Southwest ADA Center

Guide to Disability Law

This guide was adapted from the Department of Justice's A Guide to Disability Rights Laws. It is a general primer on the various federal laws that impact the lives of people with disabilities. The guide also provides resources and contact information for the federal agencies responsible for enforcing the legislation.

Employment

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title I prohibits discrimination in the workplace against people with disabilities.

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by federal agencies of the executive branch.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.

Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment service centers funded by the federal government.

State and Local Government Programs & Services

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title II prohibits discrimination in the provision of public benefits and services (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies and in programs receiving federal financial assistance.

Public Accommodations / Businesses

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title III prohibits discrimination by businesses and non-profit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities.

Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) requires that buildings and facilities that are designed, constructed, or altered with Federal funds, or leased by a Federal agency, comply with Federal standards for physical accessibility.

Housing

Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in any aspect of selling, renting or denying housing on the basis of disability. Owners are further required to make reasonable accommodations in their housing policies to afford equal housing opportunities to those with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title II prohibits discrimination by public housing authorities and other state and local government housing.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title III does not apply to regular privately owned residential dwelling units. However, it does apply to residences that are also public accommodations such as nursing homes and school dorms. In addition, parts of residential facilities that serve a group of people or the public might be considered public accommodations such as a swimming pool or a sales and leasing office.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination by public housing authorities that receive federal funds, cities and towns that receive Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) or other federal funds, private for profit or non-profit housing developers that receive federal funds, and colleges and universities that receive federal funds (student housing).

Architectural Barriers Act applies accessibility standards to housing constructed with the help of federal funding.

Education

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public primary and secondary schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities in primary, secondary and post secondary schools receiving federal financial assistance.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title II prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities in all educational institutions which receive funding from a state or local governmental entity.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title III prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities in private schools.

Travel/Transportation

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title II prohibits discrimination in transportation provided by state and local governmental entities such as bus, railway, subway, and other forms of ground transportation.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination in transportation services that receive federal funding.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title III prohibit discrimination in privately operated transportation services such as limousines and hotel shuttle services.

Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel. It applies only to air carriers that provide regularly scheduled services for hire to the public. Requirements address a wide range of issues including boarding assistance and certain accessibility features in newly built aircraft and new or altered airport facilities.

Technology / Telecommunications

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title IV requires telephone companies to establish telecommunications relay services for callers with hearing and speech disabilities. Title IV also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.

Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act requires manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and providers of telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable. It ensures that people with disabilities will have access to a broad range of products and services such as telephones, cell phones, pagers, call-waiting, and operator services, that were often inaccessible to many users with disabilities.