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Background on HR 3195, The ADA Amendments Act

The ADA Amendments Act represents a historic alliance comprised of leading employer, civil rights and disability groups, who have agreed to supportlegislation ensuring civil rights protections for millions of Americans with disabilities.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 reaffirms civil rights protections dismantled by a series of Supreme Court decisions that narrowly interpreted the definition of disability, leaving people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer and mental illness without the protections Congress envisioned when the
was originally enacted in 1990.

Business, human resource, disability and civil rights organizations have recognized that the courts went too far in some decisions, leaving out many people with disabilities Congress intended to protect. In a 2007 case, a Court even held that an individual with severe intellectual disabilities (“mental retardation”) was not covered by the
because he had failed to adequately demonstrate his impairment substantially limited a major life activity. The alliance of employer and disability advocacy organizations negotiated the compromise to clarify elements of the ADA Amendments Act, a bill first introduced in July of 2007.

The new compromise bill clarifies for the courts that people with disabilities should not lose civil rights protections because their condition is treatable with medication or can be addressed with the help of assistive technology. The bill also clarifies the definition of disability to include all individuals whose impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

HR 3195 was cleared by the House Education and Labor Committee on June 18, by a vote of 43–1. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony and passed the bill out of Committee on a unanimous favorable vote. The bill is expected to move quickly to the House floor where action may be taken as early as next week.

Click here to view the joint letter by business groups and disability advocates supporting HR 3195.