The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a comprehensive civil rights law enacted in 1990 that prohibits discrimination based on disability in a broad range of areas, including employment, places of public accommodation, and government services. It was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1990 with tremendous bipartisan support and high hopes. Unfortunately, for many people with disabilities experiencing discrimination, the ADA did not live up to its potential. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of decisions in 1999 and 2002, deprived the ADA of much of its force by narrowly interpreting the definition of “disability” to cover only those most limited by their impairments.

Nearly a decade ago, Congress responded by passing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), which reinstated the ADA’s broad scope of coverage by amending the definition of disability. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and U.S. Department of Justice have since revised their regulations to clarify this broad scope of coverage. In the courts, the ADAAA has had its intended effect; plaintiffs are prevailing under the definition of disability where before they would have failed, and courts are at last focusing on what really matters: discrimination.

This section of the ADA Project website is aimed at helping people with disabilities, lawyers, and courts better understand the ADA’s definition of disability, as amended by the ADAAA, by providing: