S. Amir Kohan

ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Sutton v. United Airlines and in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., v. William, Congress felt that the Court had been too restrictive in its interpretation of who qualifies as disabled. It was the intent of Congress to be broader in that definition. Consequently, Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act to capture a wider range of people in the disabled classification. A disability is now defined as “an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, having a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.” Although the words remain the same as the original definition, the Amendments Act went further. It said, when determining whether someone is disabled, there may be no consideration of mitigating circumstances. In the past, we used to say people who had a disability under control were not disabled. An employee with a prosthetic limb did everything a whole-bodied person could do. An employee with migraines that disappeared with medication wasn’t considered disabled. Under the old law, epilepsy and diabetes were not considered disabilities if they were controlled with medication. Now, because the law prohibits consideration of either medication or prostheses, they are considered
disabilities. You can see that a great many more people are captured within the definition of disabled as a result of these more recent changes. The only specifically excluded condition is the one involving eyeglasses and contact lenses. Congress specifically said having a corrected vision problem if eyeglasses or contact lenses are worn may not constitute a disability under the law.

An individual can be officially disabled but quite able to do his or her job without accommodation of any sort. Having more people defined as disabled doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more people asking for job accommodations. For more information, see www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adaaa.cfm.

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