May 7, 2012

Courts interpreting amended ADA liberally

The NY Law Journal reports that the courts are enforcing the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act liberally, making it easier for the disabled to prevail.  See the  article excerpts below, by James Hays and Sean Kirby:

[T]he stated intent of the ADAAA was to shift the focus from whether or not an individual is disabled, to whether discrimination is occurring. Congress attempted to accomplish this goal by altering the threshold to meet the definition of disability. Indeed, although the act retains the ADA's definition of "disability" as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment, the ADAAA significantly modifies the meaning of the terms comprising this definition.

Specifically, the act, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) amended ADA regulations, specifies that the term "substantially limits" must be construed broadly, and no longer requires an impairment to "significantly restrict" a major life activity.

Furthermore, the determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without considering any measures used to alleviate the effects of the impairment, such as medication or medical supplies (excluding "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses"), and treatments such as psychotherapy or behavioral therapy. Additionally, an individual's impairment, even if it is in remission, episodic, or is expected to last fewer than six months, is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when its symptoms are present.

The ADAAA also sought to alter the disability threshold by adding reading, bending and communicating to the list of "major life activities" that an impairment could substantially limit. The amendments act also recognizes that the operation of "major bodily functions" (e.g., neurological, digestive, bowel, or cardiovascular functions) can also constitute a "major life activity." Accordingly, under the ADAAA, a "major life activity" need not be "of central importance to daily life."

The amendments act was intended to not only make it easier for individuals to demonstrate that they have a covered impairment, but to also minimize the showing necessary to establish that an individual is "regarded as" having a disability.

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