By Audrey Demmitt, R.N., BSN 

What is the ADA National Network? 

I first learned about the ADA National Network and its 10 regional centers after I became legally blind and began using a guide dog. It was astonishing how many times restaurants and hotels tried to deny me access to services with my guide dog despite the clear mandate of the ADA. I needed to educate myself on my rights so I could educate businesses that seemed unaware of the law. My research introduced me to this network which helps with the interpretation, implementation, and public awareness of the ADA. 

 From their website:  

“The ADA National Network provides information, guidance and training on how to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to support the mission of the ADA to “assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.” 

It consists of 10 ADA Regional Centers located throughout the United States and an ADA Knowledge Translation Center (ADAKTC). The network serves those with responsibilities under the ADA such as businesses, employers, state and local governments, architects, disability organizations and individuals with disabilities whose rights are protected. You can start with the ADA National Network to learn more about the services they provide. Then find your regional center here. 

The ADA is Complex and Evolving 

The ADA is a complex document that has changed and evolved since it was first passed into law. There are many legal terms and concepts that can be difficult to understand. It is divided into 5 sections as they relate to public life:  

  • Title I (Employment) 
  • Title II (State and Local Government Services) 
  • Title III (Public Accommodations) 
  • Title IV (Telecommunications) 
  • Title V (Miscellaneous Provisions) 

It can be tricky to figure out under which Title a certain act of discrimination falls or which agency is responsible for enforcement. To learn some basics about the ADA, you can read an Overview of the ADA on the National Network website, along with other publications like Frequently Asked Questions and a Glossary of ADA Terms. The network also offers training opportunities like webinars, web courses and audio conferences on special ADA topics and relevant issues. There are many more resources available on the accessible website to help you understand the ADA and how it applies to you.  

How Can the ADA National Network Help You? 

The ADA National Network has a toll-free hotline at 1‐800‐949‐4232 (voice/TTY). An ADA Specialist at your regional center can assist you by phone, email or in-person consultation to answer difficult questions and point you to resources. I have called my regional center many times and the specialists have patiently explained the finer points of the ADA law like what is meant by “effective communication,” sent me excerpts of the ADA pertaining to service animals, and answered my questions on how to file a complaint. Here are a few things they can do for you: 

  • Answer your questions about the ADA with accurate, updated, and confidential information. 
  • Offer objective information about your rights or your obligations under the ADA and explain possible steps you may want to take. 
  • Refer you to ADA and disability-related resources in your state and local community.  
  • Provide training and guidance targeted to your needs, to match your issue and level of expertise. 
  • Connect you to advocacy services, financial assistance, and federal enforcement agencies. 

How the ADA Applies to Older Adults 

According to the ADA National Network, more than 30 percent of Americans over age 65 have some kind of disability, and over 50 percent of those over age 75.  Many older adults are aging with limitations in vision, hearing, mobility, cognition, or a combination of physical functions, and yet they do not think of themselves as having a disability. The ADA definition of “disability” is having a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”  This means when age-related changes in function make it more difficult to get around at home, participate in the community, or go to work, an older person has protected rights under the ADA. Older people need to be aware of this as well as the businesses, communities and state and local governments which serve them. To learn more about your rights as an older adult with disabilities, check out these helpful factsheets: 

Also read The ADA in Context by Elizabeth Sammons, a peer advisor. 

Improving Implementation of the ADA 

The ADA and other civil rights laws give people with disabilities equal rights and define the responsibilities of employers, businesses, and state and local governments to apply the law to their services. But let’s face it, the ADA is not always implemented as it should be in our communities. Civil rights are not always honored and so we must arm ourselves with the information and tools to make it right. Thanks to the ADA and to the ADA National Network, we have the law on our side and resources to help us advocate for the life we want to live. And that is worth celebrating! Contact the ADA National Network at | 1.800.949.4232 to learn how it can support you and the ADA.