The following is an article reprinted with permission from the WWR Letter:
The Americans With Disabilities Act: Requirements for Credit Unions
By: Raymond F. Moats, Esquire
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was enacted to prohibit discrimination and ensure equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. The ADA is a Federal civil rights law that gives protection to persons with disabilities similar to the civil right protections provided to persons based on race, color, age, religion, sex and national origin. The ADA states that people with disabilities are entitled to “the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantage and accommodations” that a private business provides to its customers. Credit unions are affected by Title I, which prohibits employment discrimination against persons with disabilities, and Title III, which require “places of public accommodation” and “commercial facilities” to be designed and built so that they are accessible to persons with disabilities.
The employment provisions of Title I apply to private employers. The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against “qualified individuals with disabilities.” A “qualified individual with disabilities” is a person who has legitimate skill, experience and education for the position. The person must also be able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is any adjustment to job requirements or environment that will enable a qualified person with a disability to perform essential job functions. The test to determine whether a reasonable accommodation is appropriate is whether the accommodation will provide an opportunity to a person with a disability to achieve a similar level of performance as a person without a disability. A person is considered to have a “disability” if the person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. A few of the impairments of major life activity are conditions that affect seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing and learning. The impairment does not include minor, non-chronic conditions of a short duration such as a broken arm. Employers must ensure the their employment policies and procedures do not discriminate against an individual with a disability in any employment practice, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation and training.
Title III defines a public accommodation as a private business that provides goods or services to the public. All businesses that provide goods or services to the public must provide equal opportunity for customers with disabilities. Businesses are expected to make changes to their facilities that are “readily achievable” or that do not constitute an “undue burden” to enable individuals with disabilities to access the goods and services of the business. Businesses are required to make new facilities accessible, remove barriers from existing facilities and take steps to ensure effective communication with customers. All new public accommodations must comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This includes all aspects of the new building from parking lots to door handles. Businesses with existing buildings are required to remove existing barriers. The ADA contains a flexible rule for removing barriers. Businesses are required to remove physical barriers if the removal will improve accessibility and it is “readily achievable” to do so. Barrier removal is considered “readily achievable” if it can be easily completed, without much difficulty or expense. The evaluation of whether barrier removal is “readily achievable” is on a case-by-case basis. The difficulty of removing the barrier and the business’ ability to pay for the barrier removal are considerations. If a business has numerous barriers, the business is expected to prioritize the barriers and correct the problems as resources permit. Businesses should give first priority to making the building accessible.
The ADA was enacted to make businesses more accessible to people with disabilities. It was not intended to create a burden on businesses. This article is intended as a short overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To ensure compliance with the ADA, credit unions are encouraged to seek the advise of counsel when establishing employment standards or considering the renovation of a building.
Raymond Moats is an Associate in the Collection Support and Probate departments of the Grove City office. He can be reached at (614) 801-2767 or email@example.com.