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January 29, 2008
Lawmakers Consider Expanding ADA

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor is scheduled to hold a hearing today on legislation that would expand the definition of "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Currently, a "disability" is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual's major life activities when using a mitigating measure, such as glasses, pills for hypertension, a hearing aid (Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc., 119 S.Ct. 2139 (1999)). The current definition of a disability also includes having a record of such impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195) would redefine "disability" as a physical or mental impairment, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. In effect, the law would eliminate the requirement for the physical or mental impairment to substantially limit one or more of the individual's major life activities to be covered by the ADA .

The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 would also require that "determination of whether an individual has a physical or mental impairment be made without considering the impact of any mitigating measures the individual may be using or whether any manifestations of an impairment are episodic, in remission, or latent."

Business and employer groups oppose the legislation. The Society for Human Resource Management, for example, says that the law would go too far and cover "people who have minor or temporary impairments such as near-sightedness, headaches, small scars and even 'tennis elbow,' or tattoos." 

The legislation has 244 cosponsors in the House.

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