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Disability Discrimination: Applicable Laws

Disability discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly due to their mental or physical disability, or perception of a disability. Like many forms of discrimination, this type of discrimination can include many forms such as, verbal or physical harassment. Disability discrimination can also include denying the disabled access to services, businesses, and buildings.

Below is a list of federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability in a number of settings, and links to the full texts of those laws. (Note: Many states have civil rights laws of their own which mirror those at the federal level, so your state may have its own laws that are very similar to those identified below. In addition, municipalities like cities and counties can enact ordinances and laws related to civil rights.) Follow along as FindLaw presents applicable laws preventing disability discrimination.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA)

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in provision of (and access to) air transportation. The ACAA applies to all United States air carriers and foreign carriers that have flights that start or terminate at a U.S. airport.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in many aspects of life including: employment, education, and access to public accommodations. Other areas covered under the ADA are: commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA)

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA) requires that buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with certain federal funds after September 1969 must be accessible to and useable by handicapped persons.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was enacted as Civil Rights Act Title VIII in 1968. The 1988 amendment to the FHA added disability and families with children to the covered classes. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that the rights of students with disabilities are protected, and that all children with disabilities have free appropriate public education available to them.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects disabled individuals from discrimination by employers and organizations that receive federal financial assistance. Specifically, Section 504 of the Act protects discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of educational services and opportunities in educational institutions that receive federal funding.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the federal law that mandates employers to allow their employees time off, and to not discriminate against them, for taking care of family and personal medical needs.

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a nondiscrimination provision that bans discrimination on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, age, and sex in certain health care programs or activities. Covered entities include: any health program or activity that is funded and/or administrated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) and any Health Insurance marketplace insurers.

Discuss Your Disability Discrimination Claim with an Attorney

Are you facing disability discrimination at school, at work, or at a public accommodation where you are trying to conduct business? Whether you have a mental or physical disability, there are many federal laws available for your protection. To find out how these laws can help you, you should discuss your situation with an attorney skilled in discrimination matters.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.

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