The Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 31!
This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act turned 31. This is a very important milestone, as the ADA made it possible for millions of Americans who have disabilities to live a life of equality. This act protects the rights of disabilities, from employment to access to private establishments. Read on to learn more about the ADA and its importance.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act is also known as the ADA. The purpose of the ADA is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in everyday activities. It is divided into five sections, or titles, addressing different areas of public life. These titles include employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and miscellaneous. Through the governance of these five sections, the ADA has provided equal opportunity for those with disabilities.
Five Titles of the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act is divided into five titles, each addressing a different area:
Title I- Employment
Under Title I, employers are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities in all aspects of employment. They are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees, including accessible workstations and worksites, providing services as needed, modifying schedules and equipment as needed, etc. This title covers employers who have 15 or more employees.
Title II- Public Services
Title II prohibits public services from denying services to persons with disabilities. They also can’t discriminate against people with disabilities by not allowing them to participate in activities or programs that are available to people without disabilities. Public transportation has to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Title III- Public Accommodations
Title III requires public accommodations to be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes stores, restaurants, hotels, and more. All new construction buildings must be accessible to disabled persons, and existing buildings must have all barriers removed if possible.
Title IV- Telecommunications
If a telecommunications company offers telephone services to the general public, under Title III, they must also offer telephone relay services to people who use telecommunication devices for the deaf.
Title V- Miscellaneous
Title V prohibits people from coercing, threatening, or retaliating against people with disabilities or people who are attempting to help people with disabilities from asserting their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Who Is Protected by the ADA?
The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that puts a limit on their day-to-day activities. This also includes someone who has a past disability, such as having cancer that has gone into remission. Someone who others perceive to have a disability is also protected by the ADA. Something to note is that you don’t have to apply to be covered by the ADA. It’s a law, so anyone with a disability is automatically protected.
Some examples of disabilities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act include:
- Intellectual disabilities
- Low vision or being blind
- Hearing loss or being deaf
- Mobility disabilities that cause one to have to use a walker or wheelchair
- And many other disabilities that are not included here
History of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Signed into law by President Bush on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibited any kind of discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or sex. The ADA is a law enforcing equal opportunity for those with disabilities. It was a historical milestone, as it was the first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.
The ADA was a very big deal, as it guaranteed that those with disabilities had the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Businesses, employers, governments, and other providers were required to follow the provisions of the ADA, thus transforming American society.
In 2008, the ADAAA (ADA Amendments Act) was passed. This broadened the definition of “disability” to include other people who are associated with someone with a disability, such as a person with a disabled parent or someone who has experienced discrimination for helping someone with a disability. This act went into effect in January 2009.
ADA and The Baddour Center
Since The Baddour Center’s buildings were constructed in the late 1970s, and at least a decade before ADA came into existence, our original structures do not meet the requirements set forth in ADA. Although we are “grandfathered in,” we are proactively addressing each building individually while we renovate across campus.
For instance, in 2008, when we renovated GoodWorks Complex II, we created ramp walkways and installed double doors at the entry area of the building, as well as built bathrooms in compliance with ADA requirements. In 2018, we refreshed the Administration Building, seizing the opportunity to add concrete ramps at two walkways in order to create easier access to two primary-use doors/entries.
As we move forward with our campus Master Plan to renovate the original group homes and construct two new transitional homes, we are working with architects to meet all ADA requirements. In designing the two newly-built transitional homes, we are taking into account lowered kitchen counters, raised toilets, wider hallways and doors, fewer to zero thresholds, full ADA bathroom measures, grab bars and other safety measures, and exterior parking and wayfinding considerations, among other things.
Why It’s Important to Protect the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act is considered to be one of the most in-depth pieces of legislation regarding civil rights for those with disabilities. According to the 2020 Census, 12.7% of the population in the United States is disabled. The ADA has ensured that this portion of the population has more civil rights than in the past. They have more access to public facilities and services, and they can’t be discriminated against when applying for a job. The U.S. is more accessible to individuals with disabilities than ever before.