There seems to be confusion over what are laws or not concerning disability. I’ll first begin my explanation with an example Americans are likely familiar with, racial segregation.
In the 1869 case of Plessy v. Ferguson the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of racial segregation as long as it was “separate but equal.” This set a legal precedent that wasn’t overturned until the Jim Crow era case Brown versus Board of Education in 1954. Matters of segregation continued to be based on legal precedent until the Civil Rights Act was created in 1964.
What is legal precedent? In short, this means legal cases are ruled according to rulings of previous cases addressing similar matters. This is used when laws are not in place or when the ruling judge considers a particular case to be outside of the norm.
Disability was not included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act; it was not until 1990 when the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was created that disabled people obtained their civil rights. Despite now having the ADA many cases on matters of disability are based on legal precedent and those that aren’t must first be approved by government agencies.
ADA Title I: Employment cases must be approved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities cases must be approved by the United States Department of Justice
ADA Title III: Public Accommodations cases must be approved by the United States Department of Justice
ADA Title IV: Telecommunications cases must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
A case must be filed within 180 days of the perceived offense and if approved by the corresponding the agency, the agency itself can either arrange mediations between the two opposing parties to solve the issue out of court or they can file a lawsuit themselves.
It goes without saying (and yet I still have to say it) that the government doesn’t often approve lawsuits against itself, even if the lawsuit is directed at different departments.
This is the reason reason that forced sterilization was legal until 2010, California being the last date to de-legalize the procedure.
This is also why it is considered legal for parents and caretakers to murder disabled children if they are considered an undue burden.