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Understanding Your Rights

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The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990 and amended in 2008, is the cornerstone of federal rights for those with disabilities. These rights include accessibility in transportation, buildings and public areas as well as equal opportunities in employment, education and housing.

With a few exceptions, public accommodations—stores, restaurants, schools, hotels, etc.—must enable "full and equal enjoyment" of whatever is offered to people with disabilities. Public entities at the state and local level—city, county, school district—must provide access to all programs and services as well as physical access. This includes public transportation and requires paratransit services by public entities that provide fixed-route services. Generally, employers engaged in interstate commerce and having at least 15 workers may not limit or classify a job applicant or employee to deny employment opportunities to people who truly qualify. They must provide needed accommodations in training, make "reasonable accommodations" to the known physical or mental limitations of disabled employees and enable employees with disabilities to advance in the business.

This is a wide, complicated and ever-changing area. How rules apply in a particular situation isn't always clear and disputes sometimes require mediation or even lawsuits to settle.

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