Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)

What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was legislation passed in September 2008 and effective January 1, 2009, that expanded the population that is considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADAAA made significant changes to the definition of "disability," making it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that they have a disability as defined within the law.

Key Takeaways

  • The Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, or ASAAA, allowed for a broader legal definition of "disability."
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a piece of employment law passed by congress in 1990 to prevent workplace and hiring discrimination against employees with disabilities of all kinds.
  • By extending the terms of the ADA, the ADAAA provides greater protections under the law.

Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) in response to several Supreme Court decisions that narrowly interpreted the ADA’s definition of disability, thereby making it difficult to prove that an impairment was a "disability". This had resulted in individuals with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, and other maladies being excluded from ADA coverage.

In passing the ADAAA, Congress essentially overturned the Supreme Court decisions which Congress believed had too narrowly defined the term "disability". The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of disability to ensure that the term would be broadly construed and applied without extensive analysis so that all individuals with disabilities could receive the law’s protections. The Act also directed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)'s regulations to implement the ADAAA, specifically Congress's mandate to construe a broader definition of "disability". 

ADAAA Extensions to the ADA

The ADAAA kept the ADA’s definition of the term “disability” as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability". However, the ADAAA and the subsequently revised EEOC regulations implemented the significant changes that Congress made in the interpretation of these terms.

While the regulations were less onerous in defining what "substantially limits" meant (so that "substantial" did not have to mean that an impairment was severe enough to outright prevent or severely or significantly restrict a major life activity), they also clarified that an individual had to be covered under either "actual disability" or "record of disability" to receive accommodation.

The ADAAA instructed that accommodation be made without taking into account ameliorative measures (such as medication or hearing aid) with one exception, that being sight corrected by ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses. An impairment that is episodic in nature or in remission was to remain considered a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

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