Public Education?

A Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is defined to mean special education and related services. Special education means “specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of the child with a disability….” Related services are provided if students require them in order to benefit from specially designed instruction. States are required to ensure the provision of “full educational opportunity” to all children with disabilities.

IDEA requires the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) document with specific content and a required number of specific participants at an IEP meeting.

What are the Procedural Safeguards of IDEA?

IDEA requires written notice to parents regarding identification, evaluation, and/or placement. Further, written notice must be made prior to any change in placement. The Act delineates the required components of the written notices.

What are Evaluation/Placement Procedures?

A comprehensive evaluation is required. A multidisciplinary team evaluates the child, and parental consent is required before an initial evaluation. IDEA requires that reevaluations be conducted at least every three years. A reevaluation is not required before a significant change in placement.

For evaluation and placement decisions, IDEA requires that more than one single procedure or information source be used; that information from all sources be documented and carefully considered; that the eligibility decision be made by a group of persons who know about the student, the evaluation data, and placement options; and that the placement decision serves the student in the least restrictive environment. An IEP review meeting is required before any change in placement.

What are Due Process Rights under IDEA?

IDEA delineates specific requirements for local education agencies to provide impartial hearings for parents who disagree with the identification, evaluation, or placement of a child.

For more information visit:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS

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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

What is Section 504?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1973 is a civil rights statute that states in part:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States… shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . .” (29 U.S.C. § 794[A])

Who is an “individual with a disability” under Section 504?

An “individual with a disability” is any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (ii) has a record of such impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment. (29 U.S.C. § 706[8][B])

What physical or mental impairments qualify as “disabilities”?

Under Section 504, “[physical or mental impairment” means

(A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin and endocrine; or (B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome. emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. (34 C.F.R. 104.3[j][2][i])

What is the relationship between Section 504 eligibility and special education?

Section 504 is a broader category than special education. Every child who is entitled to services under special education is deemed to be an “individual with a disability” under Section 504. But many per-sons who are “individuals with a disability” under Section 504 are not covered by special education statutes.

What educational rights does an individual with a disability have under Section 504?

Under Section 504 a recipient [of Federal funds] that operates a public elementary or secondary school program shall provide a free appropriate public education [FAPE] to each qualified handicapped person who is in the recipient’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap. (34 C.F.R. 104.33[a])

A free appropriate public education (FAPT ) Under Section 504 entails provision of educational and related services without cost to the handicapped person or to his or her parents or guardian, except for those fees that are imposed on non-handicapped persons or their parents or guardian. (34 C.F.R. 104.33[c][1])

What procedural rights does a student who may have a ~504 disability have?

Section 504 requires that a person who may have a qualifying disability is entitled to a pre-placement evaluation. That evaluation must be conducted by means of “tests that have been validated for the specific purpose for which they are used and are administered by trained personnel in conformance with the instructions provided by their producer; . . . [that are] tailored to assess specific areas of educational need . . . ; and . . . are selected and administered to a student with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factor the test purports to measure . . .” (34 C.F.R. 104.35[b][1]-[3])

Moreover. Section 504 requires that the placement decision [for a student who may have disability] is made by “a “group of persons, including persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options . . .” (34 C.F.R. l04.35[c][3])

What if a parent or guardian is dissatisfied with the child’s ~504 evaluation and placement?

Section 504 provides that there must be a “system of procedural safeguards that includes notice [to the parent/guardian of the assessment’s outcome], an opportunity for the parent or guardian of the person ton examine relevant records, an impartial hearing with opportunity for participation by the person’s parents or guardian and representation by counsel, and a review procedure.” (34 C.F.R. 104.36)

For more information visit:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS

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Disability in the Workplace

Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining, and Accommodating Employees with Disabilities

One in every five Americans has a disability. If this number seems high, consider that disability includes hearing and visual impairments, chronic health conditions, orthopedic problems and many other conditions. Not all people with disabilities use wheelchairs, and many disabilities are invisible.

Most accommodations (69%) cost less than $500 and almost 20% of accommodations cost nothing at all. In addition, companies report an average return of $28.69 in benefits for every dollar invested in accommodations.

Accommodations on the job can include modified work schedules, job restructuring, and providing written materials in alternate format, such as in large print or on audio tape. Accommodations also include providing equal opportunity in the application process. Be sure that the places persons apply for jobs are accessible, and that the application is available in alternate formats, if requested.

Detailed job descriptions can be very helpful to a person with a disability in determining, prior to applying for the job, whether they are actually qualified for the job in question. The ADA does not require job descriptions, but good ones should list the essential job functions.

Federal and state tax incentives are available to employers who hire people with disabilities. Filing for these credits does not increase your chances of being audited!

According to a study conducted in 1995, the biggest barriers to employment for people with disabilities are employers’ fears, prejudices, and lack of knowledge about disabilities. Sometimes, all an employer needs to do is see the person first, not the disability.

Many resources are available to provide free assistance to employers in understanding the ADA, locating potential employees with disabilities, and determining and obtaining appropriate accommodations.

People with disabilities are ready, willing and able to work. All they need is an opportunity.

For more information visit:

The Job Accommodation Network at West Virginia University

Excerpted from: Job Accommodation Network

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