The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities and rights in areas of employment, education, and access to public places. However, with a changing society, the ADA has faced criticism for being outdated and not comprehensive enough to address the current needs of individuals with disabilities.
This article will explore the gaps in the Americans with Disabilities Act, the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, and possible solutions to current issues within the ADA.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in many areas of public life, including:
- Access to public places (e.g., schools, hospitals, parks, and government buildings)
The ADA has four main sections, or titles, which outline the areas that the law covers:
- Title I: Employment
- Title II: Public Services (state and local government)
- Title III: Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
- Title IV: Telecommunications
The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow individuals with disabilities to perform essential job functions and prohibits retaliation against individuals who assert their rights under the law.
What is missing from the Americans with Disabilities Act?
While the Americans with Disabilities Act has improved the lives of individuals with disabilities, there are still gaps in the law that leave many individuals at a disadvantage. These shortcomings include:
Accessibility Requirements Limited to New Construction
The Americans with Disabilities Act only requires accessibility features for new construction or renovations of existing facilities. Older buildings, including historical sites, often remain inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. Such limitations can prevent individuals with disabilities from participating in cultural activities and educational opportunities.
Lack of Enforcement Mechanisms
The ADA does not provide clear mechanisms for enforcement. Individuals with disabilities must file a complaint with the Department of Justice or hire an attorney to file a lawsuit. This process can be lengthy and expensive, and not all individuals with disabilities have access to legal aid. As a result, many violations of the ADA go unreported and uncorrected.
Limited Definitions of Disabilities
The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. While this definition has been expanded in recent years, it still excludes many conditions that do not fit within the narrow definition.
Lack of Accommodations for Mental Health Disabilities
The ADA does not require employers or public entities to provide accommodations for individuals with mental health disabilities unless they can prove that the condition substantially limits a major life activity. Mental health disabilities can be challenging to prove, and individuals may not be aware of their rights under the ADA. This can lead to discrimination against individuals with mental health disabilities in employment, housing, and transportation.
Challenges faced by individuals with disabilities
Individuals with disabilities face many challenges in society that are not addressed by the ADA, including:
With the increasing importance of online communication and commerce, individuals with disabilities who use screen readers or other assistive technologies face barriers to accessing websites and online content. Lack of accessibility can include problems with a website’s navigation, forms, images, and videos.
Many individuals with disabilities face significant barriers to transportation, including a lack of accessible public transportation, kerbs, and crosswalks, and inaccessible taxis and ride-sharing services.
Individuals with disabilities face difficulties finding appropriate housing that meets their accessibility needs. Lack of accessible rental housing and a shortage of affordable, accessible housing options can lead to crowding, homelessness, and institutionalisation.
Possible solutions to current issues in the ADA
To address the shortcomings of the ADA and improve the lives of individuals with disabilities, there must be a shift in society’s attitudes toward individuals with disabilities as well as the law itself. Some possible solutions include:
Expanded Definition of Disabilities
A broader definition of disabilities would expand the ADA’s coverage to include more individuals who face barriers in participating in society.
Increased Enforcement Mechanisms
The ADA should install better mechanisms to ensure that businesses and public institutions comply with its regulations. This can include increasing penalties for non-compliance, and expanding the scope of enforcement to include third-party organisations such as website designers and app developers.
Updated Accessibility Standards
The ADA should establish updated accessibility standards that take into account contemporary technology and architecture, and make public spaces more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Compliance with these standards should also be audited regularly and rigorously.
Improved Accessibility for Mental Health Disabilities
The ADA should provide clear guidelines and requirements for accommodations for individuals with mental health disabilities in the workplace and public spaces. This can include training for employers on how to recognise and support individuals with mental health disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is an essential law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in many areas of public life. Despite being a landmark piece of legislation, the ADA has room for improvement to address current issues and ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities and rights. By expanding the definition of disabilities, increasing enforcement mechanisms, establishing updated accessibility standards, and improving accessibility for mental health disabilities, we can improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and move toward a more inclusive society.
Common questions and their answers related to ‘What is not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act’
Q: Does the ADA cover all types of disabilities?
A: The ADA covers individuals with disabilities that substantially limit one or more major life activities. However, it does not cover individuals with disabilities that do not meet this definition.
Q: Does the ADA require businesses to make all products and services accessible?
A: The ADA requires businesses to make their goods and services accessible to individuals with disabilities, but only if doing so is readily achievable, meaning it would not cause an undue burden or significant difficulty.
Q: Does the ADA cover mental health disabilities?
A: The ADA covers mental health disabilities that substantially limit one or more major life activities. However, employers and public institutions are not required to provide accommodations unless an individual can show that their condition substantially limits a major life activity.