What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?, group of coworkers talking around a conference table

At a glance

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination.

  • The ADA applies to the government, schools, and most businesses.

  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations that break down barriers for employees with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law. It protects people with disabilities from discrimination in most settings. 

The law applies to the government, schools, and employers with 15 or more employees. It also applies to anyone who offers goods and services to the public. This includes restaurants, stores, and even websites.

The ADA is very broad in who it covers. The law protects anyone with a physical or mental condition that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Major life activities include things like seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, or walking. But there are other activities that fall into this category, including: 

  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating 
  • Working
  • Caring for yourself
  • Interacting with others

A condition doesn’t have to be severe to qualify for protection under the ADA. But it must have a significant impact on a person’s ability to do these activities, compared to most people in society.

Dive deeper

ADA fact sheetPDF - 46.7 KB

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