What is the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA?
Since 1990 you may have noticed more braille on buildings and ATMs, more birds chirping as you walk across busy streets in your city, and larger, more accomodating bathrooms in restaurants and other publlic buildings. If you are a delivery person or parent, you may have enjoyed the convenience of the many curb cuts on sidewalks and the installment of elevators that make your large package or baby stroller much easier to get to the eight floor. All of these changes in our society, changes which help the blind, those in wheelchairs and others with disabilities, were put into place due to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, otherwise known as ADA.
Since 1990, the ADA has been an imperative catalyst to providing equal rights to persons with disabilities. Much like the civil rights protections provided to individuals on the basis of age, national origin, religious affiliation, sex, race and color, the ADA is a federal civil-rights statue developed to protect and establish the rights of disabled persons by eliminating barriers to public accomodations, public services, telecommunications, transportation and employment.
The ADA has transformed the rights of the disabled in terms of physical access to public buildings, as well as access to programs, activities and procedures for public services entities. Telecommunications companies have improved services for disabled consumers. The Teletypwriter (TTY) and Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) are widely used, making it easier for disabled persons to make phone calls and communicate with the same freedom as others. The ADA has also been imperative in creating equal rights for the enjoyment of facilities, goods, services and accomodations of public spaces for disabled persons. This includes hotels, restaurants, stores, health care organizations, educational institutions and most public service entities, but excludes private clubs, religious organizations and places where it would damage or destroy the historic significance of a building.
In terms of employment, the ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. Employers are now held responsible by law to be fair and all-inclusive in their job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other conditions of employement. While an employer is never required to lower their production standards or quality, nor are they are required to provide employees with personal items such as hearing aids or glasses, they are required to make their facilities accessible to those with disabilities, make reasonable modifications to their equipment or devices, and adjust their training materials, examinations and policies for those with disabilities.
It is undeniable that discrimination against disabled persons is still present in today's society. The ADA has done little to increase the unemployment rate of disabled persons, voting boths remain unaccessible to many disabled persons, and many educational institutions still have modifications to make for full access. While these issues are a work in progress, the ADA has done much to improve equal rights for the disabled persons of America.
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