The U.S. Department of Justice is changing their rules when it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The original ADA was signed into law in 1990, and was set in place to guarantee that people with disabilities would have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Revisions to the ADA

Effective October 11, 2016, the final rule incorporates changes to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

The ADA’s original definition of the term “disability” was defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The revised text expands the definition of “major life activities” by providing a list of major life activities that specifically include the operation of major bodily functions.

The ADA still uses the term “substantially limits” from the original ADA definition, but revisions were set to ensure that the term must be interpreted far more broadly. The revised terminology was set forth mainly with the purpose of “disability” not falling under a simple category to impede discrimination and utilize civil rights. The rule states, “The term “disability” shall be interpreted broadly and explains that the primary object of attention in cases brought under the ADA should be whether covered entities have complied with their obligations not to discriminate based on disability and that the question of whether an individual’s impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis.”

Several additions in reference to the disabilities covered have been made, including, but not limited to, emotional and mental illness, epilepsy, cancer, HIV, ADHD and heart disease.

Who It Affects

In the past, individuals with disabilities could likely face discrimination from employers due to the laws surrounding disability being too limited. Under the ADA, a disabled individual must be qualified for the position and able to perform job duties that are essential to the job. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate in areas such as pay, assignments, training, or benefits if they meet those requirements.

Some reasonable accommodations may have to be made by the employer such as modified work schedules, adjusting training materials and/or examinations, or modifying equipment.

Employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs that make disability-related inquiries or require participants undergo medical exams, medical questionnaires, and health risk assessments. If a wellness program is open only to employees enrolled in a particular plan, then the maximum allowable incentive an employer can offer is 30% of the total cost for self-only coverage. These programs must be voluntary by the employee and the medical information obtained must remain confidential. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that allow employees with disabilities to participate in such programs.

These laws will be enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOE).

Why It’s Necessary

The Department notes that the Supreme Court cases limiting the application of the definition of “disability” had the most significant impact on individuals asserting coverage under title I of the ADA with respect to employment. Revisions to the ADA in regards to the meaning and interpretation of the word “disability”, will allow an individual to easier establish whether a disability is present.