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What is Disability Law?

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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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Disability law refers to legal requirements intended to protect individuals from discrimination based upon mental or physical challenges. Generally, this type of discrimination occurs when employers or others do not treat a person fairly because the person has some type of disability. It also occurs when disabled persons are denied access to public places, transportation, education, or housing. The discrimination may also occur against individuals that have a relationship with a person who is disabled. There are numerous laws intended to prohibit discrimination against disabled person and ensure them access to public places.

In the U.S., the primary disability law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, and access to public services. To qualify for protection under this disability law, a person must have a disability. The ADA defines a disability as a condition, mental or physical, that substantially limits a major life activity, which includes talking, walking, hearing, seeing, or learning. For example, a person who is blind or no longer able to walk would meet the definition. 

Employers may not discriminate against disabled persons under the ADA. This disability law applies to private employers with more than 15 employees as well as all government employers. As long as a person has the qualifications to perform a particular job, an employer may not deny such person employment. The ADA further requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations to enable a person to perform a job. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include modifying work schedules or workplace equipment. 

The disability statute attempts to resolve accessibility issues by requiring private businesses to make their facilities accessible. Essentially, all businesses open to the public as well as government agencies cannot deny disabled persons access to their place of business. This means that a business must remove barriers or make reasonable modifications such as elevators or ramps to ensure that all workers or visitors can enter and exit easily. It also includes allowing service dogs into an area unless it would create a safety hazard.

Laws governing disability rights can be complex. Persons seeking to enforce their rights should confer with a lawyer knowledgeable about disability law. The ADA is not the only law that provides protection to persons with disabilities, however. Laws vary by jurisdiction. These measures have specific requirements, and an experienced attorney likely knows how to use these laws to protect the rights of disabled persons.

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