DOJ accepting comments for revised definition of disability

Photo of scales of justice and a gavel.
Definition of disability

The Department of Justice announced January 30 that it has opened a public comment period for a proposed rule implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, which was passed by Congress in 2008.

The 60-day public comment period closes March 31, 2014.

The ADAAA was passed to overturn several Supreme Court cases that dramatically narrowed the definition of disability for the purposes of determining eligibility for the ADA’s protections, specifically for people whose disabilities were sporadic, or mitigated by medications.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published regulations implementing Title I of the ADA, which deals with employment matters, in 2011. The DOJ’s regulations will implement Title II and Title III, which apply to public entities and public accommodations.

According to a DOJ news release, the regulations will be “consistent with, if not identical to” most of the EEOC’s regulations.

“The narrow interpretation of the ADA’s definition of disability resulted in the denial of the law’s protection for many individuals with impairments such as cancer, diabetes and epilepsy who had been the subject of adverse actions due to their disabilities,” said Jocelyn Samuel, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in the news release. “The ADAAA and our proposed regulations properly place the focus of ADA cases on whether a covered entity has complied with its obligations and whether discrimination occurred, and not on whether the person has a disability.”

For more information on the proposed rule, click here.

2 responses to “DOJ accepting comments for revised definition of disability

  1. I was a licensed nurse practitioner in California and was awarded a masters degree from UC Davis in 1979. I entered a second graduate program in 2001 but my disabilities prevented me from completing the coursework.

    I have read parts of the ADA but I do not remember seeing references to the more common and troubling cognitive and emotional problems that patients who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis experience. It is difficult for me to organize my thoughts but I want to provide you with my experience so that you might understand some of my more troublesome disabilities.

    I was diagnosed with MS in 2001 but in retrospect I was experiencing MS related neurological symptoms 20 years before. Between the early 1990s and about 2009 I experienced significant losses in my physical and cognitive abilities and capacities.

    If I had not developed a habit of note-taking over the years I would not have been able to reconstruct many of the events that occurred in my life. It was not until 2010 that I began to regain some of my prior abilities and capacities so that I could compile and analyze my notes.

    Although I have regained some of my prior abilities and capacities, they are far less than what they were 20 years ago. I can now function “more normally” but there are a broad range of MS symptoms that still put me at risk for significant losses. The emotional rollercoaster experienced by most MS patients make it even more difficult to function in many areas of my life.

    Although I can now complete my ADLs, there are times when I cannot complete a thought or sentence. Although it is less of a problem now, I still become forgetful. It makes it difficult for me to participate in a verbal conversation. I mispronounce words and am subject to inadvertent word substitution. The filters that most people use when talking to others sometimes fail me. I experience word search difficulties when talking or writing but my word recognition seems to have remained intact. This all leaves me vulnerable whe conducting transactions in my life.

    I struggle with basic life skills such as perception, deduction, organization, etc., and new situations can disorient me. In the past 20 years I have been subjected to threats and attacks, suffered huge financial losses and been forced to accept rejection and shame in almost every aspect of my life.

    Nevertheless, I can use a computer and write (with limitations). Since I have to reread and check everything I write, a simple letter may take me a week or two to complete.

    Michael Springer

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