Civil Rights in the United States

Civil Rights of Americans with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental impairments in employment, public accommodations, and government services.

A movement advocating the rights of persons with disabilities to participate fully and equally in all aspects of society gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s. The first federal law to protect persons with disabilities from employment discrimination was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stipulated that no person can be discriminated against based on a disability in federal employment or in programs that receive federal funds.

In 1990 Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, public accommodation, and government services. The law defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual." It also requires that employers make "reasonable accommodations" for persons with disabilities. This provision led to many court cases on the issues of what constitutes a disability and what level of accommodation is reasonable.

As a result of the ADA, forms of public transportation, such as buses and trains, were required to be wheelchair accessible. The law also provides that persons who have service animals, such as assistance dogs, may take their animals into businesses that otherwise prohibit them. Telecommunications companies were required to make accommodations so that their services can be used by persons with disabilities, such as providing closed captioning of televised broadcasts to accommodate those with a hearing disability. The 2008 ADA Amendments Act established that medication cannot be considered in assessing if a person has a disability. It also clarified that needing corrective eyewear does not constitute a disability.

U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Case (Year) Decision
Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc. (1999) Correctable vision impairments were not disabilities under the ADA.
Vaughn L. Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (1999) Medical conditions that are treatable do not constitute a disability under the ADA.
Tennessee v. Lane (2004) Tennessee unconstitutionally violated the rights of persons who used a wheelchair by not providing accessible courtrooms.