After a brief summary of the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), this article discusses developments in applying the law to corrections hiring practices, the delivery of inmate services, and making programs and services accessible.
Title I of the ADA prevents discrimination against disabled persons who are capable of performing a corrections job being offered after the employer makes reasonable accommodations for any disability. Title II of the ADA specifies that corrections programs and services must create conditions and accommodations that will enable disabled persons to benefit from the programs and services. A significant effect of the ADA on hiring corrections personnel is the prohibition against conducting medical exams or making disability-related inquiries before giving a conditional offer of employment. This article offers legal judgments about the ADA's requirements associated with the following tests for corrections job applicants: agility tests, drug tests, alcohol tests, psychological exams, polygraph tests, background checks, and vision tests. There are also ADA provisions that must be considered in any employment inquiries. Common areas in which disability-related inquiries may occur are identified and discussed. Regarding making correctional programs and services available to disabled offenders, three areas should be assessed for their impact on persons with various types of disabilities. These areas are policies and procedures, architectural barriers, and communications. Suggestions are offered for various accommodations for disabled persons in these areas. The various program areas that may require ADA accommodations are educational programs, drug and alcohol treatment, library services, and inmate work programs. Also discussed are ADA provisions for disabled people who seek access to persons in the criminal justice system, such as family members, clergy, attorneys, counselors, and volunteers.