Safeguarding the ADA’s Antidiscrimination Mandate: Subjecting Arrests to Title II Coverage

by Shanna Rifkin

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Abstract

The news has been peppered with tragic stories of individuals with disabilities who have been killed or injured following police encounters. In the aftermath of these incidents, as injured parties seek accountability, a question looms: Can arrest proceedings violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The ADA was enacted to prohibit disability discrimination. The law had an ambitious agenda, supported by broad statutory authority, to ensure equality in all areas of public life for individuals with disabilities. But while the ADA has fostered integration into many aspects of modern life, one area remains deeply contested: arrests.

If Congress envisioned that Americans with disabilities would enjoy lives free from discrimination, excluding arrests from ADA coverage undermines the law’s broad promise of protection. In 2015, a Supreme Court opinion raised but failed to resolve this very issue, leaving an important question unanswered. This Note examines whether arrest proceedings must comply with the ADA and argues that they should. It then proposes comprehensive disability training as a tool to aid ADA compliance and avoid discriminatory arrest proceedings.

Safeguarding the ADA’s Antidiscrimination Mandate: Subjecting Arrests to Title II Coverage

by Shanna Rifkin

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

The news has been peppered with tragic stories of individuals with disabilities who have been killed or injured following police encounters. In the aftermath of these incidents, as injured parties seek accountability, a question looms: Can arrest proceedings violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The ADA was enacted to prohibit disability discrimination. The law had an ambitious agenda, supported by broad statutory authority, to ensure equality in all areas of public life for individuals with disabilities. But while the ADA has fostered integration into many aspects of modern life, one area remains deeply contested: arrests.

If Congress envisioned that Americans with disabilities would enjoy lives free from discrimination, excluding arrests from ADA coverage undermines the law’s broad promise of protection. In 2015, a Supreme Court opinion raised but failed to resolve this very issue, leaving an important question unanswered. This Note examines whether arrest proceedings must comply with the ADA and argues that they should. It then proposes comprehensive disability training as a tool to aid ADA compliance and avoid discriminatory arrest proceedings.