What is Disability Discrimination?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 24 January 2020
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Disability discrimination occurs when a disabled person is treated badly as a result of his disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a U.S. law against the mistreatment of disabled people who have either a physical or mental impairment that limits them from performing certain activities. Though many disability discrimination lawsuits deal with discrimination in the workplace, the laws protect employees and the public, in general. One common discriminatory action is making decisions based on assumptions of what a disabled person can do, though classic mistreatment as the result a disability is also still an issue in 2011. Failing to make reasonable accommodations for disabled people on public property is also a form of this illegal practice.

Employers face legal repercussions for discriminating against current employees, but the laws do not stop there. Disabled applicants cannot be discriminated against while trying to get a job, during training or after termination. Disability discrimination often refers to blatant mistreatment, but it can also occur more subtly, such as when a qualified but disabled employee is passed up for a promotion or raise. Offering a lower salary or benefits is also a form of discrimination against disabled employees, unless there is a legitimate reason for this action. In addition, retaliating against an employee for reporting discrimination is also against the law.


When it comes to the general public, some people know enough to avoid blatantly harassing disabled people but may still offend them by continuing to rely on stereotypes. Making a decision based on assumptions regarding what a disabled person can and cannot do is illegal. For example, some employers may think they are being practical or even sensitive to their disabled employees by leaving them out of certain work events or tasks, but it is discrimination. The same can occur with disabled students at school, causing the disabled person feel singled out or left behind.

Refusing to make reasonable accommodations to public property for disabled people is also disability discrimination. If a person's life can be made a little easier with a simple change, that change is expected to be made. Some common examples of reasonable accommodations include installing a ramp to allow the use of a wheelchair, providing closed captioning or Braille for people who are hard of hearing or blind, and adding at least one larger stall to a public bathroom so a wheelchair can fit inside. Refusing to do so is considered disability discrimination and is punishable by law.


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