Access for Persons with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, prohibits all but the smallest employers from discriminating on the basis of disability in employment. It also requires State and local governments and businesses that serve the public to make their services and facilities available to persons with disabilities. Under the ADA, persons with disabilities are entitled to have an equal opportunity to benefit from facilities and programs that are made available to the public, even if making such benefits accessible to them requires making some reasonable accommodation to their disability. Public transit systems must also be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Other laws (including the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, among many others) are also important tools that persons with disabilities and their advocates can use to secure access to vital rights and services.

Making services and facilities genuinely accessible to persons with disabilities plays a vital role in enabling those with disabilities to live independently. For example, the availability of accessible public transit can enable a visually impaired person to get him or herself to work, to the grocery store, and to the doctor’s office, whereas the absence of such a system may leave him or her dependent upon friends or family to provide such transportation.

Although the United States adopted the ADA in 1990, some businesses and government entities still fail to comply with its provisions. If you or someone you know is denied access to a public place or service on account of a disability you may wish to read further about the ADA to see whether its provisions have been violated and talk or write to the business or agency about the problem.

You may also wish to contact the Georgia Advocacy Office, at 404.885.1234 or 800.537.2329 (voice or TDD). Their web site contains further information and suggestions for securing adequate access for persons with disabilities.

If your informal efforts to resolve the situation are unsuccessful you may wish to consider bringing a court action. Georgia Lord has extensive experience bringing litigation for adequate access to services on behalf of persons with disabilities. She served as lead counsel in a successful disability access claim brought against the Superior Court of Coweta County, Georgia. Georgia filed the case on behalf of a wheelchair user who was denied the right to serve as a juror because the courtroom being used was not wheelchair accessible. The litigation resulted in the county’s adoption of an extensive policy and procedure on disability access. The case also prompted the construction of a new, accessible courthouse.

Georgia also served as lead counsel in a successful systemic challenge to the adequacy of services MARTA mass transit provided its customers with disabilities. The court hearing the case entered an order requiring MARTA to take a broad range of actions to improve services to riders with disabilities. See Martin v. MARTA Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, 225 F. Supp. 2d 1362 (N.D. Ga. 2002). MARTA’s compliance with this order is still being monitored.

For additional, general information about the Americans with Disabilities Act click here.