Laws and Executive Orders Related to Employment and People with Disabilities

An important right for people with disabilities is the right to live free from discrimination in employment and there are several laws that have been enacted to ensure that employers abide by these laws.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1990 and further amended in 2008, the ADA was enacted by Congress to provide equal access and opportunities to individuals with disabilities, thereby eliminating discrimination to those with physical and mental disabilities. The ADA covers many areas as it relates to diversity and equal opportunity employment; ensuring that employers do not discriminate during the pre- or post offer stage. This includes impeding employers from identifying and discriminating against individuals with disabilities to refuse their application; impeding the training or promotion of for employees with disabilities; and ensuring that employees are not harassed or discharged because of their disability status.

If you are currently employed, the ADA also stipulates that employers need to make reasonable accommodations to ensure the workplace will enable you to perform your job in a safe and efficient manner. Employees who have a disability can request a reasonable accommodation at any time by requesting it with their supervisor or HR manager. Reasonable accommodation can include anything from assistive equipment like an ergonomic keyboard or chair, to flexible working conditions.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This legislation was signed by President Richard Nixon, and was considered to be one of the driving forces in protecting the equal opportunity employment rights of individuals with disabilities. The legislation prohibits discrimination, and requires affirmative action by employers with Federal contracts or subcontracts of $10,000 or more in a given year to hire, retain, and promote qualified individuals with disabilities. The legislation has been amended several times.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability can be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

Section 508

Section 508 requires federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. This applies to Web applications, Web pages and all attached files. It applies to intranets as well as public-facing Web pages. The standards were established by the federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, or Access Board in December 2000. Here are some links that shed more light on 508 Compliance.

Access Board Guidelines

Myths & FACTS about 508 Compliance