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On September 11, 2008 the United States Senate finally passed a new bill to protect disabled employees and put teeth back into the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. House has already passed a similar bill by a vote of 402-17. President George W. Bush is expected to sign the new legislation. President George H.W. Bush signed the original ADA into law in 1990.

The ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for requesting employees who have “a physical or mental impairment that substantiality limits a major life activity.

The U.S. Supreme Court made several rulings that have made it more difficult for disabled employees to prove they are entitled to the protections of the ADA. For example, in Sutton v. United Airlines the Court held that whether or not a person is disabled must be determined when all remedial measures are factored into the person’s diagnosis. So a person with has severely limited vision, but prescription glasses, would not be considered disabled under the law and would not be eligible to ask for a reasonable accommodation.

As the bill’s bipartisan support shows, both parties concluded that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the ADA does not provide the protections Congress deems sufficient. So both parties worked together to change the law. A good day for employees, employers, and America.

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