Congress OKs bill to expand ADA’s definition of ‘disabled’

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Congress gave final approval on Sept. 17 to legislation that will bring more Americans under the umbrella of “disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). President Bush said he’d sign the bill.

The bill reverses several court rulings from recent years that had limited the scope of ADA protections. It directs U.S. courts to apply a broader definition when deciding what truly qualifies as an ADA-covered disability.

The biggest change: The bill makes clear that courts (and employers) should not take into consideration any “mitigating measures” that lessen the impact of an impairment—such as medication, hearing aids or other assistive technology—in determining who is “disabled” under the ADA. 

The bill passed by wide margins because several business groups, including the Society for Human Resource Management, supported the compromise.

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