Webinar: 2020 ADA Legal Cases




audio version (opens in a new tab)




I attended another interesting webinar last week. This one occurred on January 13, 2021, and was hosted by the Great Lakes ADA Center. It is entitled

“Top ADA Cases of 2020”.

As the title implies, the webinar discusses Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) legal cases which were filed or decided last year. At the link above, readers can find the archived webinar recording and materials. In this blog article, I will summarize the ADA cases which I learned about.


It is worth noting I am not a lawyer, so my summary is based on what I heard during the event. The discussion focused on cases involving various ADA titles, with Title I (employment) being first. I consider four cases of particular interest. Case one: A store manager with mental health disability was instructed to increase his hours to 100 per week. A request to decrease hours for disability reason was declined. The supervisor decided accommodation was not necessary as an essential function. The employee was accommodated after taking the issue to court and waiting 11 months. Webinar presenter stated accommodation request forms should not focus on what a person could do without a disability. In another legal case, two people with autism sued their state employer. They did not request reasonable accommodation because they claimed there needs were already known. The employer countered the employees were not qualified to do their job because they shared a job coach. The court decided accommodation requests did not need to be responded to. However, alternate accommodations were not discussed. The court also said a program offering a job coach is still required to have liability. Case three: A director of various stores has physical disabilities. The person with a disability declined reasonable accommodation of a scooter. When the person applied for a new job, he/she was not accepted because other persons were more qualified. The ADA requires competitive applications, but not requirement for job placement based solely on disability. The court decided in favor of the employer. Reassignment is a reasonable accommodation of last resort. In a final reasonable accommodation case, an employee was declined assistive technology. She was unable to perform a customer service job because the employer’s technology was not accessible to the blind person’s screen reader. The employer ultimately agreed to allow the person to work from home as a reasonable accommodation. I will now discuss some ADA cases pertaining to Title II.


A number of ADA Title II cases on a variety of topics were reviewed. Title II covers State and local government programs and services. People who reside in institutions and those at risk of institutionalization are covered under the 1999 Olmstead decision. In a Georgia legal case, the court determined that education is covered under Olmstead. In a similar case in same state, there was a question about whether Olmstead prohibits segregating people with disabilities. In the past year, motions to dismiss were denied. In cases from several states, it was argued that paper voting ballots only violate the ADA because a person with disability might not be able to vote independently. In another case, the American Council of the Blind in New York brought suit because crosswalks do not have audio signals. This results in independent travel being prevented. The court granted summary judgment, meaning that blind people in the state are denied meaningful access to pedestrian signals. The court also determined traffic signals put in place in 2016 were not implemented with accessibility in mind. As of this writing, discovery is ongoing. In Puerto Rico, sidewalks and curb cuts are not accessible. The court denied motion to determine if sidewalks are covered under the ADA. However, the case is currently allowed to proceed. In another transportation case, the U.S. Department of Justice filed complaint and settlement agreement simultaneously requiring most Amtrak locations to be more accessible within 10 years. In a case pertinent to people who are deaf, a woman claimed the police department did not provide a sign language interpreter. In another case, argument was made that U.S. coronavirus task force material should be accessible to people who are deaf. Cases which can fall under either Title II or III are the final topic of discussion here.


ADA Title III covers places of public accommodation, such as businesses. There are three cases in the Title II or III category which caught my attention. First, a student with autism was restrained many times. The U.S. Department of Justice became involved in that case. The determination was that restraint was used inappropriately. Second, an education settlement agreement makes clear that education materials need to be accessible to people who are blind. Finally, a determination was made via settlement agreement that kiosks at the Social Security Administration must be accessible by the end of 2021. Bottom line: I consider the large number of legal issues summarized above to be broad, just like the disability community. I encourage readers to access the archived webinar and materials for further information.


Question for readers: Of the many legal issues discussed above, which ones caught your attention? I shall return next week with another article.


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