Americans with Disabilities Act

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The ADA prohibits discrimination based on a person's disability in employment, State and local government programs, private and non-profit businesses (referred to as public accommodations), commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such impairment.

Note: The California State Law definition of disability, found in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, is broader under most State laws than the federal definition.

The ADA is broken into four sections:

Title I: Employment
Title II: State and Local Government Activities & Transportation
Title III: Public Accommodations (Private & non-profit businesses)
Title IV: Telecommunications Relay Services

Full text of the law

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)



Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant's disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under Title I.


  • The Department of Justice ADA Home Page includes publications and guides on the ADA
  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Website has several publications including:
    • The ADA: Questions and Answers-Employment
    • The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer
    • The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability
    • EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Jobs Accommodation Network provides information on reasonable accommodations - Voice/TTY: 1-800-526-7234.


Title I complaints may be filed at any U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Field Office. Field offices are located in 50 cities throughout the U.S. and are listed in most telephone directories under "U.S. Government". For the appropriate field office in your geographic area, check their website, or contact: Voice: 1-800-669-4000 or TTY: 1-800-669-6820.

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State and Local Government Activities

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity's size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services and activities (e.g. public educations, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).

State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.



Complaints of Title II violations may be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department may bring a lawsuit where it has investigated a matter and has been unable to resolve violations. For more information, contact:

Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 22035-6738
Voice: 1-800-514-0301
TTY: 1-800-514-0383

Public Transportation

The transportation provisions of Title II cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit (e.g. subways, commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessible used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner, and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide Paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems. Paratransit is a service where individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently (because of a physical or mental impairment) are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.



Questions and complaints about public transportation should be directed to:

Federal Transit Administration Office of Civil Rights
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
East Building, 5th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20590
Voice/Relay: 1-888-446-4511
Voice: 1-202-366-2285
TTY: 1-202-366-0153

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Public Accommodations (Businesses & nonprofit service providers)

Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theatres, private schools, convention centers, doctors' offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by Title III.

Public accommodations must comply with basic non-discrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. They also must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodations resources.



If you feel that you have been discriminated against by a place of public accommodation, then you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney General will investigate your complaint. For more information regarding the federal complaint and enforcement process see the Department of Justice ADA Home Page . A violation of the ADA is also considered to be a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. For more information regarding the State complaint and enforcement process see the Department of Fair Employment and Housing home page .

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Telecommunications Relay Services

Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), which are also known as teletypewriters (TTYs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements.

Resources & Compliance

For more information about TRS, contact the FCC at:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Voice: 1-888-225-5322
TTY: 1-888-835-5322

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