The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) was recently signed into law and will become effective January 1, 2009. The bill, originally titled the ADA Restoration Act, was introduced to address what Congress viewed as a gradual weakening of the original ADA Act that limited certain disabled Americans from claiming protection under the law.
Now, according to the Associated Press, "people who take medicine to control epilepsy, diabetes, or cancer, or use prosthetic limbs or hearing aids could use the [new] Americans With Disabilities Act to fight workplace discrimination."
First passed in 1990, the ADA was responsible for requiring wheelchair ramps at many public buildings for the first time and banned discrimination of disabled Americans seeking employment. Congress found, however, that the intent of the ADA had been eroded in recent years, especially after a 1999 Supreme Court decision that exempted from the law’s protection "people with partial physical disabilities as well as people with physical impairments that can be treated with medication or devices such as hearing aids."
As a result, the new law redefines the legal definition of disabled, from an impairment that "substantially limits" one or more life activities to an impairment that "materially restricts" these activities. With the change in definition, more American workers are included in the ADA’s protected class, even those who have disabilities that are not apparent.