Bush to sign disabilities bill passed by US House

[JURIST] A bill [PDF text; S. 3406 materials] overwriting judicial interpretations which have narrowed protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) [official website] awaits President Bush's signature following passage by the US House of Representatives [official website] 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 [official website; JURIST news archive] in two major ADA cases: Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc. (1999) [text], 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 (2002) [text], which requires strict interpretation of the ADA's definition of a disability. US Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) [official website], a prime sponsor of the bill, said in remarks [text] 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 [advocacy website] also praised the bill [press release], calling it a "a sound compromise between the Senate, the House, the business community, and the disability community." In a statement [text], 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." AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

The US is one of only 45 countries in the world with disability legislation [JURIST news archive], having enacted the ADA in 1990. The UN General Assembly in 2006 adopted an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities [official website; JURIST report], which took effect [JURIST report] in May of this year after it was ratified by 20 nations. The US said that it would not sign [New Standard report] 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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