Friday, June 27, 2008

House resoundingly supports amendments that broaden ADA coverage

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3195 by a whopping 402-17 vote, seeking to bring people with partial and medicated disabilities back under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA was originally passed in 1990, but has seen a narrowing of its protections over the years through various lines of US Supreme Court decisions. Though many Americans think of the ADA as requiring ramps and building modifications for wheelchair users, the law is actually much broader than that. It prohibits discrimination for people with a variety of disabilities, not just physical, and not just in public accommodations, but also in employment, public services, telecommunications, and more.

This bill seeks to reverse those Supreme Court holdings, and changes the actual definition of who is covered. The ADA currently describes a disability as any physical or mental impairment that "substantially limits" a major life activity. Under the bill impairments that "materially restrict" a major life activity would qualify as disabilities, broadening the umbrella of who can be protected under the Act.

Next step, consideration by the Senate.

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