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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)




The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that makes discrimination based on disability illegal. It gives civil rights protection to people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and public services. The ADA was passed by Congress as Public Law 101-336, and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.


The ADA has titles like chapters in a book. Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment against people with disabilities by employers with 15 or more employees.



Who is protected by the ADA?


The ADA protects "qualified individuals with a disability”.  This means that you must:

Be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job (in other words, with or without a reasonable accommodation). You must have the minimum requirements necessary to perform the job such as the necessary education, experience or licenses; and


Have a disability that is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as, caring for yourself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working).



What does “Essential Job Function” mean?


Essential job functions are the fundamental duties of the job. A job function may be considered essential for any of several reasons, such as:

1. The job exists to perform that function

2. The function requires specialized skills or expertise and the person is hired for that expertise

3. There is only a limited number of employees to perform the function


For example, a bank teller must know how to count money.  If you apply for the job you must meet this minimum requirement.


What does “reasonable accommodation” mean?


Title I of the ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship.


If you use a wheelchair, installing a desk that fits your chair would be a reasonable accommodation. 


1) The ADA does not require employers to hire a set number of people with disabilities. It only requires employers give qualified people with disabilities employment opportunities equal to those given employees without disabilities.

2) You must be able to perform the essential functions of your job, either with or without reasonable accommodation to be protected under the ADA.                                                                                                                                                                          


3) Employers are not required to hire or keep a person who cannot perform the essential functions of a job even with reasonable accommodations.


How does Title I of the ADA protect me from discrimination?


Title I of the ADA says:


"No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." In summary, an employer cannot discriminate against you based on your disability if you are qualified for the job during any part of the application, hiring process and/or during employment.


The ADA makes it unlawful to:

·         Use employment tests that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or a class of individuals with disabilities unless the test, as used by the employer, is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(6);

Example:  For a radio announcer position, an employer may be allowed to test an applicant on public speaking ability – even if the applicant’s has a disability that affects her speech.   However, if that same applicant is applying for a data-entry job, the employer may have to waive any oral testing requirement in the application process as an accommodation for the applicant’s disabilities.

·         Fail to select and administer employment tests in the most effective manner to ensure that test results accurately reflect the skills, aptitude or whatever other factor that such test purports to measure, rather than reflecting an applicant’s or employee’s impairment. Id. at § 12112(b)(7); and

Example situations where accommodations may apply:

1)    Because of my learning disability, I need extra time to complete a written test. Dow the ADA require an employer to modify the way a test is given to me?

An employer may have to provide testing materials in alternative formats or make other adjustments to tests as an accommodation for you. The format and manner in which a test is given may pose problems for persons with impaired sensory, speaking, or manual skills, as well as for those with certain learning disabilities. For example, an applicant who is blind will not be able to read a written test, but can tape recorded. A person who is deaf will not understand oral instructions, however these could be provided in a written format or through the use of a sign language interpreter. A 30-minute timed written test may pose a problem for a person whose learning disability requires additional time.


When do I have to tell an employer that I need an accommodation for the hiring process?

It is best to let an employer know as soon as you realize that you will need a reasonableaccommodation for some aspect of the hiring process. An employer needs advance notice to provide many accommodations, such as sign language interpreters, alternative formats for written documents, and adjusting the time allowed for taking a written test. An employer may also need advance notice to arrange an accessible location for a test or interview.


How do I request a reasonable accommodation?

You must inform the employer that you need some sort of change or adjustment to the application/interviewing process because of your medical condition. You can make this request orally or in writing, or someone else might make a request for you (e.g., a family member, friend, health professional, or other representative, such as a job coach).



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