Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990. The ADA is designed to protect individuals from discrimination stemming not only from outward prejudice, but also from the unfamiliarity and insensitivity to the difficulties confronting individuals with disabilities. It requires employers to self-evaluate programs, practices and facilities, and to identify and address those elements that hinder the disabled population from effectively participating in public programs.
General employment practices which are regulated by Title I of the ADA in the normal employment process are: application, testing, hiring, assignment, evaluation, disciplinary action, training, promotion, medical examination, layoff/recall, termination, compensation, leave and benefits.
Generally speaking, the ADA covers all aspects of the employment process. Specifically, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) considers the following to be discrimination with regard to Title I:
- Limiting, segregating or classifying a job applicant or employee in a way that adversely affects employment opportunities for the applicant or employee because of his/her disability.
- Participating in a contractual or other arrangement or relationship that subjects an employer's qualified applicant or employee with a disability to discrimination.
- Denying employment opportunities to a qualified individual because he/she has a relationship or association with a person with a disability.
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified applicant or employee with a disability, unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the business.
- Using qualification standards, employment tests, or other selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability unless they are job-related and necessary for the business.
- Failing to use employment tests in the most effective manner to measure actual abilities. Tests must accurately reflect the skill, aptitude or other factors being measured, and not the impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills of an employee or applicant with a disability (unless those are the skills the test is designed to measure).
- Discriminating against an individual because he/she has opposed an employment practice of the employer or filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing to enforce provisions of the Act.
A public entity must examine each program to determine whether any physical barriers to access exist. It should identify any action needed to achieve accessibility for each program when viewed in its entirety and include corrective measures in the transition plan.
A public entity must review its policies and practices to determine whether any exclude or limit the participation of individuals with disabilities in its programs, activities, or services. Such policies or practices must be modified, unless they are necessary for the operation or provision of the program, service, or activity. The self-evaluation should identify policy modifications to be implemented and include complete justification for any exclusionary or limiting policies or practices that will not be modified.
A public entity should review its policies to ensure that they include provisions for readers or other communicative measures for individuals with visual impairments; interpreters or other alternative communication measures, as appropriate, for individuals with hearing impairments; and amanuenses for individuals with manual impairments. A method for securing these services should be developed, including guidance on when and where these services will be provided. Where equipment is used as part of a public entity's program, activity, or service, an assessment should be made to ensure that the equipment is usable by individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals with hearing, visual, and manual impairments. In addition, a public entity should have policies that ensure that its equipment is maintained in operable working order.
A review should be made of the procedures to evacuate individuals with disabilities during an emergency. This may require the installation of visual and audible warning signals and special procedures for assisting individuals with disabilities from a facility during an emergency.
A review should be conducted of a public entity's written and audio-visual materials to ensure that individuals' with disabilities are not portrayed in an offensive or demeaning manner.
A public entity should review its policies to ensure that its decisions concerning fundamental alterations in programs, activities, or services, and determinations concerning any potential undue burden as described in Title II of the ADA, are made in a proper, expeditious, systematic and uniform manner.
A public entity should review its building and construction policies to ensure that the construction or alteration of any facility or part of a facility after January 26, 1992 conforms to the standards designated under the regulations to Title II.
Measures should be taken to ensure that employees of a public entity are familiar with the policies and practices providing for the full participation of individuals with disabilities.
The public entity should take measures to communicate with program applicants, participants, and other members of the public with disabilities in a manner that is as effective as it communicates with others. If a public entity communicates with applicants and beneficiaries by telephone, it should ensure that TDDs or equally effective telecommunication systems are used to communicate with individuals with impaired hearing or speech. Finally, if a public entity provides telephone emergency services, it should review its policies to ensure direct access to individuals who use TDDs and computer modems. This might include providing auxiliary aids and services such as telephone handset amplifiers, hearing aid compatible telephone instruments, and telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD). In buildings where telephones are provided for public use, one telephone must be installed at a height that meets wheelchair accessibility rules, and the location must be free from any access barriers.