Protections for People with Disabilities

On this page: Legal Rights


The incidence of disability increases with age. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, protects people of all ages who have physical or mental disabilities or a record of such disability, or who are perceived as having such disability. The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. It affords protections equivalent to those granted under prior civil rights laws to people facing bias on the grounds of race, color, gender, religion, or national origin and seeks to end a legacy of segregation and degradation. The ADA also requires employers, public officials, and private entrepreneurs to make reasonable adjustments in their policies and practices to accommodate people with disabilities. (see Chapter 5, Employment—Employment Discrimination against Older Workers; Chapter 8, Long-Term Services and Supports—Expanding Home- and Community-Based Services; and Chapter 9, Livable Communities—Americans with Disabilities Act Implementation).

Protections for People with Disabilities: Policy

Funding and enforcement

Congress should provide adequate funding and personnel for effective enforcement of the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires public agencies to provide services and care for people with disabilities in the most integrated community settings.

The federal government should broadly interpret and require vigorous enforcement of the ADA as well as the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988; Sections 501, 503, and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Architectural Barriers Act; and the Air Carrier Access Act.

The federal government should make federally funded buildings and programs accessible to people with disabilities and should enforce the accessibility obligations of private providers of public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.

In addition to complying with and enforcing the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal disability rights statutes, state and local governments should implement state and local disability access and other antidiscrimination requirements that mandate more comprehensive protection than that provided by federal law.

Assistive technology

In this policy: FederalLegal Rightsdisability

The federal government should encourage and expedite funding for priority research, demonstration projects, and referral programs for the design and distribution of technological devices that assist people with disabilities in leading meaningful and independent lives.