The Americans with Disabilities Act: What Every Accountant Should Know

By Barr, Dorothea | The National Public Accountant, January 1992 | Go to article overview

The Americans with Disabilities Act: What Every Accountant Should Know


Barr, Dorothea, The National Public Accountant


The Americans With Disabilities Act What Every Accountant Should Know

January 26, 1992 marks an important day for American businesses and organizations as well as for the approximately 43 million people nationwide with disabilities. It is the day on which regulations implementing the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) go into effect. It is the day on which all businesses, large and small, will awaken to the concerns confronting Americans with disabilities.

Signed into law in 1990 by President Bush, the ADA is a key medium through which persons with disabilities will be ensured an equal opportunity for gainful employment, and the nation's workforce will be provided an offset for anticipated labor shortages.

Prior to the passage of this law, few citizens, employers, businesses or organizations were truly aware of the difficulties confronted by persons with disabilities. Though everyone has probably known a person with a disability, few are really able to understand the numerous challenges which the disabled have had to and continue to overcome on a daily basis.

Few of us realize that only one-third of the 33 million adults with disabilities in the United States are employed; or, that 30% of all the disabled with college educations remain unemployed, while 12% live at or below the government established poverty level.

January 26, 1992 represents a day of change. As a small business owner and advisor, it is imperative that you fully understand this aggressive law so that you may effectively guide your business and your clients into compliance. The Americans With Disabilities Act contains five sections, two of which are of significance to independent accountants and their clients. Title I regulates employment practices as they relate to disabled persons. Title III sets standards for the accessibility of public accommodations to the physically impaired.

Who is Disabled?

According to the ADA, a disabled persons is: anyone with physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life function, anyone who has a record of an impairment, or anyone perceived as having an impairment.

The Act further defines a physical or mental impairment as either:

1. Any physiological disorder or

condition, cosmetic

disfigurement or anatomical loss

affecting one or more of the following

body systems; neurological,

musculoskeletal, special sense organs,

respiratory (including speech

organs), cardiovascular,

reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary,

hemic and lymphatic, skin

and endocrine, or, 2. Any mental or psychological

disorder, such as mental

retardation, organic brain syndrome,

emotional or mental illness or

specific learning disabilities.

Title I - Employment Provisions

By July 26, 1992, all employers with 25 or more employees will be required to comply with Title I of the ADA which addresses the employee selection, terms and conditions of employment. Employers with 15 or more employees will be required to comply by July 26, 1994.

Employee Selection and Prohibitive Acts

If a potential employee is qualified to do a job, the Act states that the employer may not discriminate against him or her when making a hiring decision. Nor can the employer discriminate against a current employee with a disability who is up for a promotion, tenure or training.

The ADA expressly prohibits discriminatory acts against "qualified" individuals with disabilities. It defines a "qualified individual with a disability" as a "person who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position." The focus of the ADA is that a qualified individual must be able to perform the "essential functions" of the job. Therefore, employers should prepare a written job description prior to advertising and interviewing applicants for a vacant position.

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