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Disability Discrimination: Applicable Laws

When a person suffers unfair treatment due to a disability, it's disability discrimination. The disability can be mental or physical.

Discrimination might also come from perceived disability. This type of discrimination on the basis of disability includes verbal or physical harassment. Disability discrimination also includes denying access to services, businesses, and buildings.

Protected Disability 101

Protected disabilities can include being hard of hearing or blind. They can also include developmental disabilities and other impairments.

Below is a list of federal laws banning discrimination based on disability. There are links to the full texts of those laws.

Many states have civil rights laws mirroring federal laws. Your state laws may be similar to those identified below. Cities and counties can also enact ordinances and laws related to civil rights.

This article discusses laws preventing disability discrimination and protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA)

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) bans disability discrimination in air transportation. It applies to:

  • All United States air carriers with flights starting or stopping at U.S. airports
  • Foreign carriers with flights starting or stopping at U.S. airports

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. It addresses many major life activities. These include:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Access to public accommodations

Title I of the ADA bans employment discrimination against a qualified person with a disability. This prohibition applies to private employers and their employment practices.

Federal employment is also affected by the ADA. The ADA also applies to state and local governments and employment agencies. Job applicants are also protected.

ADA for Public Accommodations

Title II and Title III of the Act address places of public accommodations. These portions of the Act address reasonable accommodations. Service animals are a familiar example.

In housing, the ADA addresses topics such as:

  • Reasonable modifications
  • Equal access
  • Undue hardships
  • Places of public accommodations

Other areas covered under the ADA include commercial facilities, transportation providers, and telecommunications.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), federal agencies, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) can enforce violations of the ADA.

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA)

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA) protects against disability discrimination. It addresses the accessibility and useability of newer buildings and new construction.

The law applies to various aspects of buildings and facilities, including their:

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Alteration
  • Leasing

The law generally applies if federal funds came after September 1969.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was part of the Civil Rights Act Title VIII in 1968. The 1988 amendment to the FHA added disability as a covered class. It also added families with children.

The Fair Housing Act bans discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • Disability

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects students with disabilities. It also ensures that all children with disabilities get free, appropriate public education.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also protects disabled people from discrimination. It addresses employers and organizations that get federal financial help.

Section 504 of the Act protects against discrimination based on disability in educational services and opportunities. It applies to educational institutions that get federal funding.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another federal law. It requires employers to:

  • Allow employees time off to care for family
  • Allow employees time off to address personal medical needs

The FMLA also prohibits discriminating against employees for addressing those needs.

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is another nondiscrimination provision. It bans discrimination in specific health care programs or activities based on the following:

  • Disability
  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Sex

Health programs or activities funded or administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) are covered. Health insurance marketplace insurers are also included.

Discuss Your Disability Discrimination Claim with an Attorney

Are you facing disability discrimination at school, work, or public accommodation settings? Many federal laws are available for your protection.

To protect your disability rights, discuss your situation with an attorney skilled in discrimination matters.

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