The concept of a “right” is a strange one. What exactly is it? It is defined as a claim or title. It is associated with morality. So, it is a moral claim that we are bound to under certain civil conditions. The concept seems abstract and it can be hard to define its boundaries, but nevertheless, rights are what keep the world more just, or fair.
As someone with a disability, it is important to understand your rights because although you might face obstacles, you deserve the same opportunities as any other person. Your legal rights will help you have an equal opportunity in the workplace, public spaces, transportation, and other areas.
It is especially important to understand your rights because these will help you be successful and satisfied. Below, I will outline some of the most important laws for you to understand before you pack your briefcase and leave for work.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and ensures equal opportunity for all. It was created in 1990 and has been effective since then to ensure equity for those with disabilities.
Title I: Employment
Title I simply states that no entity can discriminate against people with disabilities regarding hiring, advancement, or discharge of employment. This section additionally outlines the necessity of accommodations for people with disabilities. Each employee should be granted their appropriate accommodations at work. Lastly, employers can NOT request medical information about your disability BEFORE offering employment. After offering a job, they can request medical information if it is necessary to the job duties, but you are not required to provide this information before an offer.
Title II: State and Local Government Activities
The main thing you need to understand about Title II is that public transportation should be feasible for you. Transportation can be tough with a disability, but this section provides an alternate solution: paratransit. Paratransit is the mode of transportation that is accessible and runs on similar paths as other public transportation. Newer transportation must also provide certain accommodations to create more options.
*Title III and IV cover the rights of public accommodations and telecommunications relay services, however, they are not as relevant to the workplace, so we will not cover them. If you want to learn about them (and you should) read more here.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act)
According to Disability.gov, the Rehab Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies; programs that receive federal financial assistance; in federal employment; and in the employment practices of federal contractors.” This act basically prohibits discrimination but is more specific to government-based jobs. There are three main sections that are important to understand for employees with autism.
This section prohibits federal employers from discriminating against qualified persons with disabilities. Additionally, it mandates that employers must take part in affirmative action in hiring and advancing qualified individuals with disabilities.
Section 503 has two main points. The first prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities from federal contractors and subcontractors, similar to Section 501. Secondly, there is a new rule that was added under this section that states that 7 percent of employees of a company contracted with the federal government should have a disability. This is called the “utilization goal.”
Similar to the sections above, Section 504 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities from federal agencies or companies receiving financial aid by the federal government. This section requires that those with disabilities receive the necessary accommodations, including headphones, communication help, and medical equipment. Additionally, it promotes education for those with disabilities through the U.S. Department of Education.
This list is limited to a few important sections for you to understand as an employee with autism. Don’t just stop there though! There are many other things that you have a right to, such as education, voting, and housing. Research and learn about these laws to ensure that you have equal opportunity in the workplace, at home, and everywhere else!