The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that bans discrimination against disabled people in ares of public life. This includes jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the ADA is give disabled people the same protections against discrimination as people on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, or religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for disabled people in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications.
In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. This made some changes to the original. The change in definition of disability applies to all titles of the law.
It claims to do all this but does it really?
Title I (Employment)
This title was written to help disabled people access the same employment opportunities and benefits as non disabled people. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees or applicants. A reasonable accommodation is any modification of adjustment to the job or the work environment that will enable the applicant or employee who is disabled perform the job effectively.
Does it happen?
From personal experience, I have worked many jobs. I have worked in retail and in the veterinary field. This title sounds nice but does not always happen. I was working for one animal hospital. I was still in college to be a vet tech. I was working in the kennel of this animal hospital. I had to make a list of everything I needed to do. This was me trying to make sure I was doing my job so I would not forget anything. The owner of this practice talked to me in the kennel. He told me that I am using my disability as a crutch and I really do not need this list. I did not get fired but refused for me to be accommodated with allowing me to make a list. I tried to report this to the proper authorities. They said they wanted to help but these cases are hard to prove and they told me to give up.
Title II (state and government)
Title II of the ADA bans discrimination against qualified disabled individuals in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. This applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of state or local governments.
Does it happen?
From personal experience, I was selected for jury duty. I went there and informed them that I am hard of hearing and cannot hear the loud speaker. I sat and waited my turn. A couple hours went by and the bailiff in charge looked angry. He started to yell at me.
“What is your name?”
“We called your name on the loud speaker so many times. Why did you ignore it?”
“I told them when I arrived I am hard of hearing and I needed to be told to my face when to go up.”
“You can leave now”
Title III (Public Accommodations)
This title bans private places of public accommodation from discriminating against disabled individuals. One example of public accommodations include privately owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctors offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sport stadiums, movie theaters, etc. This title sets minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction facilities. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.
Does it happen?
From personal experience, this has not happened many time but here is one example. The movie theater near where I used to live in the Adirondack mountains had just gotten their open caption devices. I was very excited because I would be able to see what everyone was saying. When I asked about it, I had a very ableist answer “you can talk, you must not really need it.” I asked to speak to the manager and they said they would have to charge me because I did not appear to have a hearing difficulty. Do they know how hard it is to lip read. I do it very well because I have years of practice.
Title IV (Telecommunications)
This title requires phone and internet companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay service that allows disabled individuals to communicate over the phone. It also requires that closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.
Does it happen?
Yes these accommodations do exist but they are extremely hard to access. It took me 10 years to be able to find how to have my calls on my cell phone be captioned so I can communicate effectively. I do not like phone calls so it did not bother me. When I was finally able to have captioned calling this year, it was very exciting. I was always asking people to repeat what they said on the phone. The captioning they do have, the app always glitches and cuts off the sound after the first 5 minutes. It is there but they have a lot of work to do.
Title V. (Miscellaneous Provisions)
This last title contains a variety of provisions relating to ADA as a whole. This includes its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and health benefits, ban against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs and attorney’s fees. People without a disability cannot claim reverse discrimination. This means that they are discriminated against because they are not disabled. This title also list conditions that are not considered disabilities (the language is horrible. This is their language not mine):
- gender identity disorders not resulting in physical impairments
- other sexual behavior disorders
- compulsive gambling
- psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs
Does it Happen?
From personal experience it is not enforced. In college I was given an ASL interpreter due to me being hard of hearing. I had a few people in my class tell the dean of the college that the interpreter was distracting and that they were being discriminated against due to them not needing one. The school fired my interpreter and then gave me a notetaker instead.
What is the ADA missing?
I know there is a lot missing but these are the few things I am going to include.
Protection against experimentation
Since Andrew Wakefield, there have been many invasive studies involving experimenting on autistic children. There is no one protecting the children being injected with different substances trying to cure them. Currently there is a umbilical cord study being conducted right now at Duke University. They are injecting cord blood intravenously into autistic children aged from 2-5. This would never happen in typical children. This is dangerous experimentation. The children need to be protected. The ADA needs to be updated to provide this protection
Not only is there FDA sanctioned experimentation, parents are allowed to experiment on their own children. MMS is used to see if they can cure autistic children. Chelation is used to try to cure autistic children when it is based on a myth that vaccines contain heavy metals and heavy metal cause autism. These MAPS doctors that promote experimentation on these children are not being held responsible. These children need to be protected.
This law is not enforced. Even with my experiences, the clear violations were not enforced. Why? Because they are hard to prove. Protections do not count if they cannot be enforced.
Expand telecommunications accommodations
Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are not the only people who need captioning. There are people with auditory disorder who cannot process the spoken word as it is said to them. They miss important information. Expand this accommodation to people who cannot process speech in a typical speed and manor.
Make audio books mainstream. People who have a visual impairment (i did ask a few people about the language and this is acceptable) need equal access to textbooks and other important publications. Make this more mainstream so all Americans can access the information that they need.
This law was a good start but there is a lot of work to be done. Disabled people need real protections. The people in office need to do the right thing and protect us so we can live productive lives like they want us to.