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Your Legal Disability Rights

Know your rights under federal law. Read about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people’s rights regarding employment, public accommodations, state and local government services, and more. Learn about special accommodations for travelers and voters. Know how to fight job discrimination.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities. It guarantees equal opportunity in:

  • Public accommodations

  • Jobs

  • Transportation

  • Government services

  • Telecommunications

The Department of Justice ADA information line answers questions about ADA requirements. It's available to businesses, state and local governments, and the public. Call 1- 800-514-0301 (TTY: 1-800-514-0383).

Find More ADA Resources From the Government

The ADA website has information on:

The United States Access Board website provides:

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible.

When to File a Complaint

According to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, hotels, restaurants, and certain places of entertainment must provide disability access. 

If you feel that you've been the object of Title III discrimination, you can file an ADA complaint.

Traveling with a Disability

People with disabilities have legal protection from discrimination while traveling. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives guidelines for accessibility and special accommodations. Learn more about the ADA and how to file a complaint.

Travel by Air with a Disability

Travel by Rail with a Disability

Travel by Bus and Local Transit with a Disability

Other Travel with a Disability

Voter Accessibility Laws

Several federal laws protect the rights of Americans with disabilities to vote. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Voters with disabilities have the right to:

  • Vote in private, without help

  • Have an accessible polling place with voting machines for voters with disabilities

Polling places must have:

  • Wheelchair-accessible voting booths

  • Entrances and doorways at least 32 inches wide

  • Handrails on all stairs

  • Voting equipment for people who are blind or visually impaired

If you have a disability, you may:

  • Seek help from poll workers trained to use the accessible voting machine, or

  • Bring someone to help you vote.

You can also ask local election officials what other options you have.

  • Some states offer “curbside voting," when a poll worker brings everything you need to vote to your car.

  • Some set up polling places at long-term care facilities.

  • Local organizations may provide transportation to the polls.

  • Many states let people with disabilities vote by mail.

Language Accessibility

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) helps people overcome language barriers to voting.

Federal law also lets you bring someone to help you if you can't read or write.

Get Help and Learn More

Discrimination and Harassment at Your Job

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. These laws protect employees and job applicants against:

  • Discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace by anyone because of:

    • Race

    • Color

    • Religion

    • Sex (including gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation)

    • Pregnancy

    • National origin

    • Age (40 or older)

    • Disability

    • Genetic information

  • Being denied reasonable workplace accommodations for disability or religious beliefs

  • Retaliation because they:

    • Complained about job discrimination

    • Helped with an investigation or lawsuit

Filing a Complaint with State or Local Government or Tribal Employment Rights Office

To file a complaint, contact your state, local or tribal employment rights office.

Many state and local governments have their own anti-discrimination laws. These laws may offer extra protections beyond federal laws.

Some state laws:

  • Apply to businesses with only five or six employees

  • Prohibit discrimination based on whether you're married or have children

  • Have different deadlines for filing a charge

  • Have different standards for deciding whether you’re covered by them

Many state laws have more protections for nursing mothers than federal law requires. State labor offices enforce these laws.

Filing a Lawsuit

If you're a victim of job discrimination or harassment, you can file a lawsuit. If the discrimination violates federal law, you must first file a charge with the EEOC. (This doesn't apply to cases of unequal pay between men and women.)

You may decide to sue if the EEOC can’t help you. In either case, look for an attorney who specializes in employment law. You can check with:

Not All Employers Are Subject to EEOC Laws

An employer must have a certain number of employees to be covered by EEOC-enforced laws. This number varies based on the type of employer and the kind of discrimination alleged.

  • Businesses, state, and local governments must follow most EEOC laws if they have 15 or more employees.

  • Federal agencies must follow all EEOC laws, no matter how many employees they have.

Laws that the EEOC Enforces

Federal employment discrimination laws include:

Harassment

Harassment is unwelcome conduct based on:

  • Race

  • Color

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • National origin

  • Age

  • Pregnancy

  • Disability

  • Genetic information

It can include:

  • Offensive jokes

  • Physical assaults or threats

  • Ridicule or insults

  • Display of offensive objects or pictures

Sexual harassment may include:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances

  • Requests for sexual favors

  • Other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature

  • Offensive remarks about a person's sex

Harassment becomes illegal when:

  • It creates a hostile or abusive work environment

  • The victim gets fired or demoted for refusing to put up with it

Protection from Retaliation

EEOC laws protect employees and job applicants from retaliation. For example, it’s unlawful to punish people for:

  • Filing or being a witness in an EEO charge or investigation

  • Talking to a supervisor or manager about discrimination or harassment

  • Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination

  • Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others

Education Rights of People with Disabilities

Several federal laws protect the education rights of people with disabilities.

How Section 504 and Title II Protect Education Rights

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA applies to students in grades K-12.

Students with Disabilities at College or Technical School

Students with disabilities preparing to attend college or vocational school have rights and responsibilities.

  • Students must notify their school and document their needs.

  • Schools must provide tools and modifications to help students take part in class. For example, a school may offer course reading material in Braille.

Disability Discrimination in Education

If you feel a school has discriminated against you or your child, you can:

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Last Updated: October 7, 2019

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