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Pop the champagne and put on your party hat! Even though the ADA’s 25th anniversary took place last month, we here at Audicus can’t stop celebrating this landmark event. Whether you have hearing loss or not, this moment marks a major milestone and we could not be more thrilled to share it with our fantastic readership!

Of course there’s been nationwide celebrations and awareness-raising events, however, this particular anniversary should also serve as a reminder that there’s still significant work ahead. Just as a refresher, what exactly are we celebrating? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), established in 1990, makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against any qualified individual with a disability. This includes discrimination against individuals in both State and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications. Here’s to equal rights!

In broad terms, the ADA serves to protect the disabled community from unethical hiring or firing practices in both private and public sectors. That being said, we can’t always count on potential or current employers to do the right thing. It’s still incredibly important that we, as a community, know our rights and continue to aggressively advocate for them. Of course it’s understandable to want to minimize our disability for the benefit of getting hired or keeping our job. But it’s for the greater good of the disabled community if, instead, we’re forthright about our needs and communicate them clearly. Let’s talk about what these rights are and how you can take some extra precautions to protect yourself!.

Did you know that the ADA requires your job to “reasonably accommodate” your disabilities once working?

This means your jobs must:

  • provide or modify equipment or devices
  • allow for part-time or modified work schedules
  • adjust exams, training materials, or policies
  • provide readers and interpreters to make the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

Can an Employer Require Medical Examinations or Ask Questions About my Disability?

No. A potential employer cannot ask you if you are disabled or about the nature and/or severity of your particular disability. Additionally, a potential employer cannot require you to take a medical examination before you’re offered a job. Most importantly, a potential employer cannot refuse to hire you because of your disability if you can perform the essential tasks of your position with an accommodation by the aforementioned employer.

What’s my Course of Action if I think That I’m Being Discriminated Against?

Contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as possible! You have up to 180 days after the alleged discrimination to file your charge. That number may be higher, varying on your state, but the sooner you make that report the better.

For more info on how to reach your local office, call the following:

  • 800.669.4000 (Voice)
  • 800.669.6820 (TDD)
  • For the Washington, D.C. area: 202.663.4900 (Voice),  202.663.4494 (TDD)

And lastly…

What if I was discriminated against because my spouse is disabled? Can I still file a charge with the EEOC?

Yes. Under the ADA, it’s unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of a relationship or association with someone who has a disability. Knowledge is a powerful tool, folks! Though the ADA is there to protect you, it’s your responsibility to fearlessly communicate your rights to current and potential employees. Together, our incredible community can ensure that we’ll have even more progress to celebrate for our 50th anniversary.

By: Ariana Seigel