The Americans With Disabilities Act

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Americans with Disabilities Act
I Introduction

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal legislation designed to prevent discrimination against disabled people. It applies to all disabled persons, no matter the nature of their disability.
This paper examines the ADA and discusses some of the ramifications of the legislation.

II Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (hereafter ADA) was enacted in 1990, and its purpose is stated thusly:
“The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with
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This distinction is significant.
The first definition covers those impairments that severely limit a “major life activity.” This means anything that makes it difficult for someone to breathe, see, speak, etc. When functioning is interrupted as this fundamental level, the person is considered disabled. The definition extends to cover people with “epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability…” (“Questions and Answers,” PG). Such things as flu, broken bones, and other injuries that can be considered minor are not disabilities within the meaning of the Act.
The second part of the definition, “has a record of such impairment,” covers people who have been disabled but are now recovered, such as someone who has had cancer, or mental illness, but is now back at work. (“Questions and Answers,” PG). Discrimination against such persons on the basis of their past medical condition is prohibited.
The third part of the definition is very subtle. It prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of what someone else considers a handicap. The example that is given is of someone with a severe facial disfigurement being denied employment because the employer fears a negative reaction on the part of customers and fellow employees. In other words, the employer is discriminating
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