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Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) represents the most comprehensive civil rights legislation adopted to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Public and private businesses, state and local government agencies, private entities offering public accommodations and services, transportation and utilities are required to comply with the law, which was signed in 1990.

A closer look at the Act

The Act extends civil rights protections to individuals with physical or mental disabilities in the following areas:

  • Employment (Title I)
  • Public transportation and state and local government services (Title II)
  • Public accommodations (Title III)
  • Telecommunications (Title IV)
  • Miscellaneous (Title V)

Title I of the Act prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with fifteen or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.

According to the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Has a record of such an impairment, or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. According to the ADA, “reasonable accommodation” may include (but is not limited to):

  • Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
  • Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position.
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters.

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to the known disabilities of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications provided by an employer to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

Enforcement & Promotion of the ADA

The following federal agencies are responsible for enforcing/promoting the ADA:

  • Department of Labor – Provides publications and other technical assistance on the basic requirements of the ADA. It does not enforce any part of the law.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – Enforces regulations covering employment.
  • Department of Transportation – Enforces regulations governing transit.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – Enforces regulations covering telecommunication services.
  • Department of Justice – Enforces regulations governing public accommodations and state and local government services.
  • Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB, or Access Board) – Issues guidelines to ensure that buildings, facilities and transit vehicles are accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

Encouraging Employment

The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) includes several provisions which help make businesses more accessible to people with disabilities. The most significant tax incentives are outlined below:

  1. Small Business Tax Credit – Small businesses with <$1,000,000 in revenue, or 30 or fewer full-time employees may take a tax credit of up to $5,000/year for the cost of providing reasonable accommodations (e.g. sign language interpreters, readers, materials in alternative format, the purchase of adaptive equipment, the modification of existing equipment, or the removal of architectural barriers.
  2. Work Opportunity Tax Credit – Employers who hire certain targeted low-income groups (e.g. individuals referred from vocational rehabilitation agencies, individuals receiving Supplementary Security Income (SSI)) may be eligible for an annual tax credit of up to $2,400 for each qualifying employee who works at least 400 hours during the tax year. Additionally, a maximum credit of $1,200 may be available for each qualifying summer youth employee.
  3. Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction – This annual deduction of up to $15,000 is available to any business for the cost of removing barriers for people with disabilities.

Summary

This article takes a look at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) exam,  a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (IV.A.c.ii.)
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