February 22, 2022
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed with bipartisan support in 1990. It’s the most influential law to ever pass for people with disabilities. The ADA changed the lives of millions of Americans. Buildings and public transportation started becoming more accessible. Employers had a legal obligation to support their employees with disabilities. And the addition of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 expanded protections even further.
But, even more than 30 years after being passed, many people do not fully understand or comply with the law. There is work still to be done.
Join Michael and Holly as they talk with the Honorable Tony Coelho, primary author of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Tony discusses his experience with the ADA in depth. The conversation covers the highs, lows, and progress yet to be made.
What We Can Do About It
It’s easy to get paralyzed by the feeling that we can’t make a difference. But helping out can be a lot simpler than we think.
Step 1: Know Your Rights Under the ADA
Understanding what the ADA does and does not protect is vital. With this knowledge, you can be a better advocate if a violation does occur. Check out the resources listed below for more information about the ADA.
Step 2: Learn When and How to File an ADA Complaint
You can file an ADA complaint, alleging disability discrimination, against a State or local government. Complaints can also be filed against a public accommodation. This includes private business such as a restaurant, doctor’s office, retail store, or hotel. Complaints can be filed online, by mail, or by fax.
Step 3: Support The Coelho Center
The Coelho Center at Loyola Marymount University was founded by Tony Coelho at his alma mater. They mentor, train, and support people with disabilities who are looking to pursue a career in law.
Boom. You’ve made a difference.
The Honorable Tony Coelho is the former House Majority Whip and the primary author of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He wanted to be a priest, but when he went to start seminary, it was discovered that he has epilepsy. Because of his disability, he was not allowed to become a priest. Tony later became a staff member for Congressman Bernie Sisk, and eventually began his own political career. Since exiting politics, he has worked in business and public service. Tony is a member of the board of directors of the Epilepsy Foundation and the American Association of People with Disabilities. He is a founding partner of Vectis Strategies, and also served as an advisor of ZeniMax Media. He was inducted to the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame in 2015 for his commitment to mentoring and helping people with disabilities.
Get More Information on the Americans with Disabilities Act
History of the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Administration for Community Living – These three articles cover the origins of the ADA, how the ADA was drafted, and the process to make it law.
- National Museum of American History – 8 ways in which the Americans with Disabilities Act changed everyone’s lives.
- Fast Company – A brief history of the ADA.
- SHRM – A look into the highs and lows of the ADA on it’s 30 year birthday.
Influential Court Cases and Systemic Changes
- U.S. Department of Justice – The Olmstead v. L.C. Supreme Court decision held that unjustified segregation is discrimination under Title II of the ADA.
- ADA.gov – The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative works to ensure that people with disabilities have access to medical information.
- U.S. Department of Justice – In 2016, Greyhound Lines, Inc agreed to implement a series of reforms to resolve their repeated ADA violations.
- Oyez – Casey Martin, a golfer with a disability, was denied a golf cart during a qualifying tournament for the PGA. The Supreme Court ruled in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin that using the cart would not give him an unfair advantage.
- U.S. Department of Justice – The ADA Voting Initiative helps give people with disabilities have an equal chance to vote.
- U.S. Department of Justice – The owners and developers of 71 multi-family housing complexes in four states agreed to pay $350,000. This was to settle claims that they violated the Fair Housing Act and the ADA.
- Oyez – In Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. Douglas Spector booked a premium trip on a cruise, paying extra for wheelchair accommodations. However, he found himself marooned from many of the ship’s amenities. The cruise operator unsuccessfully argued that the ADA did not apply because their ships sail under the Bahamian flag.
- U.S. Department of Justice – Riverside County, California was sued in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Justice. A person with epilepsy applied for a job as a youth probation officer. Even though the applicant could perform all of the essential job duties, the county refused to hire them.
Recent Court Cases Involving the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Spectrum News 9 – Long COVID can be classified as a disability under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act on a case-by-case basis. Assessments will be needed to determine if a person’s Long COVID “substantially limits a major life activity.”
- U.S. Department of Justice – A lawsuit has been filed to ensure those with disabilities are not charged unfair fees by Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber). Some people were charged “wait time” for extra time needed to get in a car.
- U.S. Department of Justice – The Newark AirTrain is now required to bring the Newark Liberty International Rail Station into ADA compliance.
- Bloomberg Law – A federal judge ruled Overstock.com Inc may have engaged in disability discrimination.
- JD Spura – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) pressed charges on an Illinois hospital for violating federal civil rights laws. The suit alleges the hospital withheld reasonable work accommodations.
- Disability Rights California – Two blind students are suing Los Angeles Community College because they were not provided academic materials in Braille or audio format.
- National Disability Rights Network – A letter addressing Amtrak’s new train design choice. These new cars do not allow full integration for those with disabilities.
Problems and Areas for Improvement
- American Psychological Association – “But true equality remains elusive, especially for people of color with disabilities and for those whose socioeconomic position makes access to health care and other services more challenging.”
- Washington Post – Organizations like the Oregon Department of Human Services skirt around penalties for misconduct and discrimination.
- CBS News – Those needing life-saving hospital care aren’t always treated because it’s not related to COVID-19.
- JD Spura – Federal court said a website is “not a place of public accommodation” under Title III of the ADA.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office – Majority of examined polling locations have at least one barrier to the voting area, impacting eligible voters.