New Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act
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What are the Amendments to the American Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the main articles of legislation that provides civil protections for persons with disabilities. In particular, the ADA regulates equal employment opportunity, transportation, public accommodation, and housing for disabled persons.
In 2011, Amendments to the ADA were approved under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). The amendments relaxed many of the requirements found in the definition of disability. In effect, the amendments make it easier for a person to file a federal disability claim.
How is “Disability” defined under the ADAAA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act substantially expands the federal definition of disability and removes many of the hurdles previously encountered when claiming a disability. Specifically, the ADAAA makes the following changes to the definition of “disability”:
- Substantially limiting effect: Under the old ADA, a disability claimant had to prove that the disability resulted in a “substantially limiting effect” on their major life activities such as sleeping or walking. Now, the impairment no longer has to limit major life activities to be classified as a disability. Institutions with more than 15 employees must comply with this change.
- Major life activities: However, if a consideration of the applicant’s major life activities does become necessary, the new amendments state that the phrase also covers “major bodily functions”. These include such aspects as immune system functioning, cell growth, and endocrine and neurological functions.
- Mitigating measures: When reviewing a disability claim, “mitigating measures” may no longer be considered. Mitigating measures include the use of medication or medical devices such as hearing aids. Eyeglasses and contact lenses may still factored into an analysis.
- Recurring or episodic impairments: Episodic disabilities such as epilepsy may now be classified as disabilities. They must however be substantially limiting during the periods that impairment is active. Episodic impairments also include disabilities that are in remission, such as cancer.
- Regarded as disabled: Previously, a non-diagnosed claimant could file for disability if they had been “regarded as disabled” by another party or person. According to the new amendments, the focus is shifted from the type of impairment to an analysis of how the person was actually treated.
- Obvious Impairment: The old ADA did not provide an exhaustive list of impairments, due to the difficulty of creating a complete listing. The new ADAAA does include specific examples of conditions that would obviously be considered a disability or impairment. These obvious impairments include epilepsy, HIV infection, bipolar disorders, and diabetes.
Thus, the new amendments to the ADA make it significantly easier for a claimant to establish that they have a disability according to the federal definition. Also, courts are being directed to interpret the new guidelines broadly, so as to provide maximum coverage for applicants.
Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act cover all impairments?
No- the ADAAA guidelines make it clear that not all impairments will be classified as a disability. Even with the new expansions to the definition of disability, conditions that questionable or are not immediately debilitating will still be subject a rigorous analysis.
In addition, claims that are subject to fraud or deceit will be rejected. Filing a false disability claim may result in civil or criminal penalties. For example, if a person provides false medical documents in order to receive disability protections, their claim will be denied. The person may also have to face legal consequences such as a fine or a possible jail sentence.
Do I need a Lawyer for Filing a Disability Claim under the ADAAA?
If you will be filing a disability claim, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the new amendments contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). You may be able to receive protections under the ADAAA that were not previously available. Prior to filing, you may wish to consult with an attorney for advice. Your employment lawyer will be able to assist you with compiling the necessary documents for filing. Also, if a dispute arises over your claim, your attorney may provide assistance during mandatory hearings.
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Last Modified: 04-13-2011 04:17 PM PDT
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