The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in many circumstances. The law includes five main parts, or “titles,” including:
- Title II , which covers all services and programs of state and local governments (public transportation, recreation programs, courts, jails and prisons, libraries, employment, and much more)
- Title III , which covers public accommodations (private businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, taxi companies, museums, amusement parks, day care centers, and many more)
- Title V, which includes some miscellaneous, but significant, provisions
Individuals with Disabilities
The ADA defines an individual with a disability as one who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Has a record of such a substantially limiting impairment;
- Is discriminated against because he/she is regarded as having an impairment, unless such impairment is transitory and minor (such as a common cold or simple broken bone).
Whether an individual meets the ADA’s definition of disability is determined on an individual basis. Learn more about the definition of disability and the changes implemented by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
Individuals who are currently engaged in the illegal use of drugs are specifically excluded from protection under the ADA. There are also some disorders, some of which in other contexts might be considered “impairments” but which are excluded from the definition of disability in the ADA; these conditions are transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, other sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, and psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.
The ADA also reiterates that homosexuality and bisexuality, since they are not impairments, can not be disabilities for purposes of the ADA.
Associates of Individuals with Disabilities
Individuals who are discriminated against because of their association with people with disabilities are also protected under the ADA. For example, a covered employer can not refuse to hire an individual because her child has cerebral palsy, or fire a worker who volunteers at an agency that serves people with HIV/AIDS. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidance on the association provision in the context of employment .
The ADA’s association provision also applies under Title II (state and local government programs and services) and Title III (public accommodations). For example, a state park or a private movie theater can not refuse to admit both an individual with a disability who is using a service animal and the individual’s friend.
History of the ADA
Visit the "History of the ADA" page to find out more about the disability rights movement and the development of the ADA.
The "ADA Anniversary" page also includes information, video clips, and other materials commemorating and celebrating the passage and implementation of the law.