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Multiple Sclerosis and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a crucial civil rights law passed nationwide in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public life, including the workplace, schools, transportation and other public spaces.

Specifically, the law mentions five different areas of public life, organized under five “titles” or sections. Each title protects people with disabilities from discrimination and helps to ensure that they have equal opportunities. The titles are:

Learn more through the ADA National Network.

The ADA and MS

Knowing your legal rights guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a crucial step in living your best life as a person with MS. Titles 1-4 are of utmost concern as they impact many facets of daily life, including workplaces, public transportation and public spaces.

Employment

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified job candidates to ensure they can participate in the application process regardless of disability. Additionally, employers with fifteen or more employees must accommodate the needs of those employees so that they can carry out their jobs as best as possible regardless of disability. For example, if you have MS and you have mobility issues, you may need a parking space closer to the office or you may need to telecommute.

State and local government services

Qualified candidates with disabilities must be accommodated in all publicly operated programs, activities and services. This covers city or state government offices, public schools, community colleges, city police departments and public libraries, among other institutions. So, for example, public libraries may have to install an elevator or ramp to make sure they’re accessible to everyone. This section also provides protections against discrimination with public transportation, including subway stations, city buses, commuter rail, Amtrak and paratransit (door-to-door transportation).

Public accommodations

Privately owned spaces open to the public, such as hotels, restaurants, golf courses and stores, must reasonably accommodate people with disabilities. For example, a store must make modifications to its fitting rooms to accommodate people using wheelchairs and those who need a carepartner’s help in trying on clothes. This title also prohibits discriminatory rules and regulations.

Telecommunications

Telecommunications companies, such as phone and internet providers, must accommodate people with speech difficulties and hearing impairments. For example, phone carriers must provide telecommunication relay services that allow people with hearing or speech impairments to communicate using teletypewriters (TTYs, also known as “telecommunications devices”) or another non-voice device. Title IV also requires all television public service announcements produced or funded in whole or in part by the Federal government to include closed captioning.

Learn more about your protections

If you have questions about your rights under the ADA, several organizations can help:

  • The ADA Center provides ample information about your legal protections. Call or email a representative from the center for more information.
  • The Job Accommodation Network consults on workplace accommodations for people with disabilities and assistive equipment for people with MS under the ADA.
  • Review our brochure, ADA & People with MS, and check out our employment page, which includes videos and articles on employment for people living with MS.

Keep fighting for the ADA

The ADA has transformed life in America for those with disabilities, but more remains to be done. Learn what you can do to further this work:

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