Yesterday, the House approved the ADA Amendments Act.  It now moves on to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

The President is expected to sign the bill.  The White House issued the following statement:  “The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is instrumental in allowing individuals with disabilities to fully participate in our economy and society, and the administration supports efforts to enhance its protections.  The administration believes that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) is a step in that direction, and is encouraged by the improvements made to the bill during the legislative process.  The president looks forward to signing the ADAAA into law.”

What is the ADAAA?

The ADAAA would overturn several U.S. Supreme Court decisions that the bill’s proponents felt too narrowly interpreted the ADA.  The Act was the result of a bipartisan effort that included various prominent business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

What Would Change?

Here are the highlights:

  • Mitigating measures.  One of the biggest changes would be the rejection of Supreme Court cases requiring “mitigating measures” to be taken into account in determining whether an individual has a disability.  Under the proposed law, assistance from medication, technology, equipment, devices and other similar aids would no longer be part of the equation.  Notable exceptions:  glasses and contact lenses could still be considered.
  • Remission.  A condition that is in remission or episodic qualifies as a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
  • “Substantially Limits” Loosened.  The bill loosens the definition of “substantially limits” by rejecting a Supreme Court ruling that the phrase should be considered a “demanding standard” and EEOC guidance that it should be defined as “significantly restricted.”
  • “Major Life Activities” Expanded.  The bill provides specific examples of “major life activities,” including “major bodily functions” such as “immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”
  • “Regarded As” Narrowed.  The bill excludes from ”regarded as” claims minor/transitory conditions lasting six months or less.

Stay tuned for more on this historic piece of legislation.