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.


Bazelon Center staff are experts on the ADA. For more information about the ADA specifically, please visit the following website.


The Bazelon Center, along with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, filed complaints with the Alabama State Department of Education charging that the Montgomery Public Schools failed to identify and provide needed services to children with emotional disturbances. These children are entitled to the special education and related services they need to stay in their neighborhood schools and learn, and the Montgomery Public Schools violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide it.

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The Olmstead Supreme Court decision affirmed that the ADA prohibits the segregation of individuals with disabilities. This was a landmark decision that set a precedent for how people with mental disabilities should be treated. The Bazelon Center played a very central role as this case moved through the court system. When it reached the Supreme Court, the Bazelon Center organized the filing of amicus briefs to provide background to the Court on critical issues.

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