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Your rights

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A number of federal laws protect the rights of people with disabilities. The main one is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination in four main areas:

  • Employment – The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability in all aspects of employment. The law also requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with a disability. For instance, if you have a wheelchair, your employer may be required to install a ramp or modify your workspace. Other examples or reasonable accommodations include modified work stations, flexible scheduling, and in some cases, personal assistant services.
  • State and local government services and public transportation – The ADA requires that all government services be made available and accessible to people with disabilities. These services include public transportation systems.
  • Public accommodations – The ADA requires that all public buildings be accessible to people with disabilities. Examples include widening aisles and doorways and installing ramps for people in wheelchairs. Another example is putting up signs in Braille for people who are blind.
  • Telecommunications – The ADA requires that telephone companies provide telephone relay services to people with hearing and/or speech impairments (see Assistive technology). It also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements on television.

Some other laws that protect people with disabilities include:

  • Fair Housing Act – This law makes it illegal to deny housing to a renter or buyer because of a disability. Owners must also make reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. For instance, a blind person renting a property should be allowed to keep a guide dog, even if the owner does not allow animals on the property.
  • Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – This law requires that a free public education be made available to children and youth with disabilities. Special education provided by IDEA is tailored to meet the unique educational needs of children with all types of disabilities, including autism, deafness, emotional disturbances, intellectual disability, and learning disabilities. The No Child Left Behind Act also protects the educational needs of children with disabilities. This law holds schools accountable for the academic success of all children, including children with disabilities.
  • Rehabilitation Act – The purpose of this law is to help people with disabilities become employed and independent. Among other things, the law established Centers for Independent Living (see Everyday living).

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More information on Your rights

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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