In 1990, The United States introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA.  In it’s almost 25 years of existence, it has made the country more accessible to everyone. We previously went over the Equality Act 2010, and discussed how disability is defined, how employment discrimination works, and a few various other details.  In this article, we will do a similar breakdown of the ADA.


First and foremost, information on the ADA is easier to find.  In fact, you can find the entire text of the Act by going here.  It is 62 pages long, so there’s a lot of information to go over.  Because of the scope of the ADA, we will focus on employment in this article, which is one of many sections.


Before we talk about anything else, we need to know how the ADA defines disability.  Without the definition, how do we know if there’s an issue or not? For the ADA, disability is defined as:

The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment.

(2) Major Life Activities

Below this, the ADA goes on to further define some of these terms, such as major life activities and impairment.  To read the full definition and breakdown of all these terms, go to section 1202 of the ADA.


There’s a lot to go over here, so let’s get started.  We’re just going to summarize, because going in-depth would make this article 3x the normal length.  Here is the section on employment if you’d like to follow along.

The section starts off with some definitions, which include employer and employee as well as reasonable accommodation.  There are 10 definitions in total, and cover a wide array of terms that seem straightforward, but still need to be defined.


After our 10 definitons, we get into discrimination.  It begins by flat-out stating no “covered entity” can discriminate an employee at any stage.  This includes applications, hiring, advancement, compensation, and other aspects. Below that, the ADA further explains what qualifies as discrimination.  Some of the big ones include:

(1) limiting, segregating, or classifying a job applicant or employee in a way that adversely affects the opportunities or status of such applicant or employee because of the disability of such applicant or employee;

(4) excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits to a qualified individual because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a relationship or association;

(5) (A) not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity; or

(B) denying employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee who is an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, if such denial is based on the need of such covered entity to make reasonable accommodation to the physical or mental impairments of the employee or applicant;

There are 7 total examples, each describing a different instance of discrimination.  The different aspects outlined here are broad, but definable. This is great because it covers a wide range of discrimination, which can happen in many ways.

Next, it goes over foreign entities and their responsibilities under the ADA.  It covers both if the employee is a citizen of the United States working for a foreign entity, as well as the opposite.  

After that, we move on to medical exams and employment.  Employers can only require a medical exam after they have extended an offer, and only if it’s required regardless of ability.  Additionally, employers can only ask job-related medical questions during the hiring process. These are questions like “this job requires regularly lifting 60lbs, are you able to?” and not “are you going to need extra time off due to your disability?”.  The medical information will be kept on a separate form and only given to those who need it, such as supervisors who need to be aware.  


This section outlines lawful reasons a company may not hire someone with a disability.  This section breaks down what a qualification standard is, and the difference between what’s necessary for a job and what can be reasonably accommodated.  Also mentioned are religious entities and communicable diseases. 

Illegal Use of Drugs and Alcohol

This section goes over what the rights are of the company in terms of drug testing.  It also goes over their rights in terms of disallowing employees to drink or use drugs while employed with the company.  Perhaps most importantly, it goes over drug testing employees with disabilities, including transportation to and from the drug test.

Posting Notices

This section is short, but requires that employers make applications accessible to everyone.  


This is simple, all laws must be followed one year after the ADA goes into effect (by july 1991).


This section describes the procedure for if one feels discriminated against.  It goes through the different government entities and what they do.

And that’s the basics for the ADA!  It’s a lot of information, and this is just a basic summary of part of the Act, but hopefully it has helped give a better understanding on the laws and regulations.  For further reading, the whole of the ADA is linked at the top of the article.

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