Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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An Overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life, the first of which relates to Employment. 

Title I - Employment 

  • Designed to help people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. 
  • Applies to employers with 15 or more employees. 
  • Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A “reasonable accommodation” is a change that accommodates employees with disabilities without causing the employer “undue hardship” (too much difficulty or expense). 
  • Defines disability, establishes guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, addresses medical examinations and inquiries, and defines “direct threat” when there is risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual employee with a disability or others. 
  • Regulated and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.