The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to protect workers across the U.S. from discrimination against disability. Congress has recently amended the definition of disability within the ADA by instating the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008. The March 25, 2011 ruling made significant changes to the ADA, making it easier for individuals to prove they are disabled under the ADAAA’s guidelines.
The changes appear minimal, but will have a sizable impact on the number of citizens classified as disabled. The Amendment is one of the most significant changes in the fight for equality among disabled citizens. It finally provides the disabled an opportunity for protection against unjust discrimination, and implements the necessary change for equality.
We have compiled the most important things you should know about the new ADA Amendment Act. The ADAAA does the following things:
- Provides an interpretation of the word “disability” that is applicable to many impairments that were previously unprotected. The definition of disability remains the same, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.” However, the ADAAA encourages that the terms in the definition should be interpreted broadly.
- Supplies guidelines for determining if the disability is “substantially limiting”. A substantially limiting disability is one that makes a person ”significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person or to most people.” The ADAAA also encourages this term to be interpreted broadly, but further develops the law to include guidelines for future court cases.
- Broad construction- The narrow interpretation of the words “impairment” and “substantially limiting” was changed to provide a broader spectrum of the definitions.
- Comparison to general population– The disability can be substantially limiting if the person cannot perform a major life activity in comparison to the general population.
- Primary issue is compliance, not substantial limitation– Court cases should focus on if the employer was in compliance with the law, rather than focusing on if the disability was, in fact, substantially limiting.
- Individualized assessment– all impairments that are alleged to be substantially limiting must be determined on an individual basis.
- No requirement for scientific analysis- when the performance of a major life activity by the disabled person is compared to the general population, no scientific, medical or statistical analysis is needed.
- No consideration of mitigating measures– when determining if a disability is substantially limiting, mitigating measures (other than ordinary eye glasses or contact lenses) may not be considered.
- Episodic impairments or conditions in remission– episodic impairments are still regarded as disabilities when in remission as long as the disability would limit a major life activity when active.
- One substantial limitation is sufficient– one determination of a limitation of a major life function is enough to classify an impairment as a protected disability.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your disability, contact an attorney to discuss your options.