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The Americans with Disabilities Act and People with Mental Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to fully integrate people with disabilities into American life. The Act prohibits discrimination in employment, in the activities of state and local government, and by private businesses. 

The ADA protects people with mental disabilities, including people with mental illnesses. The ADA protects people who have a current mental “impairment “or who are discriminated against because they have a history of such impairment or are regarded as having such an impairment. 

The ADA attacks discrimination in three ways. First, it prohibits governments and business from treating people differently simply because they have a disability. Second, it requires governments and businesses to make changes to how they operate (“reasonable accommodations”) so that people with disabilities get the same access and the same benefits as other people. Third, the ADA requires that state and local governments deliver services, including mental health services, in “the most integrated setting,” that is, a setting that maximizes independence and participation in community life. 

The ADA’s vision of independence and community integration informs all of the Bazelon Center’s work.  We collaborate with the federal government and other advocates to ensure that government and businesses comply with the ADA, and we bring or assist in lawsuits that will advance compliance with the ADA.   

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