People with disabilities (PWD) have not always been visible to the public.  Laws eventually made it possible for them to have access to public buildings, employment, worship, recreation, and communication.  

  • 1968 -- Architectural Barriers Act required buildings and facilities financed with federal funds to be accessible to PWD
  • 1973 -- Rehabilitation Act Section 504 required federally funded contractors and subcontractors to cease discriminating on disability in the hiring of personnel
  • 1988 -- Fair Housing Amendments Act required access for PWD in multi-family housing intended for first occupancy
  • 1989 --  Air Carriers Access Act required construction of terminal facilities to be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • 1990 -- Americans with Disabilities Act Title I prohibits discrimination of persons with disabilities by employers.  Titles II and III required disability access in all places of public accommodation and business for first occupancy after 1/26/93, and for occupancy for new alterations, and all state and local government facilities by 1/26/92.


Court Rulings --In the interpretation of laws courts have sometimes differed from the original intent of the law and thereby been more helpful or harmful to selected groups of people.

There are legal aspects to be aware of in our thoughts about To Help or Not To Help.  Some attempts to be helpful especially in emergencies have had undesired consequences.  Citizens and congressional representatives have worked to create laws that protect Good Samaritans as well as enable all citizens to have the same rights as others to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

Civil Rights Laws

The Good Samaritan Laws were created to protect people who voluntarily offer help without pay, especially in emergency situations such as a vehicular accident, that may result in further injury or illness of the person being helped.  For example, the pulling of a victim from a fiery automobile could save a life but also result in partial or total paralysis.

These laws were created to promote rendering of aid to strangers in need without the threat of being sued.  These laws, however, vary across the country.  heck the laws in your state.  Before offering help, consider the nature of the emergency and why you are offering assistance.  Afterwards be prepared to justify your actions. 

Although the 1776 Declaration of Independence included the statement that "all men are created equal", it took several centuries for this to become a reality for slaves, women, and people with disabilities. For example:

  • 1865 -- Constitutional Amendment 13 abolished slavery but did not give equal rights to those freed
  • 1866 -- Civil Rights Act  stated that all persons would have the same rights "to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence and to the full and equal benefit of all laws..." 
  • 1868 -- Constitutional Amendment 14 "All persons born or naturalized in the US...are citizens...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person...the equal protection of the laws."
  • 1920 -- Constitutional Amendment 19 "The rights of vote shall not be denied or abridged...on account of sex."
  • 1963 -- Equal Pay Act prohibits sex-based pay
  • 1964 -- Civil Rights Act Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, sex, national origin, or religion.  Title VI prohibits public access discrimination and leads to school desegregation.  Title VIII is the original "federal fair housing law," which in 1988 was amended.
  • 1965 -- Executive Order 11246 required government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action in the hiring process
  • 1967 ADEA prohibited age discrimination for ages 40-65 and in 1986 the 65 year limit was removed
  • 1991 Civil Rights Act -- added provisions to Title VII protections such as right to jury trial.



People with Disabilities Laws