Saturday, October 18, 2008

ADA Amendment: Expanding Civil Rights, Protecting the Disabled

The following is a contributed post

The original Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was signed on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. Now, eighteen years later, the ADA has been amended by President George W. Bush. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008, (ADAAA) was signed on September 25, 2008 and will become effective January 1, 2009. The ADAAA is intended to give a broader definition to the term ‘disability’.

The original ADA was created to protect the civil rights of the disabled, though it was very restrictive. In particular, if a disabled person was using medication or corrective tools, such as prescription lens for visual impairments, hearing aids for hearing impairments, artificial limbs, or prescription medication for mental impairments or seizures, they were not able to be deemed completely disabled. The new amendment protects the rights of those with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions that should be covered under the term ‘disability’.

The new ADAAA is broader and more inclusive, and has changed the definition of disability to include protections for those who are impaired and unable to enjoy major life activities. There have been amendments to employment, telecommunications, public accommodations and commercial facilities, as well as public services and transportation.

Civil rights groups, employer groups and disability rights groups all worked in cooperation to make sure that the new ADAAA and the language used in the amendment was fair and inclusive. The National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Chamber of Commerce, disabled persons, and members of both parties were all involved, working out the negotiations and disagreements on the bill. It was an intense two-year process.

The bill helps those who have been discriminated against, not just those who are covered by law. This means that those who have been improperly denied protection will now be protected. Those who are taking positive measures to cope with their disabilities will not be excluded, simply because they are trying to be a successful, functioning citizens.

The new language in the ADAAA states that: “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”

Many are very excited about the new ruling and feel that it is only fair. Hopefully the new bill will make a huge difference in the lives of many who have been excluded from receiving the protection and coverage they so desperately need.

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