What is Disability? The Department of Justice Releases Revised Regulations to Implement the Requirements of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

On August 10, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the much anticipated final rule revising the Department’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II (public services) and Title III (public accommodation) regulations to implement the requirements of the ADA Amendments Act of 20009 (ADAAA). The final rule will take effect on October 11, 2016.

The new DOJ regulations provide significant clarification for who is covered under the ADA. The final rule clarifies that those with disabilities from cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, and other conditions should be protected under the ADA.

In addition to clarifying the term disability, the final rule provides a non-exhaustive list in defining major life activities, and adds rules of construction to be applied when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.  DOJ states that the goal is to ensure the ADA is construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, thereby meeting the original Congressional intent.

Although the ADAA is already in effect and applies to all entities covered under Title II and Title III (employment) of the ADA, DOJ’s changes to the regulations will assist in the interpretation and application of the ADAAA. The ADAAA’s provisions regarding the definition of disability will also apply to Title I of the ADA.

The final rule includes clear language that individuals with intellectual disabilities are covered under the ADA and the ADAAA. The analysis in the rule makes it clear the intent of Congress was to protect individuals with I/DD even where a mitigating measure, medication, etc., might lessen the impact of an individual’s disability.