Passed in 1990, the American Disability Act strives to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in many sectors of everyday life such as employment, public and commercial spaces and facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Because quantifying and qualifying levels of disability is often enigmatic and difficult, the ADA does not set forth all of the potential disabilities that may warrant ADA privileges, but it does allow for broad consideration of varying forms and levels of disabilities.
One distinct advantage of the ADA is that it opens doors to employment for disabled Americans. Besides helping to end overt discrimination against disabled persons, the ADA also helps implement workplace standards and government requirements that enable disabled persons to function as any other person would in the workplace. This includes wheelchair ramps to entrances and exits of buildings, handicap accessible restrooms, and other accommodations tailored to fit the needs of disabled persons. The transformation of the workplace environment to fit basic needs of disabled persons helps afford them an equal footing in the competition for jobs.
Another advantage of the ADA exists in the realm of telecommunications. The ADA requires that all federally funded public service announcements have closed captioning. This allows deaf viewers to read subtitles as a replacement to the audio portion of the telecast. Through telecommunications relay services that operate 24 hours per day and seven days per week, callers with hearing and speech disabilities can enjoy all the benefits of telephone use.
Some argue that the conditions for being deemed disabled are too loose. This allows people who are not as significantly disabled to receive many of the same benefits that those who are more severely disabled receive. Increases in those with disabilities can put a strain not only other disabled persons but can also put a strain on businesses. For instance, some people who qualify to park in handicapped spaces may fill a space that someone who is significantly more disabled would need more.
The ADA can be costly to many businesses. While businesses can receive an exemption from complying with the ADA through undue hardship, this exemption usually only applies in extreme circumstances. If a business cannot prove undue hardship, the business will be forced to comply with the ADA at their own expense. Materials, tools, and structures tailored to meet the needs of disabled persons can often be more costly than the standard models of these things. Moreover, amendments to existing facilities and equipment is another added cost of complying with the ADA.
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