Almost everyone who attends our meetings is considered person with a disability under federal law; one does not need to be 100% disabled to have rights under federal civil rights laws. See my earlier post for more details on the legal definition of a person with a disability. In this post I’ll give you a quick introduction to each law and its enforcing agencies. Federal laws take precedence over state/local laws; rights given by federal laws CANNOT be reduced or taken away by state or local laws.

Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are both federal civil rights laws for people with disabilities in employment, services, and access. Many of the rights provided in these two laws are similar. The Rehabilitation Act protects our rights in federal agencies’ services and facilities or those of organizations which have accepted federal funds, where the ADA pertains to state, local, and for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA is divided in the three main sections called Titles.

Title I covers discrimination in the workplace. Title I regulations and enforcement are dealt with by the federal Department of Labor (DOL).

Title II covers discrimination in state and local government facilities and services. Regulations and enforcement are done by the Department of Justice (DOJ)

Title III covers discrimination in facilities and services provided by for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) deals with our rights in housing, including dorms, shelters, single room occupancy hotels, all apartment and condo complexes, some multi- or single-family homes and more. The federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) deals with the regulations and enforcement of this law.

Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act deals with our rights in dealing with airlines and the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for its regulations and enforcement.