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Transcript of Fact Sheet - The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                      July 26, 1990
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The President today signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the broadest expansion of the nation’s civil rights laws since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The legislation extends the framework of Federal civil rights laws that currently apply to women and minorities to the 43 million Americans who have some form of disability. This allows an unprecedented opportunity to bring Americans with disabilities into the mainstream of American life.

The legislation prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and transportation, and provides for telecommunications relay services.

The American with Disabilities Act began with the 1986 report of the National Council on Disability entitled “Toward Independence” which Vice President Bush accepted on behalf of the Administration. The Council proposed broad legislation to expand Federal Civil rights laws to include persons with disabilities.

During the 1988 campaign, Vice President Bush expressed his support for legislation to extend to people with disabilities the same basic equal opportunities protections that are afforded to women and minorities. The Vice President also expressed his support for legislation to protect HIV-infected persons from discrimination because of their infection. In his “Building a Better America” address to the Congress on February 9, 1989, the President said, “Disabled Americans must become full partners in America’s opportunity society.”
The Administration expressed its support for the legislation in Congressional testimony by Attorney General Thornburgh on June 22, 1989. Negotiations between key legislators and the Administration led to an agreement announced by the White House on August 2, 1989.

The Legislation

The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified persons with disabilities because of their disability. The prohibition applies to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Employers must reasonably accommodate the disabilities of qualified applicants or employees, unless an undue hardship would result.
Employers with 25 or more employees will be covered when the employment provisions take effect in two years. Two years after that, employers with 15 or more employees will be covered.

The statute explicitly states that individuals who currently engage in the illegal use of drugs are not covered by the bill’s protections.

The employment title will be enforced through cases brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, suits brought by the Attorney General, or through private lawsuits.

Public Services

The ADA prohibits State and local governments from excluding disabled persons from participation in or denying the benefits of services, programs, or activities to disabled persons. Many State and local government activities are already covered by a similar prohibition in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the ADA covers all State and local governments and any department or instrumentality of a State or local government.

The ADA requires every public entity which operates a fixed route transit system to purchase only new buses or rail vehicles which are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The ADA also requires public operators of fixed route transit systems to provide paratransit that offers a comparable level of service as is available to individuals without disabilities.

Intercity and commuter rail will be required to provide at least one passenger car per train within five years that is readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. All new rail vehicles and all new rail stations must be accessible. Existing train stations are to be made accessible within twenty years (30 years for rapid and light rail), with the requirement for commuter, rapid, and light rail limited to key stations.

The public services requirements generally take effect 18 months after enactment; buses and rail vehicles ordered beginning one month after enactment must be accessible.

Enforcement will be through complaints lodged with the Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, or other government agency, as appropriate, or through private lawsuits.

Public Accommodations

The ADA broadly defines public accommodations; and includes places of lodging; restaurants; theaters; concert halls; bakeries; grocery stores; clothing stores; shopping centers; laundromats; banks; barber shops; offices of accountants; lawyers, and health care providers; museums; libraries; zoos; homeless shelters; adoption agencies; and golf courses. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt.

Public accommodations are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. The prohibition extends to denying participation, offering disabled persons unequal or separate benefits, and requires accommodation of disabled persons in an integrated setting, unless an undue burden results.

In addition, public accommodations are required to remove architectural and communication barriers where removal is readily achievable. New construction and alterations must be accessible. Elevators are required in buildings with three or more stories.

Enforcement of the public accommodations provisions will be through suits brought by the Attorney General, or through private lawsuits.

New over-the-road buses ordered on or after July 26, 1996 (July 26, 1997, for small companies), must be accessible. After completion of a study, the President may extend the deadline by one year, if appropriate.

The public accommodations provisions generally take effect eighteen months after enactment.


The ADA ensures availability of telecommunications relay services where they are not already available. These services make it possible for an individual who has a hearing or speech impairment and uses a telecommunications device for deaf persons (TDD) or similar terminal to communicate with hearing individual who does not use such a device. TDD or terminal users will dial the relay service; the relay service will in turn dial the non-TDD user and repeat the TDD user’s message aloud and type the response for the TDD user. The same service is available for voice telephone users who wish to call persons using TDD’s. These provisions will be enforced by the States and the Federal Communications Commission.

The ADA also requires closed captioning of public service announcements produced or funded by the Federal government. Telecommunications services for speech or hearing impaired persons are to be place in 36 months after enactment.