In a recent newsletter by HR Strategies, Staffing Concepts International, Inc. outlined some of the changes employers can expect with the new amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law by President Bush on September 25, 2008, and became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation. 

Employers should, by now, have trained their managers and supervisors about the new changes in effect under the ADAAA. If a company has 15 or more employees, they must comply with the ADA and the ADAAA. The ADAAA broadens the definition of a “disability” making more employees subject to protection under the ADAAA.  

Disability is now defined as:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (see list below)
  • A record of such impairment
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment

The ADAAA specifically defines a “major life activity” to include, but not be limited to:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Working

 The ADAAA states that a major life activity includes the operation of a major bodily function, including, but not limited to:

  • Functions of the immune system
  • Normal cell growth
  • Digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.

In short, the definition of disability has expanded. Employers and EEO investigators should no longer be questioning merely whether someone is disabled, but rather, questioning whether a reasonable accommodation can be made. If an employee is only “regarded as" having a disability, no accommodations need to be made for that person.  If a disability is under control with medication (aka "mitigating measures"), or in remission, he or she can still be considered disabled under the ADA’s protections.