Recent amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act that take effect January 1, 2009 were enacted to overturn erroneous Supreme Court decisions that had eroded the protections for people with disabilities under the ADA and reject the strict interpretation of a definition of a person with a disability. These amendments expand the coverage of the ADA such that more individuals with a disability will be afforded the Act’s protections.
History of ADA Amendments Act of 2008:
On September 25, 2008, the President signed the "ADA Amendments Act of 2008" (Public Law 110-325) into law to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The Act was introduced to combat four recent Supreme Court Opinions that had narrowed the coverage of the ADA to such an extent that individuals with epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, cancer, diabetes, and cerebral palsy were being denied the protections of the ADA. This narrow interpretation of the ADA lead to 97% of plaintiffs with ADA employment discrimination claims losing at trial in 2004. Congress realized that individuals for whom the ADA was originally designed to protect were being denied protection from employment discrimination and passed the ADA Amendement Act of 2008 to correct the problem.
Expanded Coverage of ADA under ADA Amendments Act of 2008:
The Act makes it clear that when determining whether or not an individual has a disability covered by the ADA, courts should interpret the definition of a disability to provide broad coverage consistent with the purposes of the Act to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of disability.
The Amendments prohibit courts from considering mitigating measures such as medication, prosthetics, and assistive technology, in determining whether an individual has a disability. For example, before the Amendments, a court could reject an individual’s claim if he was able to take medication or used a device that reduced the impairment of his disability.
The Amendments state that impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
The Amendments also state that an impairment that limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be a disability.
The Amendments clarify that the ADA covers people who experience discrimination based on a perception of impairment regardless of whether the individual has a disability.
The Amendments provides that reasonable accommodations are only required for individuals who can demonstrate they have an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or a record of such impairment. Accommodations need not be provided to an individual who is only "regarded as" having an impairment.
Effects of the Amendments:
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will provide more individuals who suffer from a disability the protections of the ADA. Individuals who were previously denied protection against employment discrimination who either have certain types of disabilities, who are able to take advantage of assistive technology to better quality of lives, and those whose conditions are in remission, can take full advantage of the protections of the ADA if their employer subjects them to discrimination on the basis of their disability.