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U.S. Department of Justice Issues New Regulations Clarifying What Is Considered a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act

September 30, 2016

The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) has new regulations revising the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s Title II and Title III regulations in order to fully implement the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The regulation restores the original, broad definition of “disability” that Congress intended when it initially passed the ADA and embeds it into the ADA’s Title II and III regulations. 

The regulation amends 28 C.F.R. § 35.108 to contain Rules of Construction, which indicate how agencies and employers should interpret the terms “substantially limits” and “major life activity” in the definition of “disability.” They note that term “substantially limits” must be interpreted broadly. It only needs to substantially limit one major life activity rather than multiple major life activities to be considered a “substantially limiting impairment.” Also, the regulations specify that it should not be considered “a demanding standard” that requires extensive analysis. The regulations further specify that an ADA analysis should focus on whether or not the agency or business has fully complied with its ADA obligations, rather than on whether the plaintiff or petitioner has a disability. USDOJ clarified that the burden of proof will be on the covered entity to show that a particular impairment is “transitory and minor” for the petitioner.

“Writing” has been added to the list of “major life activities,” as has “operation of a major bodily function,” including cell growth, bladder control, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and other aspects of bodily function where previous ADA coverage may have been unclear.

For more information, read the new USDOJ ADA regulations.