ADA Expansion Bill Clears Two House Committees

June 19, 2008 ( - A measure that would expand coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed the House Judiciary and Education and Labor committees on Wednesday.

Currently, the ADA defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s major life activities when using a mitigating measure, such as glasses, pills for hypertension, or a hearing aid. It also includes having a record of such impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment.

According to Business Insurance, the ADA Amendments Act keeps that basic definition but expands it to define “regarded as having such an impairment” as protecting individuals who have been subject to an action prohibited under the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment, whether or not the impairment is perceived to limit a major life activity. The new bill would also require courts to construe broadly the definition of “disability.”

In addition, under the new rule courts would be prohibited from considering mitigating measures in determining whether an impairment is substantially limiting, Business Insurance said.

Employer groups opposed the original bill, which eliminated the current requirement for the physical or mental impairment to substantially limit one or more of the individual’s major life activities, saying that definition would be too broad (See ADA Expansion Would Change Definition of Disability ). However, the bill as approved on Wednesday has the support of several employer groups.

The measure now goes to the full House for approval.