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Disability Rights Laws- Part III: More Laws!

A photo of a multicolored stone archway
Like this multicolored stone archway, disability rights laws don’t fit perfectly together; there are gaps. Yet together they create a solid foundation for the civil rights of people with disabilities in our city, state, and country. Image from

Parts 1 and 2 of this series have explored the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and what to do when we encounter inaccessiblity. So why a Part 3? Well, there are more laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities, and we should know about them! These laws are at Federal, State, and local levels, and they offer additional protections and direction not provided by the ADA.

We interrupt this broadcast for a quick reminder that I am not a lawyer. You can find one here.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Access Tip.

Sometimes, knowing how to find information on additional Civil Rights laws can help strengthen our case for accessibility and fairness. It can help us bring local officials into the fold to help resolve questions, and it can provide additional clarity in the sometimes-fuzzy realm of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

We will not cover every law, and we will stick to the basics. For those of us who love getting into the weeds, check out the links for more information.  

What Will YOU Find in This Tip? 

For each law, we’ll share a brief description. You can use the list below to navigate to the laws that most interest you or scroll past it to read about all of the laws.

Find the hidden treasure...of knowledge! The title of the law at the top of each section is a link to more detailed information. 

Everything we talked about last month applies here too, including how building relationships can support our efforts to create change.

P.S.: As you are diving in, remember that disability rights laws protect people with all kinds of disabilities from unfair treatment. This includes people with cognitive and mental health disabilities as well as physical disabilities. 

Without further ado, let’s explore additional ways that the rights of people with disabilities are upheld and affirmed.

Federal Laws

Architectural Barriers Act (1968)
Fair Housing Act
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Air Carrier Access Act

State Laws

Oregon Revised Statue 659A Unlawful Discrimination in Employment, Public Accommodations, and Real Property

Local laws and City of Portland Policies

Accessible Taxis and Private Ride Sharing services
Always on Closed Captions
Fragrance Free City of Portland
Meaningful Access Statements in City of Portland Communications

Federal Laws

While many people are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), not everyone knows that there are many Federal laws upholding the rights of disabled people. Here are a few favorites:

Architectural Barriers Act (1968) 

The first Federal law to impact how we build. It requires Federal buildings, or spaces leased or altered with Federal dollars, to be physically accessible. Complaints are filed with the United States Access Board.

Fair Housing Act

Prohibits discrimination in public and private housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children. In Portland and other parts of Oregon, there are more protections provided by state and local fair housing laws.

It covers renting, buying, financing, and selling a home, and it applies in public and private housing. It means that people have the right to ask for accommodations and modifications related to housing.

This handbook from Disability Rights Oregon offers details on the law, Q&A, examples, resources, and even sample accommodation request letters. For specific questions and local support, check out the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. Pregnancy is sometimes considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), although the relationship is a little complex. Situations not covered by the ADA may be covered by the PDA.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Prohibits disability discrimination in Federal agencies and any agency receiving Federal funds.  It also requires Federal information and communications technology to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1975)

Guarantees a Free Appropriate Public Education for children with disabilities. It funds specialized education services, which includes many personal and academic services that children might need to access their education.

Air Carrier Access Act

Prohibits disability discrimination in air travel. The Department of Transportation has established a hotline to assist travelers  with disabilities in real-time.  Check out these resources from the Paralyzed Veterans of America to learn more about the Air Carrier Access Act and its impact.  

State Laws

Because of the emphasis on physical space when we talk about accessibility (and because it’s easier to change buildings than culture), many people think disability-related laws are all in the building codes.

 While buildings matter (a lot), Oregon’s state law is a prime example of how disability rights are civil rights

Oregon Revised Statue 659A Unlawful Discrimination in Employment, Public Accommodations, and Real Property

Prohibits disability discrimination in jobs, housing, and businesses open to public. It provides additional protections and rules not articulated in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Examples include employment protections for businesses with only six employees, more expansive parking space rules, and the right to seek damages for harm or theft of service animals.

Besides disability, this law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age, and familial status. This law is enforced by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI).

Local Laws

Portland’s very own City Code and employee manual spell out additional ways that our city is committed to creating and promoting access. Read on for the juicy details.

Portland Ordinances and policies

Accessible Taxis and Ride Sharing Services

Taxis as well as Lyft, Uber, and other private vehicle services that operate in Portland must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes providing accommodations, permitting service animals, and maintaining wheelchair accessible vehicles. This is one way in which Portland supports our local businesses to follow Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (Remember, this is the part that tells businesses they cannot discriminate against people with disabilities.)

Always on Closed Captions

Closed Captions must be turned on in public areas. This applies to businesses and organizations across the city.

A Fragrance Free City of Portland 

City of Portland employees are committed to creating a welcoming environment, including being fragrance free. Read more about why it is important to be Fragrance Free.

 Meaningful Access Statements in City of Portland Communications

This one isn’t unique to the City of Portland. Notifying people of their right to request accommodations is required under federal law. Yet the additional guidance and examples found here are a vital tool to support our City towards full access. We just couldn’t leave it out!

 Need to respond to an accommodation request? Check out some tips here and learn how to have the Accommodation Conversation here.


How can we use this wealth of information? Fervently memorizing laws for fun! (Best Saturday Night Activity Ever).

Or maybe not. For those of us who can’t make it to the Saturday Night Law Review, here are a few pieces we might remember from this final leg of our Disability Rights Tour:

  1. There are many Federal, State, and Local laws that promise fair treatment.
  2. Local and State law frequently offer additional guidance and protections.
  3. Local and state laws may create new pathways towards access and equity.
  4. We can find information and get support from many local, state, and federal organizations.

Whew! We’ve now experienced an eagle-eye view of the Americans with Disabilities Act, journeyed through responding to inaccessibility, and know where to go to find information on many morelaws protecting our rights as people with disabilities.

And the fun isn’t over. Visit us next month we uncover wisdom for literal journeys and explore Traveling with a Disability.