Legislation Expands Protections Under Americans With Disabilities Act
President Bush on Thursday signed legislation that expands protections under the Americans with Disability Act, the AP/Kansas City Star reports (AP/Kansas City Star, 9/25). Lawmakers introduced the legislation in response to a series of Supreme Court decisions that limited the scope of ADA, which took effect in 1990. In cases heard in 1999 and 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that individuals who could compensate for their disabilities with medications, medical devices or prosthetics did not qualify for protection under ADA.
The legislation states that the Supreme Court erred by "eliminating protection for many individuals whom Congress intended to protect" under ADA. In addition, the legislation states that courts should not consider the effects of "mitigating measures" -- such as medications, hearing aids, and artificial limbs -- in the determination of a disability, and that "an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active" (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/18).
The enactment of the legislation marks a "big day for millions of Americans" who will benefit from the expansion of protections under ADA, a MediaNews/Contra Costa Times editorial states. The editorial states that "Congress was short-sighted" in the passage of ADA because, when related "lawsuits finally reached the Supreme Court, workers generally got the short end of the stick," as the court used an "absurd interpretation" that "limited the law to people who were disabled and not those who had common impairments that could be treated."
According to the editorial, the expansion of protections under ADA will help prevent discrimination by employers against "workers who have ailments as severe as cancer or as chronic as carpal tunnel syndrome" but "show they are still capable of doing the job." The editorial concludes, "Our lawmakers finally got real with American workers" (MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 9/26).
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