Key U.S. Disability Legislation

In the past three decades there have been numerous laws and regulations passed to both prevent discrimination based upon disability and also support such individuals with special needs. Here are three key acts to introduce you to the topic:

  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 protects against discrimination based upon mental or physical disability from organization that receive federal funding. Section 508 additionally requires accessible information technology. (1)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: prohibits discriminate solely on the basis of disability in employment, public services, and accommodations. (2)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): embraces children with special needs in education. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth – 2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. (3)

Please see “A Guide to Disability Rights Laws” (September 2005) at Disability.gov for more information about these and other disability laws.


(1) United States Access Board. The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1973, as amended. [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://access-board.gov/enforcement/rehab-act-text/intro.htm.

(2) United States Department of Justice. AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990, AS AMENDED. 2009 [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm.

(3) National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. IDEA—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://nichcy.org/laws/idea.

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Disabilities Defined

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (- 42 U.S.C. § 12102) defines disabilities in three parts:

•(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
•(B) a record of such an impairment; or
•(C) being regarded as having such an impairment. (1)
The Office on Disability (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) compliments the legislative definition of disabilities as “characteristics of the body, mind, or senses that, to a greater or lesser extent, affect a person’s ability to engage independently in some or all aspects of day-to-day life.” (2) Simply put, those with disabilities have special needs, whether physically, mentally, or intellectually. These needs may be visible, invisible, and/or temporary. Biomedical librarians can assist with these needs by not only ensuring access within the library environment to all clientele, but also through assisting doctors, nurses, and other clinicians in staying up-to-date on disability topics.

(1) U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. ADA AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2008. 2008 [cited 2011 December 7]. Available at: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adaaa.cfm

(2) Office on Disability. What is Disability and Who is Affected by Disability?. [cited 2011 December 7] Available at: http://www.hhs.gov/od/about/fact_sheets/whatisdisability.html.

Disability Services at ASU Libraries

Though Arizona State University does not have a Medical Library, the ADA services that they offer would be an amazing addition to any academic health sciences library. In addition to standard ADA building compliance, the ASU campus in Tempe has a dedicated ADA Service Room at Hayden Library and accessible workstations in all branch libraries. This video introduces the various assistive technologies that are available including various computer keyboards and mice, speech recongnition, magnification software, and Braille translators. Additional information about ADA services at all eight ASU libraries can be found online at: http://lib.asu.edu/ada.

ADA Entrance

ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADDAG)

ADA Entrance

(image via clipart.com)

Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 presented regulations to ensure accessibility to buildings and facilities for people with disabilities. Section 8 of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities from the United States Access Board provides specific guidelines for libraries. In addition to the standard building guidelines, these additional regulations increase physical accessibility to study and reading areas, checkout, card catalogs, magazine racks, and stacks. However, following the regulations of the ADA should  just be a start. To be a truly inclusive environment, libraries must reach beyond simply providing the traditional accommodations for ambulatory impairments. Those with special needs require not only access to the physical building and materials, but also access to the information within.

Americans with Disabilities Act: http://www.ada.gov/

United States Access Board: http://www.access-board.gov/