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Barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications have imposed staggering economic and social costs on American society and have undermined efforts by people with disabilities to receive an education, become employed, and be contributing members of society. By breaking down these barriers, the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA enables society to benefit from the skills, talents and purchasing power of individuals with disabilities and leads to fuller, more productive lives for all Americans.

The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. This booklet is designed to provide answers to some of the most often asked questions about the ADA. The ADA National Network offers numerous resources, many of which are either free or available at a low cost, including:.

The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA, including title I employment practices of private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees ; title II programs and activities of state and local government entities ; and title III private entities that are considered places of public accommodation.

Other federal agencies, such as the U. Department of Justice, the U.

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Department of Transportation and the U. Department of Labor, will need to amend their regulations to reflect the changes in the definition of disability required by the ADAAA. The title I employment provisions apply to private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees.

The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities.

Employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities is prohibited. This includes applicants for employment and employees. Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are protected.

The first part of the definition makes clear that the ADA applies to persons who have impairments and that these must substantially limit major life activities. There are two non-exhaustive lists of examples of major life activities: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.

Major life activities also include the operation of major bodily functions, including: the immune system; special sense organs and skin; normal cell growth; and digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions. Examples of specific impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities include: deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.

The second part of the definition protecting individuals with a record of a disability would cover, for example, a person who has recovered from cancer or mental illness.

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Under the third part of the definition, a covered entity has regarded an individual as having a disability if it takes an action prohibited by the ADA e. Requiring the ability to perform "essential" functions assures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified simply because of inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions. If the individual is qualified to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation.

If a written job description has been prepared in advance of advertising or interviewing applicants for a job, this will be considered as evidence, although not conclusive evidence, of the essential functions of the job. An employer is free to select the most qualified applicant available and to make decisions based on reasons unrelated to a disability. For example, suppose two persons apply for a job as a typist and an essential function of the job is to type 75 words per minute accurately.

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One applicant, an individual with a disability, who is provided with a reasonable accommodation for a typing test, types 50 words per minute; the other applicant who has no disability accurately types 75 words per minute. The employer can hire the applicant with the higher typing speed, if typing speed is needed for successful performance of the job. An employer may not ask or require a job applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer.

It cannot make any pre-offer inquiry about a disability or the nature or severity of a disability. An employer may condition a job offer on the satisfactory result of a post-offer medical examination or medical inquiry if this is required of all entering employees in the same job category. A post-offer examination or inquiry does not have to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. However, if an individual is not hired because a post-offer medical examination or inquiry reveals a disability, the reason s for not hiring must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

The employer also must show that no reasonable accommodation was available that would enable the individual to perform the essential job functions, or that accommodation would impose an undue hardship. A post-offer medical examination may disqualify an individual if the employer can demonstrate that the individual would pose a "direct threat" in the workplace i. Such a disqualification is job-related and consistent with business necessity. A post-offer medical examination may not disqualify an individual with a disability who is currently able to perform essential job functions because of speculation that the disability may cause a risk of future injury.

After a person starts work, a medical examination or inquiry of an employee must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers may conduct employee medical examinations where there is evidence of a job performance or safety problem that they reasonably believe is caused by a medical condition, examinations required by other federal laws, return-to-work examinations when they reasonably believe that an employee will be unable to do his job or may pose a direct threat because of a medical condition, and voluntary examinations that are part of employee health programs.

Information from all medical examinations and inquiries must be kept apart from general personnel files as a separate, confidential medical record, available only under limited conditions. Tests for illegal use of drugs are not medical examinations under the ADA and are not subject to the restrictions of such examinations. A pre-employment inquiry about a disability is allowed if required by another federal law or regulation such as those applicable to veterans with disabilities and veterans of the Vietnam era.

Pre-employment inquiries about disabilities may be necessary under such laws to identify applicants or clients with disabilities in order to provide them with required special services. An employer also may ask an applicant to self-identify as an individual with a disability when the employer is voluntarily using this information to benefit individuals with a disability. Federal contractors and subcontractors who are covered by the affirmative action requirements of section of the Rehabilitation Act of may invite individuals with disabilities to identify themselves on a job application form or by other pre-employment inquiry, to satisfy the section affirmative action requirements.

Employers who request such information must observe section requirements regarding the manner in which such information is requested and used and the procedures for maintaining such information as a separate, confidential record, apart from regular personnel records. The ADA does not require employers to develop or maintain job descriptions. However, a written job description that is prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for a job will be considered as evidence along with other relevant factors. If an employer uses job descriptions, they should be reviewed to make sure they accurately reflect the actual functions of a job.

A job description will be most helpful if it focuses on the results or outcome of a job function, not solely on the way it customarily is performed.


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A reasonable accommodation may enable a person with a disability to accomplish a job function in a manner that is different from the way an employee who does not have a disability may accomplish the same function. Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.

Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that an individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodation include making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by an individual with a disability; restructuring a job; modifying work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; providing qualified readers or interpreters; or appropriately modifying examinations, training, or other programs.

Reasonable accommodation also may include reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified, if the person is unable to do the original job because of a disability even with an accommodation. However, there is no obligation to find a position for an applicant who is not qualified for the position sought.

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Employers are not required to lower quality or production standards as an accommodation; nor are they obligated to provide personal use items such as wheelchairs, glasses or hearing aids. The decision as to the appropriate accommodation must be based on the particular facts of each case. In selecting the particular type of reasonable accommodation to provide, the principal test is that of effectiveness, i.


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However, the accommodation does not have to ensure equal results or provide exactly the same benefits. An employer is only required to accommodate a "known" disability of a qualified applicant or employee. The requirement generally will be triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who frequently will be able to suggest an appropriate accommodation.

Accommodations must be made on an individual basis, because the nature and extent of a disabling condition and the requirements of a job will vary in each case. If a person with a disability requests, but cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, the employer and the individual should work together to identify one. There are also many public and private resources that can provide assistance without cost.

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The individual with a disability requiring the accommodation must be otherwise qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer. In addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation.

Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis. Where the facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger organization would be considered, as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization. In general, a larger employer with greater resources would be expected to make accommodations requiring greater effort or expense than would be required of a smaller employer with fewer resources.

If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship. Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation.

For example, if an employee lounge is located in a place inaccessible to an employee using a wheelchair, the lounge might be modified or relocated, or comparable facilities might be provided in a location that would enable the individual to take a break with co-workers. The employer must provide such access unless it would cause an undue hardship. Under title I, an employer is not required to make its existing facilities accessible until a particular applicant or employee with a particular disability needs an accommodation, and then the modifications should meet that individual's specific medical needs.