Ask About the ADA

Is my ADA Complaint with the Department of Justice anonymous?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) does require a complainant to file personal information when filing a complaint. If the DOJ does look to seek action, many times in the form of mediation, it would contact you and the entity you filed a complaint about to determine if both parties want to move forward to resolve the issue. Here is what the DOJ has to say on disclosure. The DOJ Disability Rights Section will not disclose your name or other identifying information about you unless it is necessary for enforcement activities against an entity alleged to have violated federal law, required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, disclosure is permitted pursuant to the Privacy Act, or is otherwise required by law.


Can I ask for a new supervisor as a reasonable accommodation?

Probably not. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that an employer does not have to provide an employee with a new supervisor as a reasonable accommodation. In addition, multiple court decisions have concluded that an inability to get along with one’s supervisor “does not give rise” to a disability that is protected by the ADA.  Although an employer is not required to change supervisors, the employer may be required to provide other accommodations, such as a change in the supervisory method used. Employees with disabilities are protected from disability-based discrimination or harassment by a supervisor and others in the workplace. Employers may want to consider implementing management techniques that “set a tone” for a positive workplace culture, including developing procedures to evaluate the effectiveness of accommodations, educating  all employees on their right to accommodations, and providing sensitivity awareness  training to co-workers and supervisors.


Can my employer ask about my disability after they have made me a job offer?

Yes. Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers this guidance. Once an employee is on the job, his/her actual performance is the best measure of ability to do the job. When a need arises to question the ability of an employee to do the essential functions of his/her job or to question whether the employee can do the job without posing a direct threat due to a medical condition, it may be job-related and consistent with business necessity for an employer to make disability-related inquiries or require a medical examination.


I am the only HR person in a small business, how do I help our managers understand the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Small business is a critical driver in our economy and a very attractive option for those who are looking for work. The people seeking jobs include people with disabilities. However, because small business has less support from human resource professionals, they have fewer supports to understand how best to include people with disabilities in the workforce. A recent study by the Northeast ADA Center at Cornell University found that small business need support to understand the cost of accommodation and how best to provide appropriate accommodations, how to talk about disability, and how to communicate company policies that support employees with disabilities. The Small Business at Work Toolkit was designed as a resource that breaks down key components of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into an easy to use resource for small businesses. With the toolkit, you can learn more about the benefits of a business that includes people with disabilities, understand what constitutes a disability, and break down some of the myths about disability that can make including people with disabilities in a small business difficult. The Toolkit also breaks down some of the requirements of the ADA into plain language that is much easier to understand. Share the link with business owners, managers, and employees so that they can understand how and why to include people with disabilities in your small business.


Do I have to apply to be covered by the ADA?

No, there is no application process to be covered under the ADA. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.


Can I call the ADA?

The ADA is not an agency, organization or a service provider. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and most public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA Centers, collectively known as the ADA National Network, provide information and training about the ADA and can be contacted by calling 800-949-4232. The US Department of Justice also has an ADA information line and can be contacted by calling 800-514-0301.


Does the ADA apply to grades K through 12?

Yes. Public schools are covered by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Private schools are generally covered under Title III of the ADA except for those schools which are religious in nature. Schools must ensure equal opportunity and access to students with disabilities.

This is achieved in numerous ways. For example, programs such as classes or extracurricular activities must be provided in an integrated setting, unless a separate or different program is necessary to ensure an equal opportunity for a student with a disability. Schools must make reasonable modifications to policies and practices to avoid discrimination. They must offer auxiliary aids and services, such as providing braille textbooks or a sign language interpreter, to ensure effective communication for students with disabilities. Sometimes, physical changes to a school’s facilities may be necessary to provide access to its programs and services.


Does an online college class have to be accessible?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to access the services and activities of colleges and universities. Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education recognize the need for this equal opportunity under the ADA as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Online course accessibility means that a student using a screen reader form of assistive technology can read and manipulate an online learning management system and the documents provided by faculty. It means that a student who is Deaf or hard-of-hearing has access to captions for videos and other multimedia. Accessibility in the digital environment requires thoughtful planning and preparation by institutions and faculty in how they deliver virtual learning.


Does the ADA apply to websites?

Yes, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites for Title II and Title III. Title II covers state and local government and their related entities while Title III addresses public accommodations such as businesses and nonprofits. The difficulty is that as of now, there are no specific standards defined by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the federal department that creates the regulations for Title II and III of the ADA. That being said, the DOJ has held for many years that the ADA does apply as shown in Chapter 5 of the ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Governments and to Title III public accommodations in its September 25, 2018 letter to Representative Ted Budd of North Carolina.


Are service animals permitted in disaster shelters?

Yes. Permitting a service animal can be a form of reasonable modification of a policy. Typically, a service animal should be permitted to go where the public is allowed to go. The handler must be a person with a disability and the animal must be a service animal under the definition from the Department of Justice; a dog that is individually trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability. Shelter workers are permitted to ask if the animal is a service animal needed because of a disability. And they can also ask what task the animal has been trained to perform. The handler is responsible for the care of the service animal and for making sure that the service animal acts appropriately. To learn more, read the Northeast ADA fact sheet Key Facts About Service Animals for Disaster Shelter Workers.


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