The Congress endorsed the American Disabilities Act of 1990 commonly referred to as the ADA in the year 1990. The American Disabilities Act covers a wide range of civil rights meant to prohibit prejudice based on disability. According to this Act, disability is an impairment that occurs either mentally or physically. Legally recognized impairments are known to restrictions of major activities in the lives of affected people (Weber, 2007). A given condition is considered a disability after determination through a case-to-case basis. This means that not all impairment conditions qualify to be called disabilities. For instance, visual impairment that can be rectified using prescription lenses is not a disability.
The American Disabilities Act protects the disabled from discrimination relating to covered entities. Such entities refer to procedures such as hiring; procedures followed during the job application process; activity surrounding the discharge of employees; training given to perform a certain job, payment of workers and employment privileges. Discrimination in this case may involve the classification of a job applicant; denying qualified people opportunities to work; failing to award career advancement opportunities to disabled employees and failing to adjust the policies made and training given to suit the disabled.
Public Entities and Transportation clause
This clause prohibits, both at the state and at local level, the discrimination of disabled persons in issues concerning access to services in public entities and transport. The United States Department of Justice has enacted regulations to govern access to the services and programs that public entities offer. The services offered by public entities must be in full compliance with the stated regulations. Access as stipulated in the regulations covers two aspects. The Access refers to the programmatic access stipulated in the American Disability Act. The procedures or policies followed by a public entity may hinder both instances of access. For instance, the procedures followed in a public entity may discriminate against the disabled by making it difficult for them to compete with the able-bodied. This clause also applies to provision of public transport by public entities. Through the United States Department of Transport, regulations governing access to public transport have been enacted to protect the disabled. Public bodies are required to offer transport services to the disabled using routes that do not vary. This clause also covers provision of public housing at local and state levels, referrals and assistance involving housing. The mandate to enforce this provision falls under the department concerned with fair housing and equal opportunities.
Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities
The American Disability Act has stipulated standards guiding the construction of accessible public facilities. This clause states that no disabled person is to be denied the use and enjoyment of items meant for the public. Such items may include goods, services, accommodation in accommodation facilities among others. Guided by the definition given in this clause, any construction that is considered new must comply fully with the guidelines on accessibility as given by the Code of Federal Regulation in relation to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
This clause targets the services offered by the telecommunications companies in the United States. It requires them to come up with ways to ensure that consumers with disabilities have access to services that are functionally equivalent to those offered to people without disabilities. This clause has guided the installation of teletypewriters meant for the deaf. This clause has also led to the introduction of telecommunications devices targeting the deaf. Additionally, it has led to the creation of dual party relay services like the STS relay. Currently, it is possible for consumers connected via broadband to make calls mediated by the Telecommunications Relay Service over the Internet.
This section covers technical provisions of the Act. It stipulates that no item can override, amend or cancel the provisions in Section 504. This section gives protection from retaliation to those people who personally exercise or help others to exercise their rights as per the requirements of this Act. This clause stops any person from retaliating against those who exercise the rights specified by this Act. The coercion or retaliation referred to in this case includes acts of intimidation, threatening or interfering with the provisions of this Act.
Major Life Activities clause
An endorsement to the amendment happened on January 1, 2009. It sought to expand the interpretations of the Americans with Disability Act. It also added some key life activities such as doing manual tasks; caring for oneself; breathing; bending; reading; learning; sleeping; eating; communication; working and thinking. The Act overruled a case in the United States Supreme Court that happened in 1999. Judges of the Supreme Court had ruled that an employee should not be considered as disabled incase the impairment could be treated through mitigating means. The Act also overturned the earlier court interpretation that impairment was a substantial limitation to the major activities in the life of a person. Additionally, the earlier interpretation stipulated that an activity had to cause a limitation on other people for it to considered a disability. It is everyone’s hope that the American Disability Act Amendment Act will lead to a wider and more effective coverage of disabled employees.
Before the enactment of the American Disability Act, disability rights activists, most of them having physical disabilities, met at the Capital Building then shed their wheel chairs, crutches and power chairs and crawled up the stairs of the building. The activists did this act while yelling words and holding signs marked “Capital Crawlers”. This action troubled a big number of Senators that pushed them to approve the Act. Though the majority of people fail to appreciate the role played by the Capital Crawl, many disabled people believe that it was responsible for pushing the senators to pass the American Disability Act into law.
1. Opposition From Business Interests
A significant portion of the business community came out strongly to oppose the American Disability Act. The Greyhound Bus Lines argued before the Congress that the Act might end up depriving millions of Americans affordable public transport between the cities and rural areas. They also argued that the connection between the American community and the rest of the world might be cut. On the other hand, The United States Chamber of Commerce argued that the cost of implementing the Act would be too enormous. They also argued that the implementation would have disastrous financial effects on most of the small businesses. The National Federation of Independent Business even said that the Act was a disaster to the small business community (O’Brien, 2004).
2. Opposition from Religious Groups
Some religious groups also joined the debate by opposing the American Disability Act. Some religious groups like the Association of Christian Schools International did not support the Act from the start claiming that the Act considered religious institutions to be public accommodations. This forced the churches to make costly structural changes all in an effort to ensure access for all.
The American Disability Act has faced a number of criticisms. First, the Act led to a decrease in the rate of employment among the disabled. Additionally, it has raised the cost of running business among many employers. This follows the additional legal risks that force most of the employers to quit business in order to avoid hiring disabled persons. Concerning employment, a number of economic studies have found that the ADA has resulted to unforeseen consequences. Between 1995 and 1991, it is alleged that the ADA led to a 7.8% drop in the rate of employment among men with disabilities. This was regardless of the men’s educational level, age and the type of disability. There have been some criticisms related to abuse of the Act. One such criticism is the claim that the Act accommodates people diagnosed with lesser disabilities yet they are not supposed to be accommodated (O’Brien, 2004).
After the enactment of the ADA in 1992, it quickly emerged as one of the components of the employment law since it accommodated a large number of lawsuits. The Act permits private plaintiffs to receive only the attorney’s fees and injunctive relief though it does not offer monetary rewards to plaintiffs suing non-compliant business (Fielder 2004). This means that the “professional plaintiffs” will be found mainly in states that have laws that permit private plaintiffs to receive monetary awards from business firms that do not comply to a given condition. Civil rights laws rely mostly on private enforcement with the inclusion of damages and penalties being the main force facilitating voluntary compliance to the ADA. This has made the courts to resolve that following the above circumstances, private plaintiffs who consider themselves as champions for the disabled will handle suits involving the American Disability Act. If the ADA is to achieve the promise of equal access for the disabled, it is crucial for the concerned individuals to come up with serial litigation that will increase the time required for the public accommodations to comply with the Disability Act.
United States Supreme Court Cases
There have been a number of notable cases touching on the ADA. One example concerns the hotel room marketers, Hotels.com and Expedia.com. Both were sued following the allegations that their disabled customers were not in a favorable position to reserve rooms in the hotels using their websites. They had to apply extra efforts unlike other customers with no disabilities using the same websites. The above scenario represents a potential expansion of the ADA in relation to the above suit and others like the “clicks and bricks” case which sought to expand the authority of the ADA Act to cover cyber space. In cyber space, entities do not have actual physical facilities needed to comply with the ADA provisions. Other cases include Target Corporation v. National Federation of the Blind, Garret v. Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama, Barden v. the City of Sacramento and Bates v. UPS (Hamilton, 2003).
Fielder, J. (2004). Mental Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Westport: Quorum Books.
Hamilton, K. (2003). Backlash Against the ADA: Reinterpreting Disability Rights. Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press
O’Brien, R. (2004). Voices from the Edge: Narratives about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
New York: Oxford.
Weber, M. (2007). Disability Harassment. New York: NYU Press