Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Things to Know about the Americans with Disabilities Act #ADA

  1. Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act. You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz lately about “the ADA” and its 25th anniversary. But do you know what it is? Put simply, the ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public. There are five sections, referred to in the law as “titles,” that detail the rights of the approximately 54 million Americans with disabilities. The ADA impacts employers, schools, businesses and transportation providers. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the main federal agency that enforces the ADA, has a comprehensive frequently asked questions section that can help anyone looking to understand the nature of this important civil rights law. If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you can file a complaint with DOJ or a charge of employment discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  1. Happy Anniversary to the ADA! The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990 and this month, communities around the country are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this landmark legislation. In celebrating the ADA, we’re celebrating the ways in which it has transformed the lives of people with disabilities in education, employment, transportation, telecommunications and community participation. Americans across the country are commemorating the signing of this historic law in a variety of ways, such as by hosting eventsrallies and other gatherings. Hundreds of organizations and government agencies have signed the Proclamation for the 25th ADA Anniversary. The ADA National Network is encouraging individuals and groups to recommit to the ADA through their “PLEDGE ON! to the ADA” The ADA Legacy Project also offers suggestions on ways to recognize the anniversary, including visiting their ADA Museum on Wheels, which is now traveling across the country. Disability.gov and other organizations are also using social media to help spread the word about this important celebration. Be sure to check out our series of guest blogs on the ADA. There are also manyeducational resources about the history of the ADA and the disability rights movement available online.
  1. The ADA National Network. It’s important to know your rights under the ADA and there are many resourcesthat can help you get a better understanding of the law. One useful resource is the ADA National Network, which consists of 10 regional centers and an ADA Knowledge Translation Center (ADAKTC). The Network offers a variety of ADA services that help businesses, governments and individuals at local, regional and national levels understand the ADA and how it applies to them. It provides basic information on the five titles of the ADA, as well as fact sheets on various ADA topics. In collaboration with the ADAKTC, the Network also develops regional ADA profiles that include information about news and events within each region. The Network’s ADA training sessions provide opportunities to learn more about the various parts of the law. In addition to providing information and training, the Network is also involved in several national network projects. For answers to questions about the ADA, call 1-800-949-4232 or visit the Network’s Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What Employers Need to Know. Employers must understand their obligations under Title I of the ADAThe ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 cover all aspects of employment, from the hiring process to pay, training, lay-offs and beyond. Under the law, employers may not discriminate against a qualified individual based on his or her disability. However, an employer doesn’t have to hire a person with a disability if the candidate is not qualified for the job. During the recruiting and hiring process, an employer may not ask job applicants medical questions or require them to take a medical exam before extending a job offer. An employer also may not ask job applicants if they have a disability, or about the nature of the disability. Once an employer has hired someone with a disability, the company must provide reasonable accommodations if that individual requires them in order to successfully perform the job. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) helps employers understandreasonable accommodations. Browse their Accommodation Information by Disability: A to Z Web page to find a solution that best fits employees’ needs. Use the Searchable Online Accommodation Resource system to learn more about job accommodations. The EEOC and DOJ offer additional information about employment and disability discrimination.
  1. Rights with Rover and Fido. People with disabilities may use a service or emotional support animal for a variety of reasons. As defined by the ADA, a service animal is an animal – almost always a dog – that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other disability. Service animals are specifically defined and covered under Titles II and III of the ADATherapy, emotional support or comfort animals – trained or not – even if used as part of a prescribed medical treatment, are not considered as service animals under the ADA. Service animals and their handlers have rights and responsibilities under the ADA. Service animals must be under control through a harness, leash, tether or voice commands or signals. They are allowed in public places, including restaurants, unless they are out of control or not housebroken. Businesses and public places may only ask if a service animal is required because of a disability and what work it is trained to perform; they can’t ask for medical documentation or training documentation for the service animal.
  1. Pregnancy and the ADA. Women expecting a new bundle of joy may be protected under the ADA, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Under these laws, if an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee and provide reasonable accommodations. This may include light duty, modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay. Impairments resulting from pregnancy, including gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, may be disabilities under the ADA and an employer may have to provide reasonable accommodations. The EEOC issued updated pregnancy discrimination guidelines after the Supreme Court concluded that women may be able to prove discrimination if an employer accommodated some workers but not pregnant women. While the ADA covers a pregnant employee in the case of temporary disability and accommodations, there are other relevant laws that do so as well. JAN has great resources for employees and employers on pregnancy accommodations. The National Women’s Law Center fact sheet, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Amended Americans with Disabilities Act: Working Together to Protect Pregnant Workers, provides further details.
  1. Accessing Health Care. Proper health care leads to improved quality of life for people with disabilities, and the ADA requires doctors and hospitals to provide equal access to health care to all Americans, regardless of disability. The law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public and private hospitals and health care facilities. Whether or not a medical facility is accessible impacts the ability of a patient with a disability to receive adequate health care services. Health care providers may need to provide aids and services for effective communication, such as sign language interpreters for patients who are deaf. They also need to remove physical barriers from their facilities and follow ADA accessibility standards for new construction andalterations and additions. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center has put together a list of resources that help define health care rights and responsibilities under the ADA. Read the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) fact sheet about the rights of people with disabilities in accessing health care. In addition to HHS, DOJ’sBarrier-Free Health Care Initiative works to ensure and enforce equal access to health care for people with disabilities.
  1. Veterans and the ADA. Service members who have been seriously injured while on active duty in the U.S. military, whether experiencing a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, hearing or vision loss or post-traumatic stress disorder, have rights under the ADA. The DOJ guide about the rights of returning service members with disabilities covers employment, accessibility of stores and other public places and participation in community activities. As a civil rights law, the ADA has different standards than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Veterans seeking employment should review the EEOC’s Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A Guide for Veterans, which details how the ADA and the relatedUniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protect veterans from employment discrimination. Listen to a Disability Law Lowdown Podcast discussing the differences between USERRA and the ADA.
  1. Emergency Planning, Response and Recovery. State and local governments are responsible for helping their citizens prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. The ADA requires equal access for, and prohibits discrimination against, people with disabilities in emergency planning, response and recovery. DOJ’s guide,Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities, outlines information for accessible disaster notification systems, evacuation plans, emergency transportation, shelters and more. Learn how to make emergency management programs, services and activities accessible withbest practices for state and local governments and follow this checklist to assess your programs. Emergency shelters should also evaluate their facilities for accessibility. State and local agencies that provide emergency telephone services must also provide “direct access” to individuals with speech and hearing disabilities. UnderTitle IV of the ADA, telecommunications companies must provide relay services so people who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate with emergency response agencies.  Television stations must include closed captioning when providing emergency information. The Federal Communications Commission also requires that broadcasters and cable operators make local emergency information available to people with hearing and visual disabilities. To learn more, read Disability.gov’s “Guide to Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery.”
  1. Swimming Pools and Accommodation. Lazy days at the pool are often a big part of enjoying summer’s warmer weather. As we celebrate the ADA’s 25th anniversary, it’s important to understand what the law says about accommodations for people with disabilities at swimming pools. Under Title III of the ADA, public places must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means that swimming pools, water recreation facilities and spas in public locations and hotels must have at least one accessible means of entry – such as a pool liftsloped entrypool stairs or a transfer wall or system. The U.S. Access Board’s Guide on Swimming Pools, Wading Pools and Spas further details these types of facilities and how they can be made accessible to people with disabilities. Private residential communities are not required to make accommodations for people with disabilities under the ADA.
For more information about the ADA, visit Disability.gov’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Web page. Don’t forget to like Disability.gov on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #DisabilityConnection to talk about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog for insightful tips and information from experts and disability advocates.

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