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ADA Amendments Good News for Individuals with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act 42 U.S.C. Sec 12102, et seq. (ADA) was first enacted in 1990 prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment (Title I),
in public services (Title II), in public accommodations (Title III) and in telecommunications
(Title IV). 

After its enactment however, United Stated Supreme Court cases significantly limited the ADA’s effectiveness in prohibiting discrimination based on disabilities.  Based on narrow court interpretations of the ADA, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 was signed into law on September 25, 2008 to make the ADA consistent with its original intent of “providing a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities” and to “provide broad coverage.” 

wheelchair sign.jpgSeveral changes in the ADA as a result of the new Amendment are discussed below. 

One of the largest changes made by the ADA Amendments was to the definition of a “disability” under the ADA.  In Sutton v. United Air Lines Inc. (1999), the Supreme court held that in order to determine whether an impairment was a “disability” under the ADA, consideration must be given to mitigating measures available.  Mitigating measures could include a variety of items such as medication, equipment, prosthetics, mobility devices, hearing aids, and glasses.  When taking into consideration these mitigating measures, many impairments were not considered to substantially limit a major life activity and thus were not considered disabilities under the ADA. 

The ADA Amendments state that mitigating measures other than “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” shall not be considered in assessing whether an employee has a disability for purposes of the ADA. 

Other changes made to the ADA include:

  • expanding the definition of “major life activities”
  • clarification that an impairment that is in remission or episodic still qualifies as a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active
  • changing the definition of “regarded as” to no longer requiring the impairment to substantially limit a major life activity


If you or a loved one has been discriminated against in your employment based on a disability or perceived disability, please contact our disability employment discrimination attorneys at Miller & Falkner immediately for a free case evaluation.