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Disability Discrimination Basics

Disability discrimination occurs when a disabled person is subjected to different or unequal treatment ("discrimination") in any number of situations, when that treatment is based on the individual's disability. The definition of "disability" may vary according to the specifics of a situation and applicable laws, but a major federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers an individual "disabled" if he or she has a physical or mental limitation that limits a "major life activity" such as walking, talking, seeing, and learning. The ADA also protects people who are not disabled but are perceived to be disabled in certain situations.

Where and When Can Disability Discrimination Occur?

Disability discrimination can take place in many different settings, but typically occurs most often in the following situations:

Employment - Including failure-to-hire claims, in which a disabled job applicant is otherwise qualified for the position but is not hired due to his or her disability; and cases involving an employer's failure to make "reasonable accommodations" for an employee's disability.

Education - Including claims that a disabled student was denied equal access to educational programs or opportunities; and claims that an educational institution failed to provide an appropriate individualized education to a disabled student.

Housing - Including claims for refusal to negotiate with a disabled person who is seeking housing; claims involving imposition of different lease/contract terms based on a person's disability; and refusal to extend a housing loan to a disabled applicant, based on his or her disability.

Access to Buildings and Businesses - Including claims that a business failed to properly accommodate/serve a customer based on his or her disability, and cases in which a disabled customer was unable to gain appropriate access to goods or services.

Transportation - Including claims that a transportation agency or company failed to properly accommodate a disabled passenger, or that a disabled passenger was unable to gain appropriate access to transportation services.

Laws Prohibiting Disability Discrimination

Most laws guaranteeing and regulating civil rights (including laws relating to the rights of disabled persons) originate at the federal level, through federal legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Civil rights have also been defined and interpreted through federal court decisions such as those handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. States also pass their own civil rights laws (usually very similar to those at the federal level), and even municipalities like cities and counties can enact ordinances and laws related to civil rights and the rights of disabled persons.

Get a Lawyer's Help with Your Disability Discrimination Claim

If you believe you have suffered a civil rights violation based on your rights as a disabled person, the best place to start is to speak with an experienced civil rights attorney. Important decisions related to your case can be complicated -- including which laws apply to your situation, who may be responsible for any harm you suffered, and how to prove that those responsible acted with an intent to discriminate against you based on your disability. A civil rights attorney will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain all options available to you, in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.

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