ADA’s Twentieth Anniversary

July 26, 2010 marks the twentieth anniversary of President George H.W. Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), thereby enacting one of the landmark laws of the twentieth century and providing important legal protection to those with physical or mental disabilities. Despite previous federal legislation that had addressed discrimination against these individuals, many remained unprotected in areas such as private employment, public accommodations, and transportation. Introduced in Congress in 1988, the ADA was the first disability-related legislation to also apply to private employers and businesses.  Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (D-Conn), one of the ADA’s sponsors, wrote in 1991 that the intention of the Act was to “establish a broad-scoped prohibition of discrimination against people with disabilities and describe specific methods by which such discrimination is to be eliminated.”

In response to two subsequent Supreme Court decisions, Sutton v. United Air Lines (1999) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky v. Williams (2002), which were viewed as imposing overly restrictive interpretations of the ADA, Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act, which was signed into law on September 25, 2008. The new legislation made several revisions and clarifications to the law, including expanding the definition of what constitutes a disability.

Further reading:

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-336, 104 Stat. 327.

ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553.

Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., Historical Background of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 64 Temp. L. Rev. 387 (1991).

Ann K. Wooster, Annotation, Actions Brought Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.A.  §§ 12101 et. seq.—Supreme Court Cases, 173 A.L.R. Fed. 369 (2001).

Alex B. Long, Introducing the New and Improved Americans with Disabilities Act: Assessing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 103 Nw. Univ. L. Rev. Colloquy 217 (2008).

Kate S. Arduini, Why the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act is Destined to Fail: Lack of Protection for the “Truly” Disabled, Impracticability of Employer Compliance and the Negative Impact it Will Have on Our Already Struggling Economy, 2 Drexel L. Rev. 161 (2009).