Americans with Disabilities Act


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990 and was updated in 2008. It protects people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and services from private businesses like transportation and telecommunications. It is often regarded as the most sweeping civil rights statute enacted since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, the law does not provide funding for services or accommodations.

In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAA) made significant changes to the ADA’s definition of “disability,” broadening the scope of coverage under both the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Why It Matters

The ADA defines an individual with a disability as a person who:

1. has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one’s major life activities;

2. has a record of such an impairment;

3. is regarded as having such an impairment.

Under the law, learning, reading, thinking, and concentrating are all considered major life activities. The 2008 amendments to the ADA require a broader interpretation of disability by schools, testing agencies, and employers than the original law.

Deeper Dive

Deeper Dive

The fine details of any law are often complicated and specific. For more in-depth information on the ADA, see our Learn the Law breakdown. This PDF document takes a much deeper dive into the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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