Accommodating People With Disabilities

Did you know that North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for the number of people 65 and older? By 2025, one in five NC residents will be 65+. In addition, the CDC estimates that one out of every four Americans has a disability, defined as a significant limitation to one or more major life activities.

It’s important for local governments, businesses and other community organizations to understand how to work with people that have a disability or limitation. Centralina Regional Council recently conducted disability awareness training for just this purpose. The session gave participants an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) along with best practices and resources. Patricia Cowan and Katie Kutcher with Centralina Area Agency on Aging taught the course, which was packed full of informative polls, activities and videos. The following are a few of the key takeaways and a brief overview of the ADA.

Overview of the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law for persons with disabilities that is built on the principles of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. The Act calls for nondiscrimination through five titles:

  1. Employment: Applies to employers with 15 or more employees, defines disability and establishes guidelines for reasonable modifications.
  2. Public Services: Requires state and local government programs and services to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  3. Public Accommodations: Prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodations, commercial facilities and private entities.
  4. Telecommunications: Requires telephone, internet and television companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications 24/7.
  5. Miscellaneous Provisions: Provides recovery of legal fees and prohibits coercing, threatening or retaliation against disabled persons or persons acting on their behalf to assert ADA rights.

Main Takeaways

  • You cannot treat everyone with the same disability the same.
  • Entities are obligated to make reasonable modification to programs and services. Think of it as “everybody or nobody” to ensure equal access for everyone.
  • Transportation is a lifeline for older adults and people with disabilities.
  • Use person-first language (i.e. a person with _____) when communicating with persons with disabilities.
  • When communicating with a person with disabilities, always ask them what they prefer.


Members can watch the full Zoom recording from this session under the Professional Development tab of the Member Portal. Centralina staff can also help your organization develop an ADA Title II Action Plan. If you are interested in receiving personal or organizational ADA and disability awareness training or developing an action plan, please contact Patricia Garner Cowan at / 704-688-6503 or Katie Kutcher at / 704-348-2705 for more information.

Written by: Lauren Tayara