Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Quick Takeaways

  • The ADA is an “equal opportunity law” for people with disabilities
  • A disability is defined as physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Or a person who has a history or record of such an impairment

Source: Introduction to the ADA (U.S. Department of Justice)

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990, makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities. The law has five sections or "titles" which apply to employment, public services, public accommodations, services operated by private entities, and telecommunications. Title I affects real estate offices and Association offices if they have the threshold number of employees. Title III affects Association offices, real estate offices, and commercial facilities. 

Title I of the ADA applies to employment and protects qualified persons with a disability who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Thus, if a real estate sales office has 15 or more employees, Title I applies. 

Title III of the ADA prohibits entities that own, lease, lease to or operate a place of public accommodation from discriminating against the disabled. Businesses covered include hotels, restaurants, convention centers, sales establishments including real estate offices, offices of professionals such as attorneys and CPAs, etc. If a real estate broker or salesperson has a home office in which business is conducted with customers, that portion of the home must also be in compliance with the ADA. The ADA requires equal access and services to disabled individuals in the most integrated setting possible. In essence, that means that architectural and communication barriers are to be removed in existing facilities where such removal is readily achievable and can be carried out without much difficulty or expense. Examples of steps to take in order to remove barriers include installing ramps, rearranging tables and chairs, repositioning telephones, adding raised markers on elevator control buttons, widening doors, or installing offset hinges to widen doors.

The U.S. Department of Justice is the most authoritative source of Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) laws and compliance. You can also find information about filing a complaint, disability resources and much more.

REALTOR® Magazine, REALTOR® AE Magazine and NAR provide you with additional material, such as fair housing resources, an ADA Compliance Kit and compliance tips for your brokerage.

Website accessibility is an important part of the ADA. Text to speech, transcripts for videos, website functionality using both a keyboard and a mouse are important elements of accessibility. Making your website accessible is good business for all your customers.

The ADA has been law for over 30 years. Find out its impact on the workplace and society and how the fight still continues. The EEOC says that COVID impairments may be considered disabilities.

See References for more information.

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