Although The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act both protect against discrimination on the basis of disability, they are distinct laws that are completely different in scope.
Let’s examine both laws and then highlight the differences.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the United States. The ADA consists of five different titles.
Think of these titles as the major subsections of the law that address different areas of public life. Here’s a quick summary of each Title:
- Title I – Employment: Title I prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
- Title II – Public Services: State and Local Government: Title II prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all programs, services, and activities of public entities. This applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies.
- Title III – Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities: This title prohibits private places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Examples of accommodations include hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and many more types of establishments.
- Title IV – Telecommunications: This title requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of services that allow people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. This title also covers closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.
- Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions: This title contains a variety of provisions relating to the ADA as a whole, including its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, and attorney’s fees.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a United States federal law which mandates that all electronic and information technology (EIT) developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes websites, software, hardware, electronic documents, and more.
While both Section 508 and the Americans with Disabilities Act mandate accessibility, they are very different laws. Below are some important differences.
The ADA largely does not address modern digital technology such as websites while Section 508 does.
The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities across all areas of public life, whereas Section 508 is specific to federal electronic and information technology.
The ADA applies to a broad range of entities including employers, state and local governments, and businesses open to the public. Conversely, Section 508 specifically targets federal agencies and departments, as well as any other groups that receive federal funding or contracts.
Under the ADA, any individual who believes they have been discriminated against due to a disability can file a complaint. The enforcement process for Section 508 differs in that, if an individual encounters a federal electronic technology or piece of information that is not accessible, they can file a complaint with the respective federal department or agency.