Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Disabilities Now Recognized under the ADA

Per congressional legislation, as of January 1, 2009 the Americans with Disabilities Act must now be interpreted more broadly by the courts to include conditions not previously defined as “disabling.”

Courts are now required to recognize any condition that affects bodily function, including the ability to move, communicate, and read. People who were not previously covered under the ADA, such as those with immune disorders, seizure disorders, and respiratory disorders can now sue if they feel they have been discriminated against because of their condition.

The ADA was originally passed to ensure that those with disabilities have equal access to employment opportunities, government services, public and commercial facilities and transportation.

However, the courts have typically ruled against most people who sued for discrimination under the ADA, sometimes going so far as to rule that a soldier and amputee wasn’t covered by the ADA if he used a prosthesis. Such decisions have caused legislators and attorneys to shake their heads and realize that something had to be done to make the ADA less ambiguous.

Some employers and other institutions are concerned that the ruling will cause a spike in frivolous lawsuits and, accordingly, they are preparing for an onslaught of legal challenges and increased expenses. Certainly more people will now have the right to sue if they feel they have been unfairly treated because of their physical or mental limitations.

However, for most employers additional workplace accommodations will be inexpensive, and may involve common-sense types of allowances, such as allowing diabetics to eat snacks during the day.

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