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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Overview Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Overview

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed July 26, 1990, is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The ADA provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those afforded to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. This piece of legislation ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. The 2008 Amendments to the ADA, signed into law on September 25, 2008, describes in more detail who is covered by the civil rights protections of the ADA. The amendments expands the definition of “disability” to include impairments that substantially limit a major life activity and states that when determining whether some one qualifies as disabled, one cannot take into account assistive devices, auxiliary aids, accommodations, medical therapies and supplies. The amendments also address episodic or disabilities that may go into remission but still can significantly limit a major life activity when active, like epilepsy and post traumatic stress disorder. To learn more about the ADA and its amendments or to read the full text of the ADA, please visit or

The ADA defines a disability as:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (i.e. working, talking, hearing, seeing, caring for one's self)
  • Having a record of such an impairment
  • Being regarded by others as having an impairment such as individuals with severe facial scarring

View the ADA Home Page or an Overview and Summary of the ADA.

ADA Amendments Act of 2008 

Although the ADA was enacted to "provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities," the Supreme Court decisions over time whittled away at the definition of "disability" in contravention to congressional intent, narrowing the protections available to citizens with disabilities. On September 25, 2008,the President signed into law the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which clarifies and broadens the definition of disability and expands the population eligible for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.


Revised regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect on March 15, 2011. The regulations apply to the activities of more than 80,000 units of state and local government and more than seven million places of public accommodation, including stores, restaurants, museums, sporting arenas, movie theaters, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, hotels, jails and prisons, polling places and emergency preparedness shelters. For more information visit

Summary of Key Changes in the Revised ADA Regulations

The Southeast ADA Center has put together this summary of key changes about the revised and expanded regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For more information visit For more information visit

The 2010 ADA Standards adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) are available on the Access Board’s website.

HTML Version:

PDF Version:

For more information and guidance on the ADA standards, visit the Board’s website at

There are five titles within the ADA:

Title I – Employment
Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Employers may hire, fire and promote the most qualified individual, regardless of his/her disability. Title I covers all aspects of the hiring process, including posting of available positions, interviewing, job offers and hiring. All employers are required to make necessary reasonable accommodations for known disabilities of a qualified applicant or employee, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations include modification of work schedules; altering a workspace; restructuring job duties; and reassignment. Tax credits may be available for employers that comply with the law.

Title I prohibits employers from giving pre-employment medical exams or inquiries to determine if an individual is disabled. It also prohibits the use of employment tests and other selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities unless the tests are shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers must also keep results of any medical exams confidential. The law permits employers to inquire about the ability of a job applicant or employee to perform essential job-related functions at any time.

Title I complaints must be filed with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the date of discrimination, or 300 days if the charge is filed with a designated state or local fair employment practice agency. Individuals may file a lawsuit in federal court only after they receive a "right-to-sue" letter from the EEOC.

Charges of employment discrimination on the basis of disability may be filed at any U.S. EEOC field office in 50 cities throughout the U.S. Field offices are listed in most telephone directories under "U.S. Government." For the appropriate EEOC field office in your geographic area, contact:

800-669-4000 (voice)
800-669-6820 (TTY)

Publications and information on EEOC-enforced laws may be obtained by calling:

800-669-3362 (voice)
800-3302 (TTY)

For information on how to accommodate a specific individual with a disability, contact the Job Accommodation Network at:

800-526-7234 (voice/TTY)


The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has released a new illustrated guide to help small business owners understand the new requirements of the revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations that took effect on March 15, 2011. ADA Update: A Primer for Small Businesses, includes information about who is covered by the ADA, communicating with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities, as well as information about the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. For more information visit

Title II- State and Local Governments
Title II regulations prohibit state and local government agencies, departments, special purpose districts, and other instrumentalities from discriminating against people with disabilities in their programs, services and activities. Public entities must make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices and procedures to allow equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate, unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity. They must also provide auxiliary aids and services, integrated program access through nonstructural and architectural modifications, and meet Title I employment provisions with all employees and contractors. Public entities do not need to remove all physical barriers in existing buildings as long as programs provided in those buildings are readily accessible to users with disabilities in another facility. All new construction must be accessible.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has enforcement responsibility for all state and local government entities not specifically assigned to other designated agencies. Title II also seeks to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to existing public transportation services. All newly purchased buses and other vehicles must be accessible. In cases of inaccessible fixed route systems, public entities must provide paratransit services comparable to the level of service provided by the fixed route system.

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 Ave., N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

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 or any other federal agency, or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter, before going to court.

Discrimination Complaint Form – for ADA Title II and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Title II and Public Transportation
The transportation provisions of Title II cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit (e.g. subways, commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessible used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems. Paratransit is a service where individuals who are unable to use the regular transit system independently (because of a physical or mental impairment) are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.

Questions and complaints about public transportation should be directed to:

Office of Civil Rights
Federal Transit Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St., S.W.
Room 9102
Washington, D.C. 20590
888-446-4511 (voice/relay)


Title III – Public Accommodation
Title III of the ADA specifies 12 types of entities that, regardless of size, are public accommodations.

Public accommodations include:

  • Places of lodging
  • Places of exhibition or entertainment
  • Places of public gathering
  • Places of public display or collection
  • Places of recreation
  • Places of exercise
  • Private educational institutions
  • Establishments serving food or drink
  • Sales or rental establishments
  • Stations used for specific public transportation
  • Social services centers
  • Medical and dental treatment facilities

Public accommodations must provide goods and services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting possible. The law also requires businesses to eliminate eligibility requirements that exclude or segregate individuals with disabilities unless the requirements are necessary for the operation of the business. These entities must make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices and procedures that deny access unless the modification would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods or services provided. When necessary, public accommodations are required to provide auxiliary aids, such as Braille material, to ensure effective communication, unless it would cause an undue burden. Public accommodations must also remove all architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities where readily achievable. Transportation provided by private entities must also be accessible.

When constructing new building facilities or altering existing facilities, public accommodations must follow the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). These standards include general design requirements for building and site elements such as parking, accessible routes, ramps and elevators.

Complaints of Title III violations may be filed with the Department of Justice. In certain situations, cases may be referred to a department-sponsored mediation program. The justice 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 Ave., N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

Information also is available by visiting How to File a Title III Complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice.


Title III and Businesses
The ADA has changed the way Americans do business. The ADA calls for businesses to make their facilities, goods and services accessible to all, including people with disabilities. The ADA is good business—access for everyone is the key to attracting new customers and retaining those whom businesses now serve.

The following guides produced by a cooperative effort between business and disability groups offer practical answers to frequently asked questions about a wide variety of business industries:


The U.S. Department of Justice also provides resources on businesses and the ADA. Following are links to selected ADA Business Brief publications.

View the ADA Business Connection Web site.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

ADA Tax Credits
Access improvements resulting from a barrier removal plan not only comply with the ADA barrier removal requirement, they can improve the beauty and functionality of the property, while allowing the owner to potentially charge half the cost to the federal government.

Two tax incentives are available to businesses to help cover the cost of making access improvements. The first is a tax credit that can be used for architectural adaptations, equipment acquisitions and services such as sign language interpreters. The second is a tax deduction that can be used for architectural or transportation adaptations.

View the Tax Incentives for Improving Accessibility fact sheet.

Title IV: Telecommunications
Title IV requires that telephone companies provide telecommunication relay services that allow individuals with hearing or speech impairments to communicate using a TTY or other non-voice device. Relay services may be accessed by dialing 7-1-1. Title IV also requires that all television public service announcements produced or funded in whole or in part by the federal government include closed captioning.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces Title IV of the ADA. For more information about TRS, contact the FCC at:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
888-225-5322 (voice)
888-835-5322 (TTY)


Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions
Title V includes information regarding the ADA's relationship with other federal and state laws, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; requirements relating to the provision of insurance, construction and design regulations by the U.S. Access Board; prohibition of state immunity; inclusion of Congress as a covered entity under the law; promotion of alternative means of dispute resolution; and establishment of technical assistance.


Frequently Asked Questions
ADA Questions and Answers
ADA Frequently Asked Questions


Architectural Barriers Act
The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) requires that buildings and facilities that are designed, constructed or altered with federal funds, or leased by a federal agency, comply with federal standards for physical accessibility. ABA requirements are limited to architectural standards in new and altered buildings and in newly leased facilities. They do not address the activities conducted in those buildings and facilities. View the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.

Americans with Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines
On July 23, 2004, the U.S. Access Board published new design guidelines that cover access for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These guidelines update access requirements for a wide range of facilities in the public and private sectors covered by the law. They also include updated guidelines for federal facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). Both the ADA guidelines and the ABA guidelines, which the board updated jointly to make them more consistent, address access in new construction and alterations and contain scoping provisions, which indicate what has to comply, and technical specifications, which spell out how compliance is to be achieved.

ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines Home Page

ADA Accessibility Guidelines

For ADAAG guidelines:
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F St., NW, Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20004-1111
800-USA-ABLE (voice/TTY)

Standards for Accessible Design

Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards


U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Impacting the ADA
Reaching out to Customers with Disabilities—an online ADA course for businesses
Basic ADA Information from the U.S. Department of Education – NIDRR
The Center for Universal Design publications list
ADA Document Portal – from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities
National Center on Accessibility – recreation, parks, tourism
ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments

U.S. Department of Justice Resource Links

U.S. Department of Justice ADA Home Page
ADA Guide for Small Towns
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws
DOJ press release USDOJ initiative to train law enforcement on ADA responsibilities
ADA Settlements and Consent Agreements

Other Helpful links:

ADA Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

ADA Information for Law Enforcement
ADA Basic Building Blocks – an online course with continuing education units (CEU) available from Georgia Institute of Technology Professional Education
Access-Able Travel Source
Adaptive Environments: Human Centered Design
Job Accommodation Network – ADA Hot Links and Document Center
U.S. Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division – Complaint form concerning the accessibility of airline services


This list contains the contact information of federal agencies that are responsible for providing information to the public about the Americans with Disabilities Act and organizations that have been funded by the federal government to provide information through staffed information centers. The agencies and organizations listed are sources for obtaining information about the law's requirements and informal guidance in understanding and complying with the ADA.

Telephone Numbers

ADA Information Line
U.S. Department of Justice

For ADA publications and questions:
800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY) or

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

For publications
800-669-3362 (voice)
800-800-3302 (TTY)

For questions
800-669-4000 (voice)
800-669-6820 (TTY)

U.S. Department of Transportation

ADA Assistance Line for regulations and complaints

888-446-4511 (voice)
TTY: use relay service

Federal Communications Commission

888-225-5322 (voice)
888-835-5322 (TTY)

U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board

800-872-2253 (voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)

U.S. Department of Labor

Job Accommodation Network
800-526-7234 (voice and TTY)

U.S. Department of Education

Regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
800-949-4232 (voice and TTY)

U.S. Department of Transportation

Project Action
800-659-6428 (voice)
TTY: use relay service

Addresses for ADA Information

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20507

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Transit Administration
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20590

Federal Communications Commission
1919 M St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F St., NW Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20004-1111