ADA 101

ADA and Disability Laws to Know

Just like a hiker filling their backpack with everything they need before a big hike, you too need your arsenal prepared for living life with a spinal cord injury. You need to be prepared in every way you can because living life with SCI can be tricky; a big part of the arsenal you need is knowing which laws exist to help you. Some of these laws are ones you may have heard of before, but chances are, you don’t know every single one.

To educate yourself on the important laws to know when living with a spinal cord injury, read about the three major laws below. Knowledge is freedom, as they say, and that is certainly the case with understanding the legal system as a disabled citizen of the United States.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is likely one of the laws on this list you’ve heard of before. This law was a game-changer when it was passed in 1990, and it completely transformed the lives of people with disabilities across the nation. People with disabilities could now, thanks to this law, move and live more freely in their community.

The ADA has three main sections: 1) All publically owned facilities need to be accessible; 2) All privately owned facilities open to the public must be accessible; and 3) Employers can no longer discriminate against employees or potential employees with disabilities. Since the ADA was passed, people with spinal cord injuries can now more easily land jobs and live full independent lives in their newly accessible communities.

Unfortunately, not every city and state enforces the ADA very well; because of this, you may have to do your research before moving to a new city or state after your injury. In smaller towns, for example, you are more likely to see inaccessible shops and restaurants than in bigger cities. You can, however, do your part and report any ADA violations you see to the Department of Justice.

Vocational Rehab

Funded by the federal government, this program is run on a state-by-state basis and was created to help people with disabilities find jobs. Vocational Rehab (VR) will help pay for a disabled person’s education expenses, job training, job counseling, school and work-related assistive technology, and even vehicle expenses if it will assist them in finding and keeping a job.

Millions of people with spinal cord injuries use Vocational Rehab to help pay for their college tuition. VR won’t cover all of the costs, but it will cover a large sum. Note: If you attend a private college, the amount you can receive from VR is reduced.

Ticket to Work Program

Passed in 1999, The Ticket to Work Program made it possible for people with disabilities to keep their health care and maintain employment, no longer having to choose between the two. Up until this point, people with disabilities would completely lose their health benefits if they took on a full-time job, and their medical costs would not be covered by any other willing health insurance plan.

PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Sufficiency) is another law that lets you work while still keeping your Social Security benefits. MAEPD (Medicaid for people with disabilities) was also created because of The Ticket to Work Program. MAEP is a version of Medicaid where you pay a monthly premium, but can still keep your health benefits and work full-time.

Please review the following video on important disability laws to know, and check out our Takeaway Points below.

Video: 23 Years After the Americans with Disabilities Act

Takeaway Points:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all publically-owned facilities to be accessible, all privately-owned facility open to the public to be accessible, and makes employment discrimination based on disability illegal.
  • Vocational rehab will help pay for college tuition, job training, job counseling, and sometimes vehicle expenses.
  • The Ticket to Work Program makes it possible for people with disabilities to work and keep their health benefits.
  • PASS allows you to work and still keep a portion of your Social Security benefits.

Helpful Resources:


Spinal Cord Injury
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Bethesda MD  20814
Phone Number: +1 703-795-5711