Transforming Lives Daily: Nyhan Celebrates the Americans with Disabilities Act

7.26.2023 Firm News

Since its enactment by George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has been a powerful force in promoting inclusivity and equality for millions of disabled Americans, whether a disability was inherited at birth, received on the battlefield while serving, the result of an accident, or stems from a personal condition. This landmark legislation ensures that individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination in various aspects of public life, including:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Access to public places

As we mark the ADA’s 33rd anniversary, it is essential to recognize the tremendous impact it has had on the lives of countless individuals and families.

The ADA’s definition of “disability” goes beyond physical impairments and includes mental conditions that substantially limit major life activities. This comprehensive approach has embraced diverse conditions such as AIDS/HIV, autism, diabetes, intellectual disabilities, mobility impairments, epilepsy, PTSD, deafness, and blindness. The spirit of the ADA was to broaden the scope of protection, ensuring that discrimination is prevented, and accommodations are made for all individuals with qualifying impairments. Conversely, broken limbs, sprains, concussions, appendicitis, common colds, and influenza generally do not qualify.

An ADA complainant must show three items to establish an actual disability.  These are:

  1. The existence of an impairment
  2. The impairment limits a major life activity
  3. The limitation caused by the disability is substantial.

Many years of case law have decided precisely how those requirements are interpreted in a wide array of factual settings.

In 2008, the ADA was amended to become the ADAAA, making significant changes to the definition of “disability,” “substantial limitation,” as well as “major life activity.” This amendment aimed to increase inclusivity further and address the issue of discrimination, and giving more definitive shape to those concepts has also led to more litigation.

In workers’ compensation, “disability” is a key factor in every claim, but the connection to the ADA and ADAAA is often overlooked. Illinois employers, however, recognize the importance of integrating work injuries with disability accommodations.

The ADA has transformed lives, broken barriers, and improved accessibility, enabling greater inclusivity for individuals with disabilities. Let’s celebrate and thank businesses that have embraced ADA principles, quietly enhancing the quality of life for many, and fostering an integrated and empowered workforce.