President Signs Law Expanding Scope of Americans With Disabilities Act

Today, President George W. Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 into law. As previously discussed, the Act restores the original intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA), and is intended to increase protection for disabled employees from discrimination. Among other things, it substantially expands the definition of disability and greatly increases the number of disabled individuals who are protected against discrimination in employment and places of public accommodation. The ADA Amendments Act will go into effect on January 1, 2009.

The United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 on June 25, 2008, and the United States Senate unanimously approved a slightly different version of the Act on September 11, 2008. The House of Representatives then approved the Senate’s version of the Act on September 17. Later that day, the White House released the following statement:

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is instrumental in allowing individuals with disabilities to fully participate in our economy and society, and the Administration supports efforts to enhance its protections. The Administration believes that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which has just passed Congress, is a step in that direction, and is encouraged by the improvements made to the bill during the legislative process. The President looks forward to signing the ADAAA into law.

The passage of the ADA Amendments Act is an important victory for disabled employees. The ADA was originally passed in 1990 to protect disabled individuals against discrimination and to reduce disability discrimination in employment and in many accommodation places. Unfortunately, over the past 18 years courts have interpreted the ADA extremely narrowly, and rendered it largely ineffective. The Act reverses many of those narrow interpretations, and makes it clear that the ADA should be interpreted broadly to protect disabled employees.