On September 25, 2008, new federal legislation was signed that expands the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Known as the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (the “ADAAA”), the amendments reverse or nullify several Supreme Court rulings that significantly narrowed the scope of protection under the ADA. The basic definition of a disability under the ADA is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” In past cases, the Supreme Court has interpreted the “substantially limits” language of the definition very narrowly, but the ADAAA clarifies that the “substantially limits” language is to be construed more broadly. In the ADAAA, Congress expressly repudiates the holdings of the Supreme Court and other federal courts in this issue, and vests the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) with authority to promulgate interpretive standards for the new legislation.
The ADAAA includes other changes as well. It broadens the definition of “major life activity” and provides examples, such as seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks. The new legislation also specifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission may still qualify as a disability under the Act, as long as it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
For further information on the ADAAA and its impact, a detailed article on the ADAAA from the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King is available here: