On ADA Rewrite, Compromise

By June 18, 2008General

The House Judiciary Committee this morning will mark up H.R. 3195, the ADA Restoration Act, a bill that had prompted a lot of concern with the business associations. The Education and Labor Committee also has a mark-up scheduled.

A good rule of thumb is that when legislation is called the “Something Restoration Act,” restoration actually stands for expansion of regulations and opportunities for litigation.

But disability activists and business representatives have come together to agree on language that helps clarify the Americans with Disabilities Act, protects and strengthens the protections for the disabled — importantly, covering people who should be covered — and avoids the more onerous and expensive rules that employers fear.

A coalition of groups who have worked on the issue sent a letter to the Hill yesterday outlining the compromise. A copy of the letter is available here. Key provisions it cites.

  • Coverage under the ADA – The proposal clarifies that Congress intended the ADA’s coverage to be broad, to cover anyone who faces unfair discrimination because of a disability.
  • Definition of Disability – The proposal retains the requirement that an individual’s impairment substantially limits a major life activity in order to be considered a disability and an individual must demonstrate that he or she is qualified for the job. 
  • Protection for Mitigating Measures – The proposal would overturn several court decisions to provide that people with disabilities not lose their coverage under the ADA simply because their condition is treatable with medication or can be addressed with the help of assistive technology.
  • Regarded As – The proposal includes a “regarded as” prong as part of the definition of disability which covers situations where an employee is discriminated against because of his or her actual or perceived impairment.  Moreover, the proposal makes it clear that accommodations do not need to be made to someone who is disabled solely because he or she is “regarded as” disabled.

A good compromise, one that reflects the business community wanting to achieve a good working environment for employees.

P.S. NPR’s Morning Edition had a report on the compromise this a.m. Story here.


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