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About the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that protects people with disabilities against discrimination. It ensures fairness in employment, government services, and public places.

Who is protected

The ADA applies to visible disabilities like difficulty with movement, as well as invisible disabilities like autism or diabetes.

The ADA considers you to have a disability if it is hard or impossible for you to:

  • Hear
  • See
  • Speak
  • Think
  • Walk
  • Breathe

It also protects you if you:

  • Used to have a disability (even if you don’t anymore)
  • Never had a disability, but you think you do, or
  • Are close to someone that has a disability like your child, parent, or spouse


The ADA is made up of 5 parts.

  • Title I of the ADA stops workplace discrimination, including hiring, promotions, and time off
  • Title II deals with access to government services
  • Title III focuses on equal access to businesses and private organizations
  • Title IV requires accessible phones and the internet
  • Title V guards against harassment or retaliation

Title I: your workplace

Title I protects you from being treated unfairly when applying for a job and at work. This includes:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Training
  • Pay
  • Promotions
  • Benefits
  • Leave

Under the ADA, leave means taking time off from work when your disability gets worse or you get sick.

Reasonable accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is a change to:

  • How a person does a job
  • The place where a person works
  • The way things are usually done

You can ask your employer for reasonable accommodation if you need help to be able to:

  • Apply for a job
  • Do part of your job because of your disability

After you ask the employer for a reasonable accommodation, they can talk with you about what accommodation would help you.

Learn about your rights as an employee with disabilities.

Learn about your responsibilities as an employer.

Title II: government

If you have a disability, you must be able to go inside any place and use any service run by state and local governments. Title II protects you when you use services run by state and local governments, including:

  • Public transportation (like buses, trains, and subways)
  • Libraries
  • Public schools
  • Public beaches
  • Public parks
  • Services that help people with low incomes
  • County courthouses
  • State prisons
  • State and local government websites

Reasonable modification

A reasonable modification is when a state or local government provides help to a person with a disability so they can easily use government services.

You can ask the government for help or an exception to a rule if you need it.

Here are some examples:

  • Letting someone with diabetes eat food in the library when no one else can eat there
  • Bring a service animal with you even when no pets are allowed

Effective communication

State and local governments also must give people who are deaf or blind a way to get information. This is called effective communication.

Here are some examples:

  • Technology at a library so a person who can’t see can read a book
  • A sign language interpreter in court or at a government meeting so a person who is deaf can share what they’re thinking and know what’s going on

Learn more about your responsibilities as a state or local government agency.

Learn about which Federal agencies investigate disability-related discrimination complaints against State and local government agencies under Title II.

Title III: business

If you have a disability, you must be able to do the same things as everyone else and go to the same places. If a business or private organization is open to everyone, Title III allows you to:

  • Buy things
  • Go into buildings
  • Use services

These places include:

  • Stores
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Private schools
  • Day care centers
  • Gyms
  • Sports stadiums
  • Movie theaters

These places almost always have to make changes to the way they normally do things if a person with a disability can’t easily buy things from them or use their services. They must provide reasonable modifications and effective communication just like state and local governments do under Title II.

Here are some examples:

  • A store must leave enough room so a person who uses a wheelchair can get around and help the person if they can’t reach something.
  • A theater or stadium must have special seating that’s easy to get to for people who have a hard time walking because of a disability.
  • A doctor’s office or hospital must provide a sign language interpreter for someone who is deaf and needs to know and ask questions about how they should take care of themselves.

Learn more about your responsibilities as a business.

Title IV: telephone and internet

Title IV says telephone and internet companies must have services that help you if you have a hard time hearing or talking to make phone calls.

You can ask for special phones and services so you can talk on the phone by typing or using video calls.

Title V: harassment

An employer can’t fire or punish you for asking for your ADA rights. Title V protects you if you are asking for your ADA rights and someone tries to:

  • Bother
  • Pressure, or
  • Scare you

It also protects people who try to help you get the services and access you need.

Ask us

If you have questions about the ADA, we can help.

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