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Understanding the Americans With Disabilities Act4 minute read • Dec. 12, 2023
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the civil rights of people with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to job opportunities, buying goods and services, and taking part in state and local government programs and services.
ADA safeguards those with physical or mental impairments that significantly restrict major life activities like walking, speaking, hearing and working. It also extends to 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. Employers must make reasonable efforts to help returning employees qualify for their pre-military duty job or a similar one.
- 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, or you can call the ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 1-833-610-1264 (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. Consultants collaborate with the services’ wounded warrior programs and the VA to swiftly connect callers to resources meeting their needs. To speak with a consultant, call 800-342-9647, schedule a live chat or view overseas calling options.