What is the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The ADA is a civil rights law that protects people with different types of disabilities from discrimination in all aspects of social life. More specifically, Title II of the ADA requires that all programs offered through the District of Columbia must be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
Who is protected under the ADA?
The ADA protects individuals with various kinds of disabilities. To be protected, a person must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The person must also be qualified to participate in the job, program, or activity at issue.
What are my rights under the ADA?
The ADA and District of Columbia policy require that people with disabilities have equal access to all city services, activities, and benefits. In other words, people with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to participate in the programs and services offered through the city. Examples of programs that the city offers are recreation and parks, police and fire services, museums, employment services, education, subsidized housing, maintenance of curbs and streets and many others. The most important rights the ADA provides include:
- No Exclusion—The ADA does not allow denial of participation in city programs, benefits, activities or services, simply because of a disability.
- Communication Access—The ADA requires that city agencies communicate to people with disabilities in a manner that is as effective as communication with others. This may require providing services such as:
- Large print, taped text, electronic documents or Braille (for people with impairments)
- ASL interpreters or captioning (for people with hearing impairments)
- Communicating via TTY for people with speech or hearing disabilities
- Programmatic Access—The ADA also requires that city agencies modify their policies, practices and procedures in order to provide an equal opportunity for a person with a disability to participate. Examples of this may include:
- Assistance in filling out forms
- Explaining materials or procedures in simpler language so that individuals with cognitive, learning or some psychiatric disabilities can easily understand them.
- Allowing a person with a disability to apply for services over the phone if the disability prevents him or her from coming to the office.
- Architectural/Facility Access—The ADA also requires that service areas, including bathrooms, public telephones, drinking fountains, etc., be architecturally accessible to people with disabilities.
Employment: The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against qualified people with disabilities. The ADA also requires reasonable accommodations be provided to employees with disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Provide an accessible desk for a person who cannot use a standard desk
- Provide screen-reading software for a person with a learning or vision disability
- Modify workplace policies
Note: It is also against the law to retaliate, threaten or interfere with anyone who is exercising his or her rights or anyone helping that person to do so.
What can I do if my rights under the ADA are violated?
- Contact the Office of Disability Rights
- Contact the US Department of Justice
- Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Contact the DC Office of Human Rights