Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the civil rights legislation for individuals with disabilities “clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities”. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990 and was fully enforceable by 1994.

Barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications have imposed staggering economic and social costs on American society and have undermined our well-intentioned efforts to educate, rehabilitate, and employ individuals with disabilities. By breaking down these barriers, the ADA will enable society to benefit from the skills and talents of individuals with disabilities, will allow us all to gain from their increased purchasing power and ability to use it, and will lead to fuller, more productive lives for all Americans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act 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.

In essence, if you are not compliant with any part of this Act, you are breaking federal law. However, many people don’t understand the law and are not certain where to turn to get free advice. While you can always go to the national website (, we wanted to provide you with quick access. The handouts provide you with information specific to employment (Title I), local and state governance (Title II), accessibility in the public sector (Title III), and telecommunications for individuals with sensory disabilities (Title IV). Title V addresses other aspects in general.


  • Does the ADA apply to State and local governments?

    Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all State and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of State or local governments. It clarifies the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for public transportation systems that receive Federal financial assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public transportation, whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance. It establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems, including commuter and intercity rail (AMTRAK).

  • Does Title II require that telephone emergency service systems be compatible with all formats used for nonvoice communications?

    No. At present, telephone emergency services must only be compatible with the Bardot format. Until it can be technically proven that communications in another format can operate in a reliable and compatible manner in a given telephone emergency environment, a public entity would not be required to provide direct access to computer modems using formats other than Bardot.

  • What changes must a public entity make to its existing facilities to make them accessible?

    A public entity must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs, and activities because existing buildings are inaccessible. A State or local government's programs, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This standard, known as "program accessibility," applies to facilities of a public entity that existed on January 26, 1992. Public entities do not necessarily have to make each of their existing facilities accessible. They may provide program accessibility by a number of methods including alteration of existing facilities, acquisition or construction of additional facilities, relocation of a service or program to an accessible facility, or provision of services at alternate accessible sites.

  • What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing or vision impairments?

    Appropriate auxiliary aids and services may include services and devices such as qualified interpreters, assistive listening devices, note takers, and written materials for individuals with hearing impairments; and qualified readers, taped texts, and Brailed or large print materials for individuals with vision impairments.

  • What requirements apply to a public entity's emergency telephone services, such as 911?

    State and local agencies that provide emergency telephone services must provide "direct access" to individuals who rely on a TDD or computer modem for telephone communication. Telephone access through a third party or through a relay service does not satisfy the requirement for direct access. Where a public entity provides 911 telephone service, it may not substitute a separate seven-digit telephone line as the sole means for access to 911 services by nonvoice users. A public entity may, however, provide a separate seven-digit line for the exclusive use of nonvoice callers in addition to providing direct access for such calls to its 911 line.

General ADA Information

Title II - Public Services