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Disability Law in the United States: A Beginner's Guide

This research guide covers a variety of resources surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act and other topics related to disability law, including information about relevant federal agencies, service animals, and veterans resources.


National Library for the Blind. [Between 1918 and 1928]. National Photo Company Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

Advocacy for disability rights has a storied history in the United States. Although disability advocacy organizations have existed since the 19th century, congressional action in the 20th and 21st centuries created numerous opportunities for advocacy, awareness, and outreach. With the passage of laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), numerous organizations and federal government offices have become actively involved in enforcement, compliance, and education on this topic.

This research guide provides an overview of relevant laws and regulations related to disability rights. It provides resources from the federal government and non-profit organizations that work toward advancing the rights of people with disabilities. The guide is by no means exhaustive, however it offers a extensive guidance on resources for performing legal research on this subject, as well as information from leading advocates and government entities with missions to protect those with disabilities from discrimination.

The ADA defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Neither the ADA or the RHA explicitly names every impairment that they cover; however, the resources in this guide provide guidance and information about the broad protections covered by disability laws.

Resources Referenced