In a recent Issue Brief released by ACS, Emily A. Benfer, supervising attorney and teaching fellow in Georgetown University Law Center's Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic, examines the efforts of lawmakers to strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Benfer notes that, "Through a series of decisions, the United States Supreme Court narrowed the ADA's scope of protection and excluded individuals the Act was originally designed to protect, including people with epilepsy, diabetes and muscular dystrophy." Earlier this year, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect. That act, Benfer writes, is aimed at restoring the ADA after federal court decisions had seriously undermined it.
Benfer's Issue Brief, "The ADA Amendments Act: An Overview of Recent Changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act," covers the "current status of disability rights under the ADA, as amended, and provides an overview of the ADAAA."
In part, Benfer maintains that the new law should focus courts' attention on whether discrimination has occurred, instead of engaging in a process to decide whether a certain disability is covered by the law. She writes:
The ADAAA further increases the focus on the prohibition of discrimination by aligning the ADA with other civil rights laws. This was accomplished by eliminating language in the ADA that had prohibited discrimination of an individual ‘with a disability because of a disability' and replacing it with a simple prohibition on ‘discrimination on the basis of disability.' As the Report from the House Committee on the Judiciary explains, ‘[t]his change harmonizes the ADA with other civil rights laws by focusing on whether a person who has been discriminated against has proven that the discrimination was based on personal characteristic (disability), not on whether he or she has proven that the characteristic exists.' Based on the broad construction of the Rehabilitation Act and civil rights laws, courts should interpret the ADAAA generously and the focus should shift from whether a person is disabled and onto whether discrimination has occurred.
See Benfer's Issue Brief here.