National Alliance on Mental Illness
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House Passes ADA Improvements

June 27, 2008

By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 402-17, the House of Representatives on June 25 passed legislation to expand existing protections under the landmark 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  The bill (HR 3195) is designed to reverse a number of Supreme Court decisions that over the years that have narrowed the scope of ADA protections in the workplace – including so-called “mitigating measures” such as medication and other therapies that control the symptoms of a disability.  Among the provisions in HR 3195 are:

  • Broadened coverage under the ADA. The bill clarifies that Congress intended the ADA to be interpreted broadly rather than narrowly, as the Supreme Court has held.
  • A revised standard to qualify for protection than that applied by the courts.  The ADA protects individuals who have an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, who have a record of such impairment, or who are treated as having such an impairment. This bill provides a new definition of “substantially limits” to make clear Congress’ intent to reject the standard that has been applied by the courts and apply a less demanding standard.
  • New standards for “mitigating measures” (measures a person takes to control the effects of a disability) cannot be held against people with disabilities. Many people with mental illnesses have been denied protection under the ADA because they use medication, therapy or other measures to control the effects of their disabilities. This bill would overturn several Supreme Court decisions and provide that people with disabilities will not lose their coverage under the ADA simply because their condition is treatable with medication or can be addressed with the help of assistive technology.
  • Improved coverage for episodic impairments.  Many people with mental illnesses have been denied protection under the ADA because their impairments are episodic.  This bill would ensure that an episodic impairment counts as a disability as long as it would meet the test for a disability when it is active.
  • Broader coverage for people who are treated as disabled.  The bill makes it much easier for individuals to obtain protection under the ADA by showing that they were “regarded as” having a disability.  

The Senate is expected to take up the ADA legislation in July.