Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)

What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) is a civil rights law that was originally passed by Congress in 1990 (as the Americans with Disabilities Act-ADA) and protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, as well as school and other settings. The ADA was amended in 2008 and became effective January 1, 2009. The law does not provide funding for services or accommodations.

Who Is Eligible?

There is no specific mention of learning disabilities in ADAAA. However, the law defines a person as disabled if he or she:

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • has a record of such an impairment;
  • is regarded as having such an impairment. 28 CFR Sec. 36.104

Under the law, learning, reading, thinking and concentrating are all considered major life activities among others listed in the law. The ADAAA requires a broader interpretation of disability by schools, testing agencies and employers than the original law. As a result, individuals with LD should have an easier time qualifying for accommodations in school, work and/or for testing. If a student is eligible for services under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) he or she qualifies for protection under the ADAAA.

ADAAA and School

ADAAA mandates that reasonable accommodations must be provided to students with disabilities who meet the requirements but may not be eligible for services under the IDEA. In other words, a school is required to provide a student with those accommodations that help him or her learn most effectively. The requirements for schools in the law are the same as those set in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students not eligible for IDEA may be eligible for Section 504 protections under the ADAAA.

Unlike Section 504 and IDEA, the ADAAA does not make schools responsible for the free and appropriate education of all children. However, the protections and/or accommodations that are guaranteed by the ADAAA/Section 504 apply equally to public and private K–12 schools, colleges, universities and testing agencies. These protections do not extend to organizations controlled by religious groups. School districts are required to provide a grievance procedure when disagreements arise.

ADAAA and the Workplace

The ADAAA prohibits discrimination against “qualified individuals with disabilities” in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation and training. A “qualified individual with disabilities” is an employee or job applicant who meets all legitimate skill, experience, education and other requirements of a position and can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.

An employer may not ask about a learning disability, with one exception. If an employer has affirmative action requirements as part of a federal contract, a job applicant may be asked to “self-identify.” However, the employer must keep all information regarding disabilities in a separate, confidential file apart from regular personnel files.

If an employee requires accommodations in order to perform a job, he or she must disclose information about the disability and the need for specific accommodations to the employer. Even after disclosure, an employer is not required to make an accommodation that would prove an “undue hardship.”

The safeguards regarding discrimination against individuals with disabilities are under the same procedures applicable to race, color, sex, national origin and religious discrimination under the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991. Complaints against employers who violate the ADAAA should be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the designated state human rights agencies.

Further Reading

Americans With Disabilities Act: Impact of the New Regulations on Those With LD