The Americans with Disabilities Act: Description and Analysis
Margaret R. Spencer
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 USC, 12101[a]) prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in the areas of employment, public services and transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications. It was enacted to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The ADA is a direct descendant of two federal statutes--the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, and national origin, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibited discrimination against disabled individuals by the federal government and any program receiving or benefiting from federal financial assistance (29 CRF, Section 32.1). The ADA, however, is more expansive than these statutes. The ADAs' prohibitions are applicable to virtually all private businesses and employers in the United States. Moreover, by requiring business owners to make physical and procedural accommodations to integrate persons with disabilities into the mainstream of American life, the ADA does more than simply add "disability" to the list of classes protected under the Civil Rights Act.
Underlying the ADA's mandate for nondiscrimination is a call for changes in attitudes and presumptions about individuals with disabilities. For example, the Rehabilitation Act referred to persons with disabilities as "handicapped." In the ADA, Congress consciously avoided the word "handicap," because this term is often laden with patronizing attitudes and stereotypes. Instead, Congress used the term "disability," which reflects a more sensitive and objective attitude