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Understanding the Americans With Disabilities Act4 minute read • March 2, 2022
The Americans with Disabilities Act has been protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities for more than 30 years, making sure they have the same opportunities as everyone else to be part of everyday American life. The ADA ensures that people with disabilities can enjoy job opportunities, buy goods and services, and take part in state and local government programs and services.
People protected under the ADA are living with a physical or mental impairment that greatly limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, speaking, lifting, hearing, seeing, reading, sleeping, eating, concentrating or working. The ADA covers injured service members with a military disability, such as traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, loss of a limb, vision or hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The ADA makes it illegal to refuse to hire qualified people based on disability. Employers are also required to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, such as:
- Flexible scheduling
- A parking space close to an entrance
- Allowing service animals in the workplace
- Providing special equipment
Access to goods and services
Per the ADA, businesses that offer goods and services to the public must make adjustments to how they do business so that people with disabilities can be their customers. Businesses covered by the ADA include:
- Grocery stores
- Bars and restaurants
- Medical offices
- Sports arenas and concert halls
All buildings built since the ADA went into effect must provide easy-to-use access to people who have movement or sensory disabilities. Changes businesses might make include:
- Reading a menu to someone with impaired vision
- Providing a large-print copy of a rental contract
- Installing a ramp
- Providing accessible parking spaces
- Lowering a paper towel dispenser
Access to public services
State and local governments must also follow ADA rules and make changes to activities and services. Public services include:
- Public trade schools
- Community colleges
- Public hospitals
- Public transportation
All programs must be available to people with disabilities but not all buildings have to be accessible. Governments can choose whether to:
- Correct access problems at an inaccessible building
- Move a program to an accessible building
- Find another way to allow disabled persons to participate
Some resources for service members with disabilities include:
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act Vets Fact Sheet 3 — outlines job rights for veterans and reserve component members. A key item covered is that employers have to make reasonable efforts to help employees coming back to work become qualified for either the job they would have had if they hadn’t left for military duty or another similar job.
- A Guide to Disability Rights Laws — explains the federal disability rights laws that cover housing, air travel, telephone use and federal programs.
- Independent living centers — provide information about benefit programs and other services for people with disabilities. Learn about getting started and connecting with specific programs or services.
- State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies — provide services to help people with disabilities find jobs.
- The ADA website — provides more information, and you can call 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY)
Learn more by reading the booklet The ADA: Know Your Rights — Returning Service Members with Disabilities. This booklet provides information about employment accommodations, business access modifications, civic life and more. It also includes links to other helpful publications and agencies.
Still have questions? Military OneSource provides wounded warrior specialty consultation services and can help with ADA questions and more. The specialty consultants work with the services’ wounded warrior programs and the VA to ensure callers are promptly connected to resources that can help address their needs. To speak with a consultant, call 800-342-9647, schedule a live chat or view overseas calling options.