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Americans with Disabilities Act - Employment Discrimination, Discrimination In Public Services And Accommodations, Conclusion

age aging ada individuals disability federal

Many older persons fall within the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was enacted by Congress as Public Law no. 101-336 on 26 July 1990 and signed by President George Bush, becoming effective in 1992. This legislation was intended primarily to expand to almost the entire public and private sectors the requirements regarding rights to employment, services, and public accommodations for disabled individuals which previously were imposed by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 only on federal contractors. Specifically, Congress in 1990 stated the purpose of the ADA as follows:

  1. to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  2. to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  3. to ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this Act on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

The ADA is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Departments of Justice and Transportation, and civil lawsuits brought by individuals who have suffered unlawful discrimination. The court costs and attorneys' fees of prevailing plaintiffs must be paid by defendants found guilty of discrimination. No entity may retaliate against an individual for filing a claim under the ADA. In addition, most states have adopted a state counterpart to the federal ADA, enforceable through state agencies and in state courts.

Aging certainly does not automatically equal disability, and vice versa. Indeed, age by itself cannot qualify as a disability under the ADA. Nonetheless, more adults than ever before are either developing disabilities in their later years or aging through life with disabilities. The likelihood of disability demonstrably increases with age.

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