President Bush has signed legislation that will affect the core of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA ) by expanding the definition of disability. The law will take effect January 1, 2009.
While the legislation (S.3406) maintains the definition of a disability as one involving a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, it makes changes to the meaning of major life activity under that definition.
The legislation states that major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
In addition, the legislation states that a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
The legislation also includes clarifications of other aspects of the law. For example, the legislation includes provisions that state:
- An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.
- An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
- The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.
The legislation also includes a measure that states that the term disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under the ADA.
In proposing the legislation, lawmakers said that since the ADA 's enactment in 1990, a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions had narrowed the definition of disability too much.
In response to this legislation, BLR has created an Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAA) Information Center packed with details about the new law and helpful resources.
Meanwhile, can read more details about the legislation on HR.BLR.com here.
BLR has also created a special report called The New ADA: What You Need to Know Now that includes details on the changes, a sample policy, and two sample forms.