Hello All,

This is another flashback. This time we have an article from September 21, 2014. This is a basic overview of the ADA. Enjoy reading!

Our previous post discussed the history behind the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), beginning with the first US patent for a wheelchair, and ending with the passage of the most sweeping disability rights legislation in history.  This time, we’d like to take a look at the ADA from a different angle.  Just what is the ADA, and what does it mean for individuals with disabilities, particularly those with spinal cord injuries, and wheelchair users?  The entire text of the ADA is available online (I’ll put a link below).  Because of this we don’t wish to go into extreme detail about every aspect of the act.  You can read through it if you wish.  Instead, we would just like to take a brief look at what each part of the law means, and explore the topic of public access today.   Let’s explore ADA in the spirit of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month!

There are two central concepts relating to the ADA that are commonly misunderstood.  The first misconception is that the ADA is a building code.  Although there are many implications and precepts that affect both local and state codes, the ADA is more than just a guide to construction practices.  It is a civil rights law, modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Because of this a building owner can be taken to court for blatant refusal to comply with ADA.  The second misconception is about the rigidity of the law.  The ADA is actually quite flexible, and worded to cover many different situations fairly and differently.

There are five titles in the ADA, so in order to understand the law completely let’s take a look at each individually.  Following each section we will list some examples of how it relates to individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Depiction of Employment, Title One of the ADA.

Title I: Employment

Title I: Employment

This section of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the known limitations of qualified employees, unless such accommodation would impose undue hardship on the employer.

E.g.- Reasonable accommodations for individuals with spinal cord injuries could include making facilities readily accessible, job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, and acquisition or modification of equipment or devices.

Title II: Public Services

This takes the concept of program accessibility from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and extends that concept to state and local governments, regardless of whether they receive federal funds.  It also insures transportation to individuals with disabilities, while tempering these requirements with limitations that guard against undue burdens on the owners of such services.

E.g.- Individuals using wheelchairs may not be denied access to parks or recreational facilities. Requirements that tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, such as requiring a driver’s license as the only acceptable form of identification are also prohibited.

Title III: Public Accommodation

Sign that reads accessible entrance.

Title III: Public Accomodation

In this section public accommodation is defined to mean a private entity that owns, leases, or leases to, or operates a “place of public accommodation”, where the general public has free access.  This governs accessibility in commercial facilities, meaning facilities intended for non-residential use whose operations affect commerce, such as warehouses and factories.  This section states that a physical barrier need be removed only when its removal is determined by the owner to be readily achievable, that is, accomplished without much difficulty or expense.  The most rigorous requirements in this section apply to new construction, and alterations.

E.g.- Barrier removal may include installing ramps, making curb cuts at sidewalks and entrances, and widening doorways.

Title IV: Telecommunication

This mandates that companies offering telephone services to the general public must offer telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf, T.D.D.s, or similar devices.

E.g.- Applies primarily to hearing or speech impaired individuals.

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

This addresses fine points in defining disability and implementation, and offers sources of technical assistance.

E.g.- This part of ADA insures that states cannot claim immunity from being sued in relation to the ADA, and also protects individuals who successfully sue a company, government agency, or other entity from retaliation.


Hopefully this brief overview of the ADA’s parts has helped in the understanding of it as a whole.  As promised, below is the link for ADA.gov if you wish to explore the law in more detail.  The entire document can be found under the Law/Regulations tab.  The website also has a collection of documentation of past and ongoing cases and complaints regarding violations of the law.  This is very eye-opening to look through.  In addition, there are sections for technical assistance materials, and design standards.   Until we meet again…