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Letter to the House of Representatives supporting the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

September 17, 2008

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we urge you to support the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (S. 3406), scheduled for floor consideration today. This important legislation, already passed by the Senate, will reconfirm Congress' original intent in defining a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In an historic move, Congress passed the ADA with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1990. At that time, it was Congress' intention to ensure people with disabilities protection from discrimination in the same manner as individuals are protected from discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, religion, or age.

When Congress passed the ADA, it adopted the definition of disability included in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The congressional record made it clear that a disability was to be assessed without regard to the availability of mitigation measures, such as medication or assistive devices. However, through a series of decisions related to employment, the U.S. Supreme Court has narrowed the definition of disability in three main ways:

  • Requiring that mitigating measures, such as medication , hearing, aids, and prosthetics, be considered in determining whether a person has a disability under the ADA;

  • Ruling that there must be a demanding standard for proving one's disability by applying a very strict interpretation of the terms "substantially limited" and "major life activity" as only covering activities that are of a "central importance" to most people's lives; and

  • Requiring people who allege they are being regarded as substantially limited in a major life activity of working to show that their employer believed them incapable of performing not just the job they had been denied, but also a broad range of jobs.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (S. 3406) would rectify this situation and confirm Congress' original intent. Specifically, S. 3406 maintains the ADA definition of a disability, requires modifications of policies so that they align with Congress' intent, moves to remedy the adverse court decisions, and clarifies that the purpose of this protection is to broaden application for the broad range of individuals.

Again, we urge your support for this important legislation.


Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy