The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [ADA] was enacted on July 26th, 1990 to provide “a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination” and a “clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination”. This law was amended through the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which became effective on January 1, 2009. What follows are 8 reasons why the ADA exists, 6 objectives put forth by this act, and 5 facts about why it was amended in 2008.
8 Congressional findings about persons with disabilities…
- Physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination; others who have a record of a disability or are regarded as having a disability also have been subjected to discrimination; [Ed: This is new wording added to ADA in 2008]
- Historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem;
- Discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services;
- Unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination;
- Individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities;
- Census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally;
- The Nation’s proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals; and
- The continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.
6 Objectives set forth by the ADA…
- Establishes requirements for businesses of all sizes.
- Requires any business serving the public to modify policies and practices that discriminate against people with disabilities.
- Requires compliance with accessible design standards when constructing or altering facilities.
- Requires removal of barriers in facilities when readily achievable.
- Requires providing auxiliary aids and services when needed to ensure effective communication with people who have hearing, vision, or speech impairments.
- Requires that all businesses, even those that do not serve the public, must comply with accessible design standards when constructing or altering facilities.
5 facts about why the ADA was amended in 2008…
- In 2008, amendments to the ADA were passed as a way to clarify the original intent of the ADA and reject the reasoning of the Supreme Court in two major cases which had subsequently greatly narrowed its protection: Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc. (1999) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams (2002).
- In Sutton v. United Airlines, two myopic sisters who were otherwise qualified to be airline pilots were rejected because of a rule that required commercial pilots to have good vision without the aid of corrective lenses. The sisters petitioned a claim of discrimination under the ADA. The Supreme Court sided with United Airlines. This decision in part was based on myopia (near-sightedness) not being explicitly identified as a disability protected under the ADA. In particular, a person with myopia did not experience substantial limits in performing major life activities and so did not have a disability as defined by the ADA.
- In Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, an employee disabled from job-related carpal tunnel syndrome claimed that Toyota was unwilling to provide reasonable accomodation as required under the ADA. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision, siding with Toyota, and claimed that the fact she could still do household chores, brush her teeth, and bathe, suggested that she did not suffer “substantial limits” in performing “major life activities”.
- The definition of “major life activities” as amended in 2008 now reads, “For purposes of paragraph (1), major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”
- A definition of “impairment” was added in 2008 to restore the protection of the ADA with respect to job discrimination and currently reads: “An individual meets the requirement of “being regarded as having such an impairment” if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.”