Our Colorado readers probably encounter the effects of the Americans with Disabilities Act in a myriad of ways in their daily lives and don't even know it. For some, it may be by using a wheelchair ramp at a public building - a modification that was designed and built in order for the building to come into compliance with the terms of the ADA. While these architectural changes to certain buildings are indeed a major and important part of the purpose of the ADA, they are just part of a larger goal behind passage of the law: to end the discrimination that anyone with a disability could encounter in their daily lives.
Employment discrimination, however, is something that a person with a disability could encounter that may have a much more drastic effect on their life than simply being unable to access a certain building. That is why the other side of the ADA, beyond the public access requirements, includes protections for disabled people from being discriminated against by their employers or potential employers due to their disability.
But what kind of protections do disabled people get under the ADA? Well, first of all, when a disabled person is applying for a job the potential employer is prohibited from using that person's disability as a deciding factor in the decision on whether or not to hire the applicant. This is similar to other employment law protections: for instance, in the same situation a potential employer is also prohibited from considering the person's race or gender as a deciding factor.
The part of the ADA that can be the most helpful, however, is the requirement that an employer provide "reasonable accommodations" to an employee with a disability. This does not mean that an employer must "move heaven and earth" in order for the disabled employee to be allowed to do their job, but it does mean that if there are simple, low-cost accommodations that can be made, they need to be done.
Source: Care2, "The Myths and Facts Behind the Americans with Disabilities Act," S.E. Smith, April 22, 2014