A Guide to Disability Rights Laws


1 U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section A G UIDE TO D ISABILITY R IGHTS L AW S July 2009

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Americans with Disabilities Act ... 1 ... 8 Telecommunications Act ... 9 Fair Housing Act Air Carrier Access Act ... 11 Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act ... 12 National Voter Registration Act ... 13 Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ... 14 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ... 15 Rehabilitation Act ... 16 Architectural Barriers Act ... 19 General Sources of Disability Rights Information ... 19 Statute Citations ... 20 this document is available in For persons with disabilities, large print, Braille, a nd CD . Reproduction of this document is encouraged.

3 This guide provides an overview of Federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. To find out more about how these laws may apply to you, contact the agencies and organizations listed below. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered. ADA Title I: Employment Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under title I. 1

4 Title I co mplaints ith the U. S. Equal must be f iled w nity Co Empl ithin 180 days mmission ( oyment Opportu EEOC) w days if the charge is f iled ate of discr of the d imination, or 300 ignated S tate or with a air employment pr actice des local f cy. Indivi duals may f ile a lawsuit in Federal c ourt only after agen eceive a “ri ght- to-sue” letter from the EEOC. they r rges of Cha discr imination on the basis of emplo yment ability iled at any U.S. Eq ual Employment Oppor tunity dis may be f mmission f ield o ffice. F ield o ffices are located in 50 cities Co the U.S. and are lis ted in m ost teleph one dir ectories throughout Gover U.S. ppropr nmen t.” For the a under “ iate EEOC f ield o ffice in your geogra ea, contact: phic ar 669 ice) (800) -4000 (vo (8 00) 669-6820 ( TTY) www.eeoc.gov licati ons and infor mation on EEOC-en Pub forced laws may be ob tained by calling: 9-3362 (vo (800) 66 ice) (800) 800-3 302 ( TTY) For i nfor mation on how to accommod ate a sp ecific individual etwork at: with a disab Job A cco mmo dation N ntact the ility, co 800) 526-7234 (voice) ( -9403 (TTY) 8 77 ) 781 ( http://askjan.org ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities Title II covers all activities of S tate and local gover nments regardless of the government en tit y’s s ize or r eceipt of Federal rnments give funding. Title II r equires that S tate and local g ove 2

5 people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings). State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided. Complaints of title II violations may be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date of discrimination. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department may bring a lawsuit where it has investigated a matter and has been unable to resolve violations. For more information, contact: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Disability Rights Section - NYAV Washington, D.C. 20530 www.ada.gov (800) 514-0301 (voice) (800) 514-0383 (TTY) 3

6 Title II may also be enforced through private lawsuits in Federal court. It is not necessary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) or any other Federal agency, or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter, before going to court. II: Public Transportation ADA Title provisi of title II c over public nsportation ons The tra such as city buses transportation public rail transit (e.g. services, and commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities subways, not discriminate may people with disabilities in the provision against of ervices. They must comply w ith requirements for their s in make purchased vehicles, accessibility good faith efforts to newly purchase lease accessible us ed buses, remanufacture buses in an or accessible manner, and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide paratransit they operate fixed-route bus or rail where atra duals rvice where i ndivi systems. Par who are unable nsit is a se to the regular transit system independently (because of a physical use or men tal imp air ment) are p icked up a nd dropped off at th eir ansp ues tions and complaints about pu blic tr . Q ortation des tinations should be directed to: Office of Civil Rights Federal Administration Transit U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E. Room E 54 - 427 Washington, D.C. 20590 www.fta.dot.gov/ada (888) 446-4511 (voice/relay) 4

7 ADA Title III: Public Accommodations Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by title III. Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. They also must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources. Courses and examinations related to professional, educational, or trade-related applications, licensing, certifications, or credentialing must be provided in a place and manner accessible to people with disabilities, or alternative accessible arrangements must be offered. Commercial facilities, such as factories and warehouses, must comply with the ADA’s architectural standards for new construction and alterations. 5

8 Complaints of title III violations may be filed with the Department of Justice. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a mediation program sponsored by the Department. The Department is authorized to bring a lawsuit where there is a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of title III, or where an act of discrimination raises an issue of general public importance. Title III may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with the Department of Justice (or any Federal agency), or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter, before going to court. For more information, contact: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Disability Rights Section - NYAV Washington, D.C. 20530 www.ada.gov (800) 514-0301 (voice) (800) 514-0383 (TTY) 6

9 ADA Title IV: Telecommunications Relay Services Title IV a ddre sses telephone and televis ion access for pe ople equires co mmon carriers with hearing and sp eech disabilities. It r (telephone comp anies) to es tablish interstate and intras tate ications r mmun teleco rvices ( elay se TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a ilities week. TRS enab les callers w ith h ear ing and speech disab oice who use TTYs (also known as TDDs), and callers who use v telephones to communicate w ith each other through a third party co mmun mmunications ications assistant. The Federal Co mmission ( Co FCC ) has set minimum standards for TRS services. ally funded pub lic eder sed captioning of F equires clo Title IV also r vice anno uncements. For m bout TRS, c ser ore i nformation a ontact the FCC at: Federal Co mmunications Co mmission th Street, S.W. 445 12 on, D .C. 20554 Washingt http://www.fcc.gov/general/disability-rights-office (Voice) (888) 225-5322 322 ( (888) TTY) 835-5 7

10 Telecommunications Act Section 255 and Section 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, require 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. These amendments ensure 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. For more information, contact: Federal Communications Commission th 445 12 Street, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20554 www.fcc.gov/ general/disability-rights-office (888) 225-5322 (Voice) (888) 835-5322 (TTY) 8

11 Fair Housing Act The Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin. Its coverage includes private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance, and State and local government housing. It is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the disability of that individual, an individual associated with the buyer or renter, or an individual who intends to live in the residence. Other covered activities include, for example, financing, zoning practices, new construction design, and advertising. The Fair Housing Act requires owners of housing facilities to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities equal housing opportunities. For example, a landlord with a “no pets” policy may be required to grant an exception to this rule and allow an individual who is blind to keep a guide dog in the residence. The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space, as well as to common use spaces. (The landlord is not required to pay for the changes.) The Act further requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for persons with disabilities. This includes accessible common use areas, doors that are wide enough for wheelchairs, kitchens and bathrooms that allow a person using a wheelchair to maneuver, and other adaptable features within the units. 9

12 Complaints of Fair Housing Act violations may be filed with Department of Housing and Urban Development. U.S. the For more information or to file a complaint, contact: of Compliance and Disability Rights Division Office of F air Housi ng a nd E qual Opp ort unity Office Department Housing and Urban Development of U.S. 451 7th Street, S.W., Room 5242 D.C. 20410 Washington, offices/f heo www.hud.gov/ (800) 669-9777 (voice) (800) 927-9275 (TTY) For questions about the accessibility provisions of the Fair Housing Act, you may contact Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST at: hous ingfi rst.org www.fair (888) 341-7781 (voice/TTY) For publications, you may call the Housing and Urban Development Customer Service Center at: (800) 767-7468 (voice/relay) Additionally, Department of Justice can file cases involving a the may or practice of discrimination. The Fair Housing Act pattern lawsuits. also be enforced through private 10

13 Air Carrier Access Act The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination in air by nd foreign air carriers ag tic a qualif ied tra nsportation domes ainst indivi physical or men tal imp air ment s. It a pplies only to air duals w ith that provide regularly s cheduled s ervices for hire to the carriers Re ements a ddre ss a wide ra nge of i ssues in cluding quir public. ssis tance and certain accessibility features in new ly built boarding a or and new altered aircraft airport facilities. People may enforce rights under ir Carrier A ccess A ct by filing a complaint w ith the A the Department of Transportation, or by bringing a lawsuit in U.S. Federal court. F or more information or to file a complaint, contact: Aviation Consumer Division, C-75 Protection Department of U.S. Transportation 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20590 http s : // www.transportation.g ov/airconsumer/disability (202) 366-2220 (voice) (202) 366-0511 (TTY) (800) 778-4838 (voice) (TTY) (800) 455-9880 11

14 Voting Accessibili the Elderly and ty for Handicapped Act the for Accessibility Voting The Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1 984 gener ally r olling p laces acro ss the United equires p be to States for disabilities with people to accessible physically to is available location accessible no federal elections. Where polling as a serve must an provide subdivision political place, a the on the of day election. This alternate means of casting a ballot states law also requires to registration and voting aids make available including elderly and for disabled information by TTYs (also voters, contact: information, more devices. For similar known as TDDs) or of Justice Department U.S. Civil Rights Division Pennsylvania Avenue, 950 N.W. Voting S ection - 1800G Washington, D.C. 20530 (voice/TTY) (800) 253-3931 12

15 National Voter Registration Act The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the "Motor Voter Act," makes it easier for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote. One of the basic purposes of the Act is to increase the historically low registration rates of minorities and persons with disabilities that have resulted from discrimination. The Motor Voter Act requires all offices of State-funded programs that are primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities to provide all program applicants with voter registration forms, to assist them in completing the forms, and to transmit completed forms to the appropriate State official. For more information, contact: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Voting Section - 1800G Washington, D.C. 20530 www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting (800) 253-3931 (voice/TTY) 13

16 Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to investigate conditions of confinement at State and local government institutions such as prisons, jails, pretrial detention centers, juvenile correctional facilities, publicly operated nursing homes, and institutions for people with psychiatric or developmental disabilities. Its purpose is to allow the Attorney General to uncover and correct widespread deficiencies that seriously jeopardize the health and safety of residents of institutions. The Attorney General does not have authority under CRIPA to investigate isolated incidents or to represent individual institutionalized persons. The Attorney General may initiate civil law suits where there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions are “egregious or flagrant,” that they are subjecting residents to “grievous harm,” and that they are part of a “pattern or practice” of resistance to residents’ full enjoyment of constitutional or Federal rights, including title II of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. For more information or to bring a matter to the Department of Justice’s attention, contact: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Special Litigation Section - PHB Washington, D.C. 20530 www. justice.gov/crt/civil-rights-institutionalized-person s (877) 218-5228 (voice/TTY) 14

17 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly called P.L. 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975) requires public 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. IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s) for each child. The specific special education and related services outlined in each IEP reflect the individualized needs of each student. IDEA also mandates that particular procedures be followed in the development of the IEP. Each student’s IEP must be developed by a team of knowledgeable persons and must be at least reviewed annually. The team includes the child’s teacher; the parents, subject to certain limited exceptions; the child, if determined appropriate; an agency representative who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education; and other individuals at the parents’ or agency’s discretion. If parents disagree with the proposed IEP, they can request a due process hearing and a review from the State educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the State agency’s decision to State or Federal court. For more information, contact: Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20202-7100 www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep (voice/TTY) (202) 245-7468 15

18 Rehabilitation Act The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Section 501 Section 501 requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch. To obtain more information or to file a complaint, employees should contact their agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office. Section 503 Section 503 requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000. For more information on section 503, contact: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs U.S. Department of Labor 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room C-3325 Washington, D.C. 20210 www.dol.gov/ ofccp/index.htm (202) 693-0106 (voice/relay) 16

19 Section 504 Section 504 states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service. Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter before going to court. For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Disability Rights Section - NYAV Washington, D.C. 20530 www.ada.gov (800) 514-0301 (voice) (800) 514-0383 (TTY) 17

20 Section 508 Section establishes requirements for electronic and 508 technology developed, procured, or used by information maintained, government. Section requires Federal electronic Federal 508 the technology to be accessible to and with information people including employees and members of the public. disabilities, accessib le i nformation technol ogy system is An at can be one th operated variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or in a of example, a user. For ability system that provides output only the accessible in may not be format to people with visual visual impairments and a sys tem that provides output only in audio format may not accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. be individuals disabilities Some may need accessibility-related with to or software in order peripheral use systems that comply devices with S ection 50 8. For m ore i nfor mation on s ection 508, contact: U.S. General Administration Services - Office of Government wide Policy IT Accessibility & Workforce Division (ITAW) 1800 F Street, N.W. 2222, Room MEC:ITAW Washington, DC 20405-0001 www.gsa.gov/ portal/content/105254 (202) 501-4906 (voice) U.S. and Transportation Architectural Barriers Compliance Board 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000 Was hington, DC 20004- 1111 www.access-board.gov 800-872-2253 (voice) (TTY) 800-993-2822 18

21 Ar chitectural Act Barriers Architectural Barriers (ABA) requires that buildings The Act or that facilities igned, cons tructed, are altered w ith F ederal and des or leased by a Federal agency, comply with Federal funds, for standards accessibility. ABA requirements are limited to physical tandards and new and altered buildings architectural s in newly in leas facilities. They do not address the activities conducted in ed those buildings and facilities. Facilities of the U.S. Postal Service are covered the ABA. For more information or to file a by contact: complaint, Architectural and Transportation U.S. Compliance Barriers Board 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000 D.C. Washington, 20004-1111 www.access-board.gov (800) 872-2253 (voice) (800) 993-2822 (TTY) General Sources Disability Rights Information of ADA Line Information (800) 514-0301 (voice) (800) 514-0383 (TTY) www.ada.gov nal Disability and Business Regio Technical Assis tan ce Cen ters (800) 949-4232 (voice/TTY) www.adata.org 19

22 Statute Citations Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 49 U.S.C. § 41705 Implementing Regulation: 14 CFR Part 382 Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. Implementing Regulations: 29 CFR Parts 1630, 1602 (Title I, EEOC) 28 CFR Part 35 (Title II, Department of Justice) 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, 38 (Title II, III, Department of Transportation) 28 CFR Part 36 (Title III, Department of Justice) 47 CFR §§ 64.601 et seq. (Title IV, FCC) Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 42 U.S.C. §§ 4151 et seq. Implementing Regulation: 41 CFR Subpart 101-19.6 Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 et seq. Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. Implementing Regulation: 24 CFR Parts 100 et seq. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. Implementing Regulation: 34 CFR Part 300 20

23 National Voter Registration Act of 1993 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973gg et seq. , as amended Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 29 U.S.C. § 791 Implementing Regulation: 29 CFR § 1614.203 Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , as amended 29 U.S.C. § 793 Implementing Regulation: 41 CFR Part 60-741 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , as amended 29 U.S.C. § 794 Over 20 Implementing Regulations for federally assisted programs, including: 34 CFR Part 104 (Department of Education) 45 CFR Part 84 (Department of Health and Human Services) 28 CFR §§ 42.501 et seq. Over 95 Implementing Regulations for federally conducted programs, including: 28 CFR Part 39 (Department of Justice) Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended 29 U.S.C. § 794d Telecommunications Act of 1996 47 U.S.C. §§ 255, 251(a)(2) Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973ee et seq. 21

24 The Americans with Disabilities Act authorizes the Department of Justice (the Department) to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights or responsibilities under the to assist you in understanding the ADA and the Act. This document provides informal guidance Department's regulations. This guidance document is not intended to be a final agency action, has no legally binding effect, and may be rescinded or modified in the Department’s complete discretion, in accordance with applicable laws. The Department’s guidance documents, including this guidance, do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities beyond what is required by the terms of the applicable statutes, regulations, or binding judicial precedent.

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