The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matthew Allee, (202) 675-2312,

ACLU Praises House Passage of ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Urges swift signing by President Bush


The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes today's passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) by the House of Representatives. The legislation, introduced by Representative Hoyer (D-MD) in the House and Senator Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate, rolls back two decades worth of legal decisions that have thwarted the original intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The House passed the bill by a voice vote, as did the Senate last week.

"With today's vote in the House of Representatives, both chambers of Congress have overwhelmingly supported the American ideal of equal opportunity for all by passing vital legislation restoring the historic Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Two decades worth of legal setbacks have undercut the original intent of the ADA and Congress deserves our praise for strengthening a critical civil rights law. We urge President Bush to quickly sign this fundamental legislation into law."

The ADA was landmark legislation when first passed in 1990, with strong bipartisan support. The original legislation sought to protect individuals 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.

"Today, we are one step closer to fundamental fairness for American workers," added Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The courts have gradually diminished important civil rights protections for employees with disabilities. Importantly, the ADAAA restores the original promise of the ADA - that individuals with disabilities, who are willing and able to work, should be able to do so free from discrimination. Signing this legislation into law should be a priority for President Bush."

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.

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