The National Council on Disability notes in their book, Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an equal opportunity law for people with disabilities.”

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered. (

ADA Title I: Employment

Title I of the ADA covers employment by private employers with 15 or more employees and state and local government employers of the same size. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act provides the same protections for federal employees and applicants for federal employment. Most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Some of these state laws may apply to smaller employers and provide protections in addition to those available under the ADA.

For more information, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

ADA Title II: State and Local Government

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).

One example of how the ADA protects people with disabilities on a state level is in the public schools. In 2014, the US DOJ issued a guidance to make it clear that public schools are covered under the ADA.

ADA Title III: Places of Public Accommodations

Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by title III.

Public places are where many of us see the impact of the ADA in our everyday lives. Whether it’s attending the theater or seeing a movie, going to the hospital or visiting the doctor’s office, or the hotels and transportation we use when traveling, the ADA ensures our rights to access, just like everyone else.

The U.S. Department of Justice considers captioning and CART accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Movie captioning can be provided via closed captioning, so that it is only viewable by patrons who have receivers; or via open captioning that is viewable on the screen for the entire audience, much like subtitles. CART can be provided for the individual who requests that accommodation via a laptop or tablet, or via a screen at the meeting, theater or other public event. 

For recent advanced rulemaking procedures from the US Department of Justice on movie captioning visit:

ADA Title IV: Telecommunications Relay Services

Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use TTYs (also known as TDDs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements

One of the TRS services most used by people who have a hearing loss, but who do not use sign language is Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS). IP CTS allows access to the text version of the call, so that people who lose their hearing can continue to use the phone at all. Some have called these phones a “life-saver.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) in 2018. This means the FCC is writing rules that everyone will have an opportunity to weigh in on regarding captioned telephone service that relies on the internet. Whether you have a captioned phone on your kitchen table or at your desk at work, or an IP CTS captioning app on your smartphone, you have a stake in what the FCC will be saying about how you are able to receive and use this service.

HLAA has met with FCC staff to let them know what concerns us about the current IP CTS service and what we hope will be available in the future. We want to be sure the FCC understands and gives us access to captioned phones and apps that are so important to people who cannot make a successful phone call without them.

We know that as more people age into significant hearing loss, the need for these captioned phones will only increase. We want to see a service that provides fewer errors, whose lag time between voice and text is minimal, that provides a complete version of the conversation, and we don’t want consumers to have to jump through too many hoops to receive these devices and apps. After all, relay services are provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making it not just a nice service to have, but a civil right.

If you have thoughts about your captioned phone or captioning apps for your phone, contact