Know Your Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a federal civil rights law that ensures persons with disabilities receive the same civil rights protections as all other Americans.

Posted: August 31st, 2018 3:44 PM

Last Updated: September 30th, 2022 2:02 PM

Unlike prior disability laws and regulations, the ADA puts responsibility for accommodation on society rather than on the individual with a disability.

The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public and private sector services and in employment.

It is a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that extends to virtually all areas of society and to every aspect of daily living.

The ADA is organized into five broad civil rights areas, called “Titles.”

  • Title I: Employment – Requires employers with 15 or more employees to ensure that their employment practices do not discriminate against qualified people with disabilities. Title I provides protection for job applicants and employees during all phases of employment, including the application process, interviewing, hiring, employment itself, and discharge from employment. Employers must also reasonably accommodate the disabilities of qualified applicants and employees, unless an undue hardship would result. In California, this applies to employers who have five or more employees.
  • Title II: State and Local Government Services – Requires public programs and services be made accessible to persons with disabilities. Mandates non-discrimination on the basis of disability in policy, practice and procedure. Prescribes a self-evaluation process, and requires that architectural and communications barriers be removed to the extent necessary to provide full access to programs and services. The City of Oakland ADA Programs Division ensures full compliance with Title II of the ADA.
  • Title III: Public Accommodations – Requires places of public accommodation be accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities. Places of public accommodation include private businesses and privately owned and operated organizations that offer goods and services to the general public. These include office buildings, factories, convention centers, museums, libraries, parks, zoos, private schools, day care centers, restaurants, hotels, theatres, retail stores, shopping centers, pharmacies, hospitals, doctor offices, private entities that own, operate, or lease to places of public accommodations, and others. The City of Oakland does not have jurisdiction over Title III entities. If you feel you have been discriminated against by a place of public accommodation, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. For more information regarding the federal complaint and enforcement process, see the Department of Justice ADA Home Page.
  • Title IV: Telecommunications – Mandates the establishment of a national network of telecommunication relay services that is accessible to people who have hearing and speech disabilities. Also requires captioning of all federally funded television public service announcements.
  • Title V: Non-Retaliation and Other Provisions – Explicitly prohibits retaliation against people exercising their rights under the ADA. Sets forth specific responsibilities for the adoption of enforcement regulations by federal agencies. It also includes a number of miscellaneous provisions. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S Department of Justice have been designated as the lead federal agencies for enforcement of the ADA.

To read the full text of the ADA, visit:

Useful Websites to Help You Understand the Law

  • Quick reference list of major State and Federal laws and regulations that address discrimination on the basis of disability:
  • Accessibility guidelines and architectural standards for enforcement of the ADA:
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Guidelines (ADAAG) provide scoping and technical requirements for accessibility to buildings and facilities by individuals with disabilities:
  • State of California regulations provide a comprehensive set of standards covering almost all important areas of accessibility for persons with physical and sensory disabilities. California's regulations are found in the California Building Standards Code of the California Code of Regulations:
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Council handles employment issues and complaints of disability discrimination related to rental properties: