top of page

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The History

The ADA was the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities. President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990. Since then, there have been amendments, but the main idea has stayed the same - those with disabilities cannot be discriminated against because of their disability.

What is ADA?

ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA bans discrimination based on disability in the areas of employment, public accommodation, public services, transportation, and telecommunications. Between the time when the ADA was enacted in 1990 and the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, the ADA was still evolving because courts were interpreting the Act. In that time, the Supreme Court decided on twenty ADA cases, five of which centered on the definition of disability.


The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was enacted at the end of 2008. By enacting the ADAAA, Congress overturned several Supreme Court decisions that Congress believed had interpreted the definition of “disability” too narrowly, resulting in a denial of protection for many individuals with impairments such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy. It also directed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to amend its ADA regulations to reflect the changes made by the ADAAA.

The ADAAA made several significant changes to the definition of “disability” under the ADA. In enacting the ADAAA, Congress made it easier for individuals seeking protection under the ADA to establish that they have a disability within the statute's meaning. The ADAAA states that the definition of disability should be interpreted in favor of broad coverage of individuals. In addition, an important statement in the ADAAA clarifies that Congress intends that the focus of the ADA, like other civil rights statutes, should be on whether discrimination occurred, not on an exhausting analysis of whether the person has a disability.

Who is protected under ADA?

An individual with a disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities; has a record of such an impairment, or

is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Whether a particular condition constitutes a disability within the meaning of the ADA requires a case-by-case determination.

Physical or mental impairments include, but are not limited to: visual, speech, and hearing impairments; mental retardation, emotional illness, and specific learning disabilities; cerebral palsy; epilepsy; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; orthopedic conditions; cancer; heart disease; diabetes; and contagious and noncontagious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV disease (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic).

If you believe you have been discriminated against based on disability, file a complaint under the ADA. The form to do so can be found at: More facts and various ADA information can be found on our Facebook page and in our following blogs.


71 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page