In reaction to controversial court rulings, Congress is fast-tracking some amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including a clarification on the definition of “disability.”
The U.S. House already has passed the measure by a 402-17 vote, and President Bush has announced his support for the bill.
Among the key components of the legislation:
- Clarified definition of “disability.” The legislation would clarify the current requirement that an impairment must substantially limit a major life activity in order to be considered a disability. The amendment adds that the disability “materially restricts” the person – although the legislation doesn’t define “materially restricts.”
- Exclusion of consideration of mitigating measures. The legislation would prohibit consideration of mitigating measures in determining whether an individual has a disability. For instance, a person with a hearing disability would still be considered disabled even if he or she used hearing aids to substantially lessen the disability. The only exceptions to the exclusion would be ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses.
- Expanded definition of “regarded as” disabled. The legislation would provide that an individual is “regarded as” having a disability if the employee establishes that he or she has been discriminated against because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment. The “regarded as” component wouldn’t apply to transitory and minor impairments where the impairment is expected to last less than six months.
- Same burden-of-proof requirement. After consideration, legislators let stand the requirement that the employee would continue to bear the burden of proving that he or she is a qualified individual with a disability.
If passed as expected, the legislation would go into effect Jan. 1.
Click here to see the full text of the legislation, H.R. 3195.