Bush to sign disabilities bill passed by US House
Legal Topics | 2008/09/19 15:54
A bill overwriting judicial interpretations which have narrowed protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act awaits President Bush's signature following passage by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which was approved by a voice vote, purports to "restore the intent and protections" of the landmark civil rights legislation. The bill expressly overrules holdings by the US Supreme Court  in two major ADA cases: Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., which directs courts to consider "mitigating measures" such as medication when determining whether an individual is disabled, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, which requires strict interpretation of the ADA's definition of a disability. US Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr, a prime sponsor of the bill, said in remarks on the House floor:
   The bill we pass today will restore the full meaning of equal protection under the law and all the promises that our Nation has to offer. As Members are well-aware by now, the Supreme Court has slowly chipped away at the broad protections of the ADA and has created a new set of barriers for disabled Americans. The Court's rulings currently exclude millions of disabled Americans from the ADA's protections—the very citizens that Congress expressly sought to include within the scope of the Act in 1990.
The US Chamber of Commerce also praised the bill, calling it a "a sound compromise between the Senate, the House, the business community, and the disability community." In a statement, White House press secretary Dana Perino said the president "looks forward" to signing the bill and "is encouraged by the improvements made to the bill during the legislative process."

The US is one of only 45 countries in the world with disability legislation, having enacted the ADA in 1990. The UN General Assembly in 2006 adopted an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities, which took effect in May of this year after it was ratified by 20 nations. The US said that it would not sign the international accord, insisting that US domestic measures on the federal, state and local levels are already adequate for the purpose.


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