Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The ADA forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities in multiple areas of public life. This includes transportation, housing, employment, communication, and state and local government services. The primary objective of this act is to provide people with disabilities with equal opportunities like everyone else. 

In 2008, the ADA was amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) which was signed into law by President George W. Bush and became effective on January 1, 2009. It made changes to the definition of “disability”. 

What does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mean by “disability”? 

In the ADA, the term “disability” is defined as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Major life activities are those that are essential to daily life. Examples are breathing, walking, hearing, seeing, talking, sleeping, caring for the self, doing manual tasks, and working. They also include major physiological bodily functions. 

It is important to note that, in 2008, the ADAAA expanded the original definition of major life activities to include actions like bending or lifting objects among other changes. 

What is the effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on employment practices? 

The ADA outlaws any form of discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability in the field of employment. The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with enforcing the ADA. 

The following employment practices are covered by the ADA:

Also, employers must not retaliate against applicants or employees who have asserted their rights under the ADA. The act also forbids any discrimination against any individual because of association with a person with a disability. 

What does the ADA mean by “qualified individual”?

To be protected by the ADA, the individual with a disability must be able to perform the essential tasks of the job, be it with or without the help of reasonable accommodation. The individual must also be able to satisfy or meet the job requirements for different parameters. This includes educational background, work experience, skills, licenses, or any other standards related to the job. 

Essential functions or tasks are the basic job duties. Employers cannot reject an applicant for not being able to perform non-essential tasks because of a disability. 

What are examples of reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any alteration or adjustment to a work environment to allow qualified individuals with a disability to perform their basic job duties or in applying for a job. Some examples of reasonable accommodation are the following:

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