On September 25, 2008 the ADA was amended to expand the definition of disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act after a series of lawsuits that had severely restricted the definition of disability. Although the Act became effective on January 1, 2009 the EEOC finished the rule making process for the ADA-AA on March 25, 2011. The regulations run 202 pages and are beyond the scope of this article. However, here are some highlights:

  • The definition of major life activity under the act has been expanded.  Major life activities now include, eating, sleeping, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and interacting.  A major life activity also now includes major bodily functions like the immune system, cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, sense organs, genitourinary, cardiovascular, hemic, lymphatic and musculoskeletal functions or any operation of an individual organ within a body system.
  • Impairments that are Episodic or in Remission count as a disability. Under the new regulations controlled diseases are now considered disabilities. Examples include: cancer in remission, epilepsy, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
  • The regarded as disabled standard has been expanded. Even if a person is not disabled, a person can bring an ADA claim if the employer regards the person as disabled.  Now an employee need only show that an employer made a work decision based on a perceived impairment.
  • The standard for substantially limits no longer includes a concept of significantly restricted.  Instead an “impairment is a disability … if it ‘substantially limits’ the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population.”

To learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit https://www.ada.gov/.