Justice Department Commemorates the 32nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Today, the Department of Justice commemorates the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the preeminent civil rights law requiring equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Recently, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic have exacted a steep toll on many people with disabilities and shed light on the continued urgency of ADA enforcement.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act embodies a national promise to eliminate discriminatory barriers and support full participation, community integration, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue using this bedrock civil rights law to eliminate barriers and safeguard the rights of people with disabilities across the country.”
Promoting Web Accessibility
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown, for example, the vital importance of equal access to the web. This year, the department published guidance on the ADA requirements for website accessibility and announced it is also undertaking a rulemaking concerning standards for web accessibility for state and local government entities. The department’s enforcement efforts have removed barriers that prevented people with disabilities from booking vaccine appointments on the web and finding critical vaccine information. Since November 2021, the department has reached settlement agreements with CVS Pharmacy Inc., Hy-Vee Inc., The Kroger Co., Meijer Inc. and Rite Aid Corporation to ensure that people with disabilities can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments and obtain vaccine information online.
Warning About the Risks of Artificial Intelligence in Hiring
The department has also prioritized ensuring that state and local government employers do not use new technologies to discriminate against job applicants or employees with disabilities. In May, the department, partnering closely with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, issued guidance about disability discrimination when employers use artificial intelligence and other software tools, including algorithmic decision-making tools, to make employment decisions.
Ensuring Fair Treatment of People with Opioid Use Disorder
The department has also enforced the ADA to safeguard the rights of people with opioid use disorder (OUD) who are in treatment or recovery. In April, the department published guidance explaining how the ADA protects individuals with OUD from discrimination. The department is working to ensure that people in treatment and recovery have an equal opportunity to receive services and to participate in their communities and the workforce. For example:
- In February, the department filed a lawsuit against the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, alleging that it prohibits or otherwise limits participants in its court supervision programs from using medication for OUD. And in March, the department entered into a settlement agreement to resolve similar allegations concerning Massachusetts’ drug courts.
- The department also issued a letter finding that the Indiana State Board of Nursing violated the ADA by denying a nurse the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitation program, required to reinstate her nursing license, because she takes medication for OUD.
- The department secured a settlement agreement with a Colorado-based employment, residential and social services program resolving allegations that the program denied admission to an individual because she takes medication for OUD.
Promoting Access to Transportation including Ridesharing Services
After filing a lawsuit in November, the department entered into a multi million-dollar settlement agreement with Uber Technologies Inc. Under the agreement, Uber committed to policy changes and will offer several million dollars in compensation to more than 65,000 Uber users who were charged discriminatory fees due to disability.
Fighting Segregation and Criminalization of People with Disabilities
Finally, the department continues to prioritize enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a landmark case ruling that the ADA prohibits unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities. The department’s enforcement of Olmstead has enabled thousands of people with disabilities to live in their homes and communities instead of in institutions. For example:
- In June, the department issued a letter finding that Maine unnecessarily institutionalizes children with mental health or intellectual and developmental disabilities in psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment facilities and a juvenile justice facility. In March, the department issued a letter finding that Colorado unnecessarily segregates adults with physical disabilities in nursing homes.
- The department also launched statewide Olmstead investigations in response to complaints. In May, the department opened an investigation into whether Kentucky unnecessarily segregates people with serious mental illness in the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro area in psychiatric hospitals and places them at risk of law enforcement encounters. The department is also investigating the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department concerning their systems for responding to people experiencing behavioral health crises.
For more information about the ADA, please visit ada.gov or call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383). For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit justice.gov/crt.