EEOC Seeking Public Comment on Rules Implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

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     Last September 25, 2008 President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilties Amendments Act of 2008. The ADA Amendments Act legislatively over turned decisions by the Supreme Court that narrowed the definition of disability under the ADA. Congress found that persons with many types of impairments including epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, intellectual disabilities, major depression, and bipolar disorder had been unable to bring ADA claims due to  narrow court  interpretations of the definition of disability. The ADA Amendments Act emphasizes that the definition of disability should be interpreted broadly to cover individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.

     Thus, the ADA Amendments Act makes it easier for an individual trying to enforce the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability and is protected under the ADA. The ADA Amendments Act retained the basic definition of disability as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. But the Act changes how these terms should be interpreted. These terms are intepreted in the proposed regulations. For example:

1. The Act directs the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to revise its regulations defining the term "substantially limits";

2. The Act and the proposed rules expand the definiton of major life activities to include reading, bending, and communicating. It also includes as major life activities major bodily functions such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions;

3. The Act and the rules state that mitigating measures other than "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses" shall not be considered in determining whether a person has a disability. This means that things such as medication, medical equipment and devices, prosthetic limbs, low vision devices, and reasonable accommodations that reduce (mitigate) the impact of an impairment on an individual cannot be considered in determining if the individual has a disability;

4. The Act and rules clarify that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is still considered a disability if it substantially limits a major life activity when it is active.

     For more information on the proposed EEOC Rules interpreting the changes in the ADA Amendments Act, the EEOC has provided Questions and Answers on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. These Questions and Answers provide information on the changes in the ADA itself, as well as information on the proposed rules. Comments are due  60 days from September 24th and can be submitted by mail, fax or electronically. Written comments should be sent to Stephen Llewellyn, Executive Officer, Executive Secretariat, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street, NE., Suite 4NW08R, Room 6NE03F, Washington, DC 20507. Comments can be faxed to (202) 663-4114 and comments can be sent electronically to