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ADA Amendments Act

The ADA Amendments Act became effective on Jan. 1, 2009. Through these amendments, Congress rejected a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that it viewed as improperly narrowing ADA coverage in a manner that excluded individuals who were meant to fall within the protections of the act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued final regulations to implement the ADAAA on March 25, 2011. The regulations are effective May 24, 2011. Although the definition of “disability” remains the same under the amended act, the amendments will have a significant impact on determinations concerning whether a person falls within the definition of an individual with a disability.

Under the ADA Amendments Act the interpretation of the definition of disability will be read more broadly. In particular, the ADAAA does away with the Supreme Court interpretation of “substantially limited” as being too restrictive and as setting the threshold to high-excluding individuals who should be protected. In determining if an individual is substantially limited in a major activity, the EEOC lists nine factors to consider in deciding whether an individual is substantially limited in a major life activity and thus possibly entitled to a reasonable accommodation, and are intended to provide for generous coverage through a predictable, consistent framework. In its regulations, the EEOC lists examples of impairments that can easily be found to be substantially limiting to the major life activities indicated, such as : (1) Deafness substantially limits hearing; (2) Blindness substantially limits seeing; (3) An intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation) substantially limits brain function; (4) Partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair substantially limit musculoskeletal function; (5) Autism substantially limits brain function; (6) Cancer substantially limits normal cell growth; (7) Cerebral palsy substantially limits brain function; (8) Diabetes substantially limits endocrine function; (9) Epilepsy substantially limits neurological function; (10) Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection substantially limits immune function; (11) Multiple sclerosis substantially limits neurological function; (12) Muscular dystrophy substantially limits neurological function; and (13) Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia substantially limit brain function.

The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as: medication, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eye glasses or contact lenses), prosthetics, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; use of assistive technology; psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, or physical therapy.