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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) P.L. 101-336 Overview



The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Three legislative promises to keep: freedom, equality, and opportunity. This issue of Tools for Inclusion gives an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Public Law 101-336. The ADA extends previous civil rights legislation by providing a clear mandate to end discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of life. The ADA is made up of five titles that cover employment, state and local government services, transportation, public accommodations (i.e., public places and services) and telecommunications. The primary scope and emphasis of each title is presented here. Companion newsletters will discuss Title I: Employment and Title III: Public Accommodations in greater detail. By learning more about the ADA, individuals with disabilities, their families and friends will be able to take full advantage of this landmark civil rights law.

Title I: Employment

The ADA prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment. The law requires that reasonable accommodation be made to enable qualified individuals with a disability to work on par with other employees. Working conditions, job applications, hiring and firing practices and employment-related services are some of the things covered by the law. A qualified individual is someone who has the education and/or experience required to do the job. Reasonable accommodation means an adjustment to the job or to the worksite which does not cause too much hardship for the employer. Examples of job accommodation include rearranging the person's work schedule, modifying the building or work environment and providing additional on-the-job training, an assistive device or extra personal assistance.

Title II: State and Local Government Services & Public Transportation

Discrimination by state or local government agencies is prohibited by the ADA which also requires that all governmental services or activities be made available and accessible to people with disabilities. These services include communication and public transportation systems. Title II requires that all new public transit buses and rail vehicles be wheelchair accessible and that transit authorities provide comparable transportation services to individuals who cannot use fixed route bus services.

Title III: Public Accommodations

The ADA prohibits discriminatory practices in providing goods and services to the general public and requires that all public buildings be accessible to people who use wheelchairs. Physical barriers in existing facilities have to be removed, if this is easy to accomplish and not too expensive. Furthermore, all new construction and any alterations must be accessible. Restaurants, banks, parks, theaters, stores and so on must change policies, practices and procedures. Examples include widening aisles and doorways, installing ramps and railings and putting up signs in alternative formats such as Braille. When feasible, public entities must also provide special aids or services to people with vision or hearing impairments.

Title IV: Telecommunications

The ADA requires that companies offering telephone services to the general public provide telephone relay services to people with hearing and/or speech impairments. For example, New England Telephone Relay Services are available at any time of day, to any Massachusetts resident with a teletypewriter (TTY) or a computer. Among other services, a relay operator transposes messages from type to voice and voice to type mediums. For more information, call New England Telephone Relay Services at 800-244-5798.

Title V: Miscellaneous

The ADA prohibits retaliation against individuals who seek to enforce their own or another's rights under the ADA. Title V covers insurance issues and explains the relationship between the ADA and other, previously existing, laws.


Through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a commitment has been made to end discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of American life. For more information about the ADA, please refer to the agency listings.


Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
2212 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
800-466-4232 (Voice & TTY)
This advocacy group is a good source of information about all aspects of the ADA.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20507
800 669-4000 (Voice); 800 669-6820 (TTY)
For technical assistance, or questions about interpreting and implementing the ADA employment regulations, call 800-669-4000 voice;TTY and ask for Attorney of the Day.

Job Accommodation Network
West Virginia University
P.O. Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506
(800) JAN-7234 (accommodation info)
(800) ADA-WORK (ADA info)

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20530
202-514-0301 (Voice);202-514-0383 (TTY)
ADA Information Line is open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. Alternative formats of Title II-A and Title III are available in large print, Braille, disk and audiotape.

U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street SW, Room 9316
Washington, DC 20590
202-366-4011 (Voice); 202-366-2979 (TTY)
Copies of the transportation rule in accessible formats are available upon request.

Federal Communications Commission
Office of Public Affairs
1919 M Street NW, Room 254
Washington, DC 20554
202-418-0500 (Voice); 202-418-2555 (TTY)

For more information, contact:
Institute for Community Inclusion
UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
(617) 287-4300 (v)
(617) 287-4350 (TTY)

This publication will be made available in alternate formats upon request. The opinions in this publication are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Education.

Written by:

Karen Zimbrich

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