The bill rejects court decisions that have diverted the Americans with Disabilities Act from its original Congressional intent and restores the law's ability to protect anyone who faces discrimination as a result of the existence or appearance of disability.
The bill continues to define a disability as a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. However, the bill provides specific guidelines for application of this standard that are more expansive than the definition applied by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent decisions.
Importantly, the bill clarifies that in evaluating the impairment of people with episodic chronic illnesses, they must be judged when their conditions are presenting symptoms.
The bill also provides a cause of action (the ability to sue) for workers who believe they have experienced discrimination on the basis of a perceived disability.
The House passed a similar bill in June by a vote of 402-17 and will have to sign off on the Senate version before it can go before the President to be signed. The differences between the bills appears to be slight and should be ironed out quickly.
The two main candidates in the presidential race support enactment of these changes to disability law. Senators McCain and Obama were both co-sponsors of the Senate bill.
The bill represents a compromise between disability rights advocates and employer groups, who collaborated to design a bill all interested parties could fully support.
Senate Passes ADA Amendments Act
Senate Passes Bill Protecting Disabled People
McCain, Obama Support ADA Restoration Act
Bill to Restore Americans with Disabilities Act Advances
Rewriting the Americans with Disabilities Act
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Content by Diana E. Lee.