What Is ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was enacted to ensure that all qualified individuals with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities.  The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion.  It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.  The ADA directly affects state courts as providers of public programs and services.

Under the act, an individual with a “disability” is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, has a record of such an impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.  Examples of physical impairments include:  speech and hearing impairments, visual impairments, epilepsy, heart disease, HIV infections/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and mobility impairments.  Examples of mental impairments include:  learning disabilities and psychological disorders.

The ADA is divided into five sections.  Title I of the act prohibits unreasonable discrimination against qualified individuals based on a disability in all employment activities.  Under Title II of the Act, no qualified individual with a disability shall be unreasonably discriminated against, or excluded from participation in or benefits of the services, programs, or activities of state and local government, including the judicial branch.  Title III prohibits discrimination by public accommodations, that is, a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodations.  Such a place is defined as, among other things, services by doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals.  Title IV relates to telecommunications and Title V contains miscellaneous provisions.