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American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The purpose of the law is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment.

In 2008, Congress passed the ADA Amendment Act (ADAAA) to broaden the definition of "disability" that had been narrowed by Supreme Court decisions. These decisions limited the protection of disabled people that had been provided in the 1990 law.

The term disability means:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities such as: breathing, seeing, hearing, walking, sitting, standing, sleeping, caring for yourself, lifting, or learning.
  • Having a record of an impairment
  • Being regarded as having an impairment

How does this affect your business?


Title 1 of the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment. It requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Employers are considered "covered entities" under this Act and must comply with Title 1. It applies to:

  • Businesses with more than 15 employees
  • Employment agencies
  • Labor organizations
  • Joint labor-management committees

Title 1 protects "qualified employees with disabilities." The term qualified means that the persons:

  • Meet the requirements of the position that they are applying for or hold
  • Can perform the major functions of the position, with or without a reasonable accommodation

How employers can provide reasonable accomodations

  • Ensure equal opportunity and access in the application process
  • Make existing facilities accessible
  • Restructure jobs
  • Modify work schedules
  • Provide modifying equipment
  • Provide qualified readers or interpreters

An employer cannot ask a potential or current employee if they have a disability. That is illegal. The employer may ask the potential or current employee if they can perform the major functions of the job. This will give the employees a chance to let you know if they need a reasonable accommodation.

Job Seekers/Unemployed

How does this affect your job search?

  • You can request Reasonable Accommodations to use the services at the New York State Career Centers. You can also ask for Reasonable Accommodations from an employer if this will enable you to "perform the major functions of the job".
  • See a Disability Resource Coordinator or a Labor Services Representative if you need to request a Reasonable Accommodation at any of our New York State Career Centers.
  • When you go to a job interview, an employer cannot ask you if you have a disability. You have to let an employer know if you need a Reasonable Accommodation.

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