The Americans with Disabilities Act is a landmark piece of legislation whose main purposes are to provide protection from discrimination to individuals with disabilities and to reduce or eliminate many of the barriers that those with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis. The Americans with Disabilities Act, often referred to as the ADA, was passed by the United States Congress and signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The ADA was subsequently modified through the passage of the ADA Amendments Act by the United States Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. Since the passage of the ADA, the United States Supreme Court often narrowly interpreted the provisions of the original law, which made it harder for disabled individuals to prove that they were being discriminated against. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 was therefore designed to broaden the interpretation of the original Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is divided into five main sections, known as titles. Title I of the ADA essentially protects the right of employment by individuals with disabilities by preventing most employers from discriminating against qualified candidates solely on the basis of a disability. According to the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that adversely affects the activity of an individual. This does not mean that an employer is required to hire an individual with a disability. It does mean that an employer cannot rule out a candidate that meets the minimum requirements of the job and is able to perform essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodations.
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act extends the protections furnished by the ADA to employees of state and local governments and to activities and programs provided through state and local governments. Title II of the ADA ensures that state and local governments must comply with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title II also sets forth guidelines that are designed to increase the accessibility of public transportation.
The third section of the ADA addresses the requirements and responsibilities that private enterprises with public access have under the law. Title III requires that private businesses such as stores, restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, lodging facilities, and services such as transportation companies, meet minimum requirements to increase accessibility to individuals with disabilities. Title IV of the act requires telephone companies to provide relay services, allowing hearing and speech impaired individuals the ability to communicate on the telephone. The last section of the ADA, Title V, is primarily designed to provide instructions to Federal agencies for the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.