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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) (P.L. 100-336). It is generally agreed that this legislation marks the most significant expansion of U.S. civil rights laws in more than 25 years. The ADA has a profound impact on individuals with disabilities, those who work with these individuals, and all members of our society. The ADA provides sweeping protection against discrimination for the more than 40 million Americans with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services, and public accommodations. It also requires that new buses and trains be accessible to people with disabilities, and that telecommunication companies operate relay systems that allow individuals with speech and hearing impairments to use telephones. As stated in the Act, the purposes of this law are to:

  • Provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

  • Provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

  • Ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this act on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

  • Invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the 14th Amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities.

    There are several parts or "titles" in the ADA. Title I of the act addresses employment discrimination. This title prohibits employers, employment agencies, or labor organizations from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, in hiring, advancing, training, compensating and discharging employees, as well as in other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. Title II prohibits a qualified person with a disability from being excluded or denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity. It applies to all state and local governments, departments, and agencies. Title II also clarifies the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as it relates to public transportation systems that receive federal funds. This requirement makes it easier for individuals with disabilities to have access to public transportation.

    Title III forbids discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, and advantages of public accommodations. Public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, convention centers, retail sales firms, service establishments, depots, museums, parks, schools, social service centers, and recreation centers may not discriminate on the basis of disability. Physical barriers in existing facilities must be removed, if removal is readily achievable. If not, alternative methods of providing the services must be offered, if they are readily achievable. All new construction in public accommodations must be accessible.Title IV requires the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that interstate and intrastate telecommunication relay services are available to the extent possible and in the most efficient manner to individuals with speech and hearing impairments. It also requires that television public service announcements funded by the federal government be closed-captioned.

    All provisions of the ADA may be enforced by civil action brought by any person who is subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability. In addition, the law may be enforced by the U.S. Attorney General who is empowered to investigate alleged violations of the Act. In a civil action brought by the Attorney General, a court may assess a civil penalty not exceeding $50,000 for the first violation and $100,000 for any subsequent violation. For additional information, please contact:

    Arizona Office for Americans with Disabilities
    1700 W. Washington Street, Suite 164
    Phoenix, AZ 85007
    (602) 542-6276 - Voice
    (602) 542-6686 - TTY
    (602) 542-6163 - FAX
    (800) 358-3617 - Toll Free

    To learn more about Assistive Technology and AzTAP, please contact:Jill Oberstein, Project Director

    Arizona Technology Access Program
    Institute for Human Development
    Northern Arizona University
    4105 N. 20th Street, Suite 260
    Phoenix, AZ 85016
    (602) 728-9534 Voice
    (602) 728-9536 TTY
    (602) 728-9535 Fax
    (800) 477-9921 Toll-Free

    AzTAP provides support to five Regional Resource Centers (RRCs) in Arizona. These RRCs provide direct assistive technology services to persons with disabilities, and are available to help consumers select the most appropriate devices, and advocate for themselves in order to acquire funding for devices and services.

    ASSIST! To Independence
    Contact Person: Ann O'Connor
    PO Box 4133
    Tuba City, AZ 86045
    (928) 283-6261 Voice/TTY
    (888) 848-1449 Toll-Free

    IHD Assistive Technology Center
    Northern Arizona University
    Contact Person: Larry Gallagher
    Building 27, Room 171, PO Box 5630
    Flagstaff, AZ 86011
    (928) 523-5083 Voice
    (928) 523-1695 TTY
    (800) 553-0714 Toll-Free

    Southwest Human Development
    Contact Person: Cheryl Belitsky
    202 E. Earll Drive, Suite 140
    (602) 266-5976 ext. 324 Voice/TTY

    Technology Access Center of Tucson (TACT)
    Contact Person: Paula Feeney
    4710 E. 29th Street, PO Box 13178
    Tucson, AZ 85732-3178
    (520) 519-1776 Voice

    UCP of Central Arizona
    Contact Person: Cindy Blair 321 W. Hatcher Road, Suite 102
    Phoenix, AZ 85021
    (602) 943-5472 Voice

    This document was developed by the Arizona Technology Access Program. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) Grant #H224A40002. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NIDRR or the U.S. Department of Education, and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.