It is always a scary and intimidating thought to send your child to school. This fear tends to be amplified when your child has any type of impairment or disability. Fret not, ADA has your child's best interest in mind.
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was passed in the 1990s but has been revised and updated to apply to modern times. It may be intimidating looking at the official ADA website with their dense language and legal spiels. That is why I am going to break it down for you today.
The ADA became a law in 1990. It is classified as a civil rights law, meaning it was created to protect all classes of people from discrimination. The whole purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities are protected and given equal opportunities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
There are 5 Main Titles of the ADA:
Title I is about employment. So, it covers equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities. Under this title, employers have to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants or employees. They are also unable to ask about an employee's disability unless the employee is applying for more coverage and accommodations than they previously received.
Title II covers state and local government. It states that discrimination against qualified individuals in all programs, activities, and services of public entities is prohibited. Under this title, you can be sure that everything that gets federal funding is ADA compliant and accommodates the special needs of people with hearing, vision, speech, and physical disabilities.
Title III gets into more detail about public accommodations, especially private places of public accommodations. Privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor's office's, golf courses, private schools, daycare centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, etc. are checked and must comply with the ADA law.
Title IV is about telecommunications. In simplest terms, it requires telephone and internet companies to have a telecommunications relay service that allows individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the phone. It also requires closed captioning on all federally funded public services announcements.
Title V is essentially the miscellaneous category to tie up any loose ends. So this contains a variety of provisions, mainly to talk about ADA as a whole. In this title is where you find how ADA relates to other laws, state immunities. It also provides a list of specific conditions that are NOT considered to be disabilities.
Now that you have the rundown of ADA as a whole, it is crucial to know how this benefits you and your child.
What you need to know is that your child is likely protected if they have any learning or attention issues. In schools, ADA protects anyone with "a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities." Life activities can be any number of things: eating, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating, to name a few. This means if your child has ADHD, LD, executive functioning issues, or things of the sort, they are protected by this law.
But my child's ADHD is under control, am I still covered?
YES. Even if your child is on medication, getting counseling services, or some other form of help, they are protected. Even if they have a good streak, and currently are doing well in school, they are protected.
How far is ADA's reach really?
ADA prohibits discrimination almost everywhere - and it overlaps with other laws. Especially in terms of education, ADA works hand-in-hand with other laws such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Since Section 504 and IDEA tend to have more granular and more protections for your child, these laws will take precedence.
What you need to know is this: Your child will always be covered by the law that offers the greatest protection.
So ADA works for schooling, what about the rest of my child's life?
ADA will cover your child in and outside of school. If your child does extracurriculars, ADA covers them. From federally funded activities to privately run or nonprofits. That is, if your child attends a camp or another federally funded event, they are still covered. ADA takes it a step further, and any privately run or nonprofits such as camps, Little League, private trade schools, etc. - they can't discriminate against your child. Every place is required to give "reasonable accommodations" to kids with "impairments."
The keyword here is "reasonable." Every situation is different and unique to your child. For example, if your child has ADHD, it would be reasonable to give him or her more breaks, however, it may not be reasonable to change the grading or rules for them.
My child with disabilities is covered throughout school, but what about after?
Your child will always be protected, even when they get a job. ADA makes it very clear that employers cannot discriminate against workers because of their physical or mental impairments, whatever they may be. This means your child cannot be fired or turned down for a job, promotion, raise, or training solely because they have a condition (e.g., dyslexia).
Of course, there are some stipulations:
- Your child must prove qualified for that particular job. Having the right skills, experience, and education is still required.
- If your child wants "reasonable accommodation" such as more breaks, they have to tell the employer about their condition and make a request - and requests can be turned down.
- If you think any place isn't ADA compliant, you can file a complaint. To submit it, you write to the federal agency that oversees the organization. For example, if there is an issue in a public school, you would write to the U.S. Department of Education.
If your child is living with an impairment, it may be harder to send them into the world. Just know that the ADA has them covered and protected.
To learn more about ADA, visit their website: ada.gov.