The ADA Amendments Act: An Overview of Recent Changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act

Author(s): 
Emily Benfer
Publication Date: 
September 20, 2009

ACS is pleased to distribute "The ADA Amendments Act: An Overview of Recent Changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act," an Issue Brief by Emily Benfer, Supervising Attorney and Teaching Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center's Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic. In 1990, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), extending protections against discrimination to the disabled. The author argues that the scope of protection afforded by the ADA has been narrowed over time by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions that limit the definition of "disability" under the ADA.

In 2008, Congress amended the ADA by passing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). Benfer argues that this legislation is intended to reinvigorate the ADA by expanding the meaning of "disability" to provide protection for individuals who would not have been considered disabled prior to the passage of the ADAAA. She examines the changes the ADAAA made to the ADA's three-pronged definition of "disability" and concludes that these changes substantially expand the scope of protection afforded by the ADA. Benfer draws extensively on legislative history in analyzing the meaning of the amendments to the ADA. She provides examples of conditions that should be considered disabilities in the wake of the ADAAA's passage, but would not have qualified as disabilities under the pre-amendment ADA. Benfer offers a roadmap for understanding and interpreting the ADAAA, and argues that "it is extremely important that the ADAAA be implemented consistently with Congress's intent to allow for individuals with disabilities to fully participate in a society free from discrimination."

Benfer ADAAA283.43 KBapplication/pdf icon