Proposed Amendments to ADA Restore Disability Discrimination Protections

Introduced and passed, 402 to 17, in the House of Representatives, the ADA Amendment Act of 2008 is geared to the restoration of the intent and protections of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Operating from the position that “physical and mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society,” Congress passed the ADA with the intent to broadly eliminate “prejudice, antiquated attitudes, [and] the failure to remove societal and institutional barriers” that have frequently precluded persons with disabilities from fully engaging in society. Plainly put, the ADA Amendment Act will restore protections against disability discrimination to a broader range of individuals.

Over time, the intended broad coverage of the ADA was significantly narrowed by Supreme Court decisions, such as, Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc. The ADA Amendment Act of 2008, if passed, will restore the ADA’s broad coverage and make it easier for workers to qualify as disabled under the ADA.
The proposed ADA Amendments of 2008 makes clear its intention to reject the Supreme Court’s strict interpretation of the ADA which created a demanding standard for the definition of “disability.” Along with rejecting the Supreme Court’s decisions narrowing the application of the ADA, the ADA Amendment of 2008 also strengthens coverage for those who have perceived disabilities, clarifies the definition of disability, makes clear what it means to be substantially limited in a major life activity, and prohibits the consideration of mitigating measures in the determination of a person’s disability classification.
Rightly so, the prohibition of the consideration of mitigating measures is a notable change which will significantly broaden protections for disabled persons. It is clear that the use of mitigating measures, such as, medication, hearing aids, and prosthetics, do not deter discrimination practices in and of themselves.
As it stands now, the consideration of mitigating measures very often results in those that choose to use such measures being considered too disabled to be hired by employers but not disabled enough to be protected from disability discrimination. The proposed bill recognizes that, in many cases, to leave those who choose to use mitigating measures unprotected is illogical and in direct contradiction to the plain language and intent of the ADA.

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