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Americans with Disabilities Act

Knowing the "ins and outs" of this Civil Rights Law could make a difference in your child's life.

Americans with Disabilities Act: How it Affects You

Has your child been rejected by a preschool or excluded from a field trip because a teacher was afraid to use his or her EpiPen? Does a moldy carpet at work or school make you sick? Does stale smoke in offices, hotel rooms or conference centers make it hard for you to take part in routine business activities?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that gives you the right to ask for changes where policies, practices or conditions exclude or disadvantage you. As of January 26, 1992, public entities and public accommodations must ensure that individuals with disabilities have full access to and equal enjoyment of all facilities, programs, goods and services.

The ADA borrows from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and education in agencies, programs and services that receive federal money. The ADA extends many of the rights and duties of Section 504 to public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores, doctors' offices, museums, private schools and child care programs. They must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. No one can be excluded or denied services just because he/she is disabled or based on ignorance, attitudes or stereotypes.

Does the ADA Apply to People with Asthma and Allergies?

Yes. In both the ADA and Section 504, a person with a disability is described as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or is regarded as having such impairments. Breathing, eating, working and going to school are "major life activities." Asthma and allergies are still considered disabilities under the ADA, even if symptoms are controlled by medication.

The ADA can help people with asthma and allergies obtain safer, healthier environments where they work, shop, eat and go to school. The ADA also affects employment policies. For example, a private preschool can not refuse to enroll children because giving medication to or adapting snacks for students with allergies requires special staff training or because insurance rates might go up. A firm can not refuse to hire an otherwise qualified person solely because of the potential time or insurance needs of a family member.

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