A Quick Look at the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)

A Quick Look at the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)

The Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) expanded the legal definition of "disability" to provide greater protections under employment law. It was built upon the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in 1990 to prevent discrimination against disabled employees during hiring and at work. The ADAAA extended the terms of the ADA, providing enhanced safeguards for individuals with disabilities.


In September 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act came into effect, expanding the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This legislation introduced changes to the definition of "disability," making it simpler for individuals to establish that they have a disability as defined by the law when seeking protection under the ADA. The ADAAA aimed to provide broader coverage and support to individuals with disabilities.

ADAAA’s Definition of Disability

The ADAAA was passed by Congress in response to Supreme Court decisions that limited the definition of disability under the ADA. This made it difficult for individuals with conditions like cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, ADHD, and learning disabilities to be covered by the ADA.

The ADAAA aimed to broaden the definition of disability, ensuring that more individuals could receive the law's protections without complicated analyses. Congress effectively overturned the previous narrow interpretations and directed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to create regulations that aligned with the ADAAA's broader definition of "disability."

ADA Extension

The ADAAA retained the ADA's definition of "disability" as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having a disability. However, significant changes were implemented by Congress through the ADAAA and revised EEOC regulations in interpreting these terms.

Clarification Of "Substantial Limits”

The regulations clarified that "substantial limits" should not be strictly severe enough to prevent or severely restrict a major life activity. They also stated that individuals must be covered under either "actual disability" or "record of disability" to receive accommodation.

Ameliorative Measures and Episodic Impairments

According to the ADAAA, accommodation should not consider ameliorative measures, except for ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses for vision correction. Additionally, an episodic or in-remission impairment would still be considered a disability if it substantially limits a major life activity when active.


The 2008 ADAAA expanded the ADA's protections for disabled people, offering more coverage to individuals with conditions like cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, ADHD, and learning disabilities. The ADAAA also provided accommodations for episodic or in-remission impairments. Overall, the ADAAA ensures that disabled individuals are protected from discrimination and have the accommodations they need to perform their jobs.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA))
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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