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Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is landmark civil rights legislation that was passed in 1990. The goal of the ADA is to shape American society to include people with disabilities in several key areas, such as employment, state and local government programs and activities, and businesses and nonprofit organizations that are open to the public. The ADA has five titles:

  • Title I covers employment.
  • Title II addresses the programs, services, and activities of state and local government (public entities).
  • Title III applies to businesses and nonprofits that are open to the public (public accommodations).
  • Title IV established the relay system for telephone access for people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing.
  • Title V has requirements that apply to both the ADA as a whole and how the ADA impacts other laws.

In 2008, Congress strengthened and clarified the ADA with the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA).

[ Read: ADA Overview ]


  • What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
    The ADA defines disability and has five titles (sections) that forbid a wide range of discrimination.
  • How to File a Complaint
    If you feel that the ADA, or a related law, is not being followed, you can file a complaint. This article helps you figure out where to report the problem.
  • The ADA and Parking
    Accessible parking is a common feature in parking lots—and a common topic in questions posed on the Northeast ADA Center hotline.
  • The Spirit of the ADA and Your Business
    If you are merely complying with the ADA to meet a legal requirement, you’re missing the true purpose—or spirit—of the ADA.
  • The ADA and Employers
    This article explains essential employment-related terms and concepts in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

Downloadables (Fact Sheets, etc)

Ask About The ADA

  • What about COVID-19?
    Q: What COVID-19 resources do you recommend? A: First, let’s acknowledge that coping with COVID-19 can be very difficult, and we hope you’re doing okay with whatever challenges brought yo...
  • ADA and Product Certifications
    Q: My company produces grab bars according to the design criteria set out in the ADA design standards. A customer, a shipyard in Europe, now asks for stamped certification that our grab bars are ADA c...
  • Nonprofits and Religious Entities
    Q: I am trying to find out if a 501(c)(3) is a “religious entity” for ADA purposes (i.e., accommodations in a day care). I am having no luck. Is there a place to look  on tax forms or...
  • Can I call the ADA?
    The ADA is not an agency, organization or a service provider. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including j...
  • Does the ADA apply to all apartments and condominiums?
    The ADA does not always apply to apartments and condominiums. In terms of housing, Title II entities (state and local government) have an obligation under the ADA to provide access and services in an...


The ADA in K-12 Schools
The ADA in K-12 Schools
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to public schools (including charter schools) and private schools from kindergarten through high school.
Religiously controlled schools are exempt from the ADA, but state or local nondiscrimination laws may still apply.
What does the ADA impact in schools?
- All educational programs, services, and activities
- Access to school buildings and facilities, summer programs, and extracurricular activities
- Parent-teacher conferences, school board meetings, adult education, sporting events, school plays, and graduation ceremonies Share on Facebook
What were the ADA hot topics?
What were the ADA hot topics?
People ask the Northeast ADA Center team all kinds of questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
The five the most asked about topics in 2022 were: 1 - Reasonable accommodation; 2 - Facility access; 3 - General ADA questions; 4 - Enforcement; 5 - Service animals Share on Facebook
What is the ADA?
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law for people with disabilities.
The ADA: is about equal access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities; has its own definition of disability that is meant to be interpreted to cover as many people as possible; is intended as a national mandate to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities; provides clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards that address discrimination against people with disabilities Share on Facebook
Because of the ADA
Infographic titled 'Because of the ADA.'

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law on July 26, 1990. The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including access to jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places that are open to the general public. The law is divided into five titles (or areas) where the various protections for people with disabilities are spelled out. The goal of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Here are just a few of the positive effects that can be observed today, all because of the ADA.

Are you going out into the community? You can park in an accessible parking space. You can take an accessible bus. You can easily enter stores because of a curb ramp and doors that are accessible. You can navigate through stores along a clear path of travel. Signage at areas like bathrooms is clear and concise with raised characters and Braille. Drinking fountains are accessible. The checkout counter and service counters you encounter are lower and more accessible. You can bring your service animal with you.

Are you going to the movies? theaters offer assisted listening devices to help you hear better.

Are you making a phone call? You can use a relay service to assist you with communication.

Are you going to a concert or sporting event? You have access to wheelchair accessible seats alongside your friends and family.

Are you going to work? You can request a change in how things are typically done from your employer, called a reasonable accommodation, to assist you with work tasks.

Are you going to vote or to a town meeting? Your polling place and municipal programs, offices and meetings must be accessible to you.

Are you going to the Doctor? You can request an interpreter to communicate more efficiently. You can request medical information in a manner that works for you.

Nearly 37 million people in our country have a disability and nearly 25% of today's 20 year olds will experience disability in their lifetime. (ADA National Network, ADA Anniversary Toolkit)

'This Act is powerful in its simplicity. it will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and hard. Independence, freedom of choice, control of their own lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.' -President George H.W. Bush, ADA Signing Ceremony, July 26, 1990 Share on Facebook
Small Employer Survey Results #5
'Small Employer Survey Results #5'

Graphic shows example comic titled 'What is a Disability?' featuring two coworkers speaking and a caption: 95% of small employers in our survey found this comic format a helpful way to access information on disability.

Comic panel 1: “Small Companies and the ADA.” Coworker 2: 'I just read that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to small companies. But no one here uses a wheelchair or is blind.' Subtitle: The employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to all businesses with fifteen or more employees.

Panel 2: “Disability Under the ADA.” Coworker 1: “Actually, 20% of the American population has a disability. Many disabilities you can’t even see. Conditions like hearing impairments, depression, and cancer may be disabilities under the ADA.” Subtitle: “Under the ADA, if an employee has an ongoing or serious medical/health condition that affects how the body works or the way they do their job, they might have a disability.”

Panel 3: “Covered Employees”. Coworker 2 thinking, “Huh. Tom has a slipped disc. Silvia has low vision, and Mateo deals with anxiety. These could all be disabilities under the ADA.” Subtitle: “In order to benefit from the protections of the ADA, an employee must disclose they have a disability to their employer.”

Source: Chang, H.-Y., von Schrader, S., & Strobel Gower, W. (2019). Small organizations and Title I of the ADA: A survey study in Region 2. Ithaca, NY: Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability.

If you have questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act, contact us at 1-800-949-4232. Share on Facebook

Blog Posts


  • Introduction to the Service Animal Toolkit
    07/27/2022- Do customers bring dogs into your business claiming they are service animals, emotional support animals, comfort dogs, or therapy dogs? Join Chris Sweet, technical assistant for the Northeast ADA Cent...
  • ADA 101.2 Overview of Title I and Employment
    04/26/2021- This webinar is the third in the Northeast ADA's ADA 101 series. Intended for those new to the Americans with Disabilities Act or for those wanting a refresher, this webinar will focus on the employme...
  • ADA 101.1 Defining Disability
    03/26/2021- This presentation builds on the introduction to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) given in the webinar ADA 101. Intended for those new to the ADA or for those wanting a refresher, this webinar...
  • Northeast ADA Center Year in Review 2020
    01/28/2021- While COVID-19 was certainly one of the largest stories of 2020, other ADA items of note happened as well. Join the technical assistance team of the Northeast ADA Center as they review the year 2020....
  • Access to Voting
    09/25/2019- Participating in the electoral process is a fundamental right in the United States. Voters with disabilities should have equal access and an equal opportunity to exercise this right. Join the Northeas...


  • 28th Anniversary of the ADA!
    07/18/2018- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This legislation established a comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discr...
  • Celebrate the ADA
    07/17/2019- Throughout the year, celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Anniversary (July 26) in your workplaces, schools and communities. While much progress has been made, much remains...
  • When Alcohol Is Involved, the ADA Distinguishes Between ‘Having a Disability' and ‘Disability-related Misconduct'
    10/16/2019- Being under the influence of alcohol at work does not equal a disability, ever. Alcoholism is an ADA-protected disability. Yet the ADA does not require that employers accommodate alcoholics by permitt...
  • Survey Opportunity
    08/15/2018- Did you know that small businesses (with fewer than 500 employees) constitute more than 98% of New York and New Jersey businesses, and account for over 50% of the private workforce within region 2: Ne...
  • Updates
    04/15/2020- The Northeast ADA Center team hopes that this newsletter finds you well. The new coronavirus (COVID-19) is hitting the disability community especially hard. Not only are people concerned for their hea...