House Passes Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The House has just passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments, H.R. 3195, by a vote of 402-17. This bill specifically rejects the erroneous Supreme Court decisions that have reduced the protections for people with disabilities under the ADA, restoring original Congressional intent.

Rep. Jim Langevin (RI-02) spoke in favor:

Rep. Langevin: “I can remember what it was like coming down to Washington as a young intern for Senator Pell from Rhode Island, and how challenging it was to find good, reasonable public accommodations. And I remember what it was like in Rhode Island before the ADA was passed in terms of voting, and I was not able to vote independently on my own, had to have help in the voting machine and it wasn’t until after the ADA was passed and I became Secretary of State and changed our election system… Unfortunately, a number of court decisions over the years have diluted the definition of what constitutes a disability, effectively limiting the ADA’s coverage… The bill before us today reaffirms the protections of the ADA and ensures equality for every American.”

The legislation:

· Specifically rejects the erroneous Supreme Court decisions that have reduced the protections for people with disabilities under the ADA, restoring original Congressional intent.
· Makes it absolutely clear that the ADA is intended to provide broad coverage to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of disability.
· Clarifies the definition of disability, including what it means to be “substantially limited in a major life activity.”
· Prohibits the consideration of mitigating measures such as medication, prosthetics, and assistive technology, in determining whether an individual has a disability.
· Provides coverage to people who experience discrimination based on a perception of impairment regardless of whether the individual experiences disability.
· Is supported by a broad coalition of civil rights groups, disability advocates, and employer trade organizations.


· The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was intended to “provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination againsat individuals with disabilities.” The ADA has transformed our nation since iits enactment, helping millions of Americans with disabilities succeed in the workplace, and making transportation, housing, buildings, services and other elements of daily life more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
· Just as other civil rights laws prohibit employers from basing decisions on characteristics like race or sex, Congress wanted the ADA to stop employers from making decisions based on disability.
· Unfortunately, since 1999, several U.S. Supreme Court decisions have narrowed the definition of disability so much that people with serious conditions such as epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, cancer, diabetes, and cerebral palsy have been determined to not have impairments that meet the definition of disability under the ADA.
· The result: In 2004, plaintiffs lost 97% of ADA employment discrimination claims, often due to the interpretation of the definition of disability. People who are not hired or are fired because an employer mistakenly believes they cannot perform the job — or because the employer does not want “people like that” in the workplace — have been denied protection from employment discrimination due to these court decisions. This was not the intent of the ADA.

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