The barriers people with disabilities face begin with people’s attitudes – attitudes often based on misinformation and misunderstandings about what it is like to live with a disability. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that is opening doors for the 49 million Americans with disabilities.
Millions of people with disabilities regularly travel, shop, and eat out with family and friends. According to Census 2000, approximately 20.9 million families in this country have at least one member with a disability.
Of the 56 million people limited in their activities due to long-term disability...
Myth: My business is exempt from the ADA because it was "grandfathered in."
The Department of Justice has expressly denied the existence of a "grandfather clause" in the ADA. The ADA does not apply to discrimination that had both started and ended before the law came in to effect. However, any discrimination that has since continued can violate the ADA.
Myth: My business does not have to be accessible because it has less than 15 employees
Under Title I of the ADA, businesses can only be sued for discriminatory employment practices if the business employs 15 or more people. However, public services under Title II and places of public accommodation (businesses open to the public) under Title III are subject to ADA enforcement even if they have less than 15 employees. It's important to note that multiple titles of the ADA can apply to one entity, so while a business with less than 15 employees may not be covered for employment issues, it may still be covered under the rest of the ADA.
Myth: If I make one particular alteration for accessibility, I'll have to renovate everything.
Businesses are only required to make alterations that are "readily achievable," or what is "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense." In determining whether a particular alteration is "readily achievable", courts will look to the size, type, and overall finances of the business, as well as the costs of that particular alteration.
Myth: I don't need to remove barriers to accessibility since I am not currently renovating my business.
"Alteration" and "barrier removal" have very different meanings under the ADA. An "alteration" is a replacement, renovation, or addition to a business or facility. A business has additional obligations when it chooses to conduct such an alteration, but these additional requirements do not apply to businesses that are not making alterations. However - with or without alterations - a business has a continuing obligation to "remove barriers," or to get rid of obstacles that prevent or limit people with disabilities from obtaining the goods and services of that business. These obligations require a business to remove obstacles to accessibility when such removals are "readily achievable," or when they become "readily achievable" in light of changed circumstances.
Myth: I cannot be sued under the ADA since my customers/employees so not have disabilities.
Many disabilities are "invisible" and unrecognizable to many people. However, the ADA provides protection to people with disabilities regardless of how apparent their disabilities may be. The ADA defines an "actual disability" as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." For example, mental impairments are harder to perceive, and nonetheless substantially burden peoples' lives. The ADA defines "major life activities" to not only include more recognizable actions such as "walking," but also less recognizable actions such as "learning" and "concentrating."
In addition, people can qualify for protection under the ADA if they do not have an "actual disability." People who "have a record of [an actual] disability" or who "are regarded as having a disability" suffer from many of the same prejudices, biases, and stereotypes that are unfairly attached to people with actual disabilities. The ADA further protects people who are "associated with people with disabilities." For instance, a working mom who needs to take care of a disabled child would likely be protected under the ADA.
Myth: My business/facility accommodates for one disability so I am compliant with the ADA.
There are many types of disabilities, and the effects of these disabilities vary from person to person. The US Supreme Court has ruled that we must be careful not to group all people with disabilities into one class or broad sub-classes. For example, the Court states that "the fact that [a business accommodates for] epileptics is not necessarily [good evidence] of whether [that employer] has discriminated against a blind person."
Myth: I can't violate the ADA when I do not intentionally discriminate against people with disabilities.
Courts will bring ADA violations on two separate tests: "disparate treatment" and "disparate impact". Entities can violate the ADA for "disparate treatment" when they intentionally treat people with disabilities differently based on biases, prejudice, and stereotypes. Entities can also violate the ADA for "disparate impact" when their neutral standards unintentionally cause a class of people with disabilities to be at a disadvantage.
Myth: The internet is not regulated by the ADA
There has been a lot of debate and confusion about whether the internet counts as a "place" of public accommodation. The Department of Justice still has not expressly addressed website/internet
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (H1PAA): protects the privacy of certain health information, including disclosures of disabilities.
Telecommunications Act: manufacturers of equipment and providers of services in the telecommunications field must ensure accessibility for a wide range of services including cell phones, telephones, call-waiting, and operator services.
See an overview of disability laws at: http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm