The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matthew Allee, (202) 675-2312,

ACLU Commends Senate Passage of ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Restores original intent of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990


The American Civil Liberties Union was pleased to see overwhelming bipartisan support in today's Senate passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The legislation seeks to undo nearly two decades of legal setbacks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), restoring the landmark legislation to its original intent. Senate passage was through unanimous consent; the House passed a similar bill this past June.

The ADA was landmark legislation when first passed in 1990, with strong bipartisan support from leaders of both parties. The original legislation sought to protect anyone who is treated unfairly due to an actual or perceived disability. Like other historic civil rights laws, the ADA was designed to promote equal opportunity, economic independence and full participation in American society.

But, in the past two decades, legal decisions have limited the ADA's impact. Courts have held that individuals with impairments who function well due to their use of "mitigating measures" - such as medication, hearing aids, and prosthetics - are not covered by the ADA, even if they are discriminated against because of that impairment. Judges have also interpreted the definition of "disability" so strictly that they have created an overly demanding standard for qualifying as disabled. Lastly, the courts have placed an overly heavy burden of proof on the victims by requiring individuals who allege their employer regarded them as disabled to show that their employer believed them incapable of performing a broad range of jobs, not just the job they were denied.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"Two decades worth of legal decisions have undermined the ADA's original intent of extending the American promise of fairness and equality to those with disabilities. The ACLU applauds today's overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a much-needed restoration to the historic legislation of 1990. The ACLU looks forward to the day when this vital legislation is signed into law, bringing with it equal opportunity and independence for all Americans."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666