Today, after a two year wait, the Department of Justice will publish its final rule amending the ADA regulations to incorporate the 2008 statutory changes set forth in the ADAAA, which took effect on January 1, 2009.
The ADAAA, signed into law by President George W. Bush, was Congress’s response to multiple Supreme Court decisions they believed ran afoul of the intent and purpose of the ADA by significantly narrowing the application of the definition of “disability”. While courts have, since the enactment of the ADAAA, assigned a broad interpretation to the meaning of the term “disability,” the final rule not only clarifies that the term should be interpreted broadly, it also explains that the primary focus in cases brought under the ADA should be whether covered entities have complied with their obligations not to discriminate based on disability versus addressing the question and engaging in extensive analysis of whether an individual’s impairment meets the definition of the disability.
In addition to clarifying and expanding the term “disability,” the final rule provides a non-exhaustive list in defining “major life activities,”and adds rules of construction to be applied when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. The goal again to ensure the ADA is construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, thereby meeting the original intent of Congress.
The final rule applies to Titles II (nondiscrimination in state and local government services) and III (nondiscrimination by public accommodations and commercial facilities) and becomes effective October 11, 2016.
The language of the final rule can be found here.