Questions and Answers about the
Department of Justice’s Final Rule Implementing
the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

1)    What is the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and when did it take effect?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA Amendments Act) to clarify the meaning and interpretation of the definition of ""disability"." The ADA Amendments Act was signed on September 25, 2008, and took effect on January 1, 2009.

2)    What is the purpose of the ADA Amendments Act?

Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act to remedy the effects of several Supreme Court decisions that narrowly interpreted the ADA's definition of "disability". These narrow interpretations resulted in the denial of the ADA's protection for many individuals with impairments that Congress intended to cover under the law, such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy. The ADA Amendments Act provides clear direction about what "disability" means under the ADA and how it should be interpreted so that covered individuals seeking the protection of the ADA can establish that they have a disability.

3)    Why did the Department need to change its regulations?

Although the ADA Amendments Act is already in effect and already applies to entities covered under title II (State and local governments) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) of the ADA, the Department's changes to its title II and III regulations will help ensure that covered entities, persons with disabilities, and others will know how to interpret and apply the ADA Amendments Act. These changes also will satisfy the Attorney General's responsibility to publish regulations that are consistent with any changes to the ADA made by Congress.

4)    Has the Department changed the basic, three-prong definition of "disability" in the regulations?

No. The Department's regulations reflect the substance of the ADA Amendments Act, which made clear that the ADA's definition of "disability" remains the same. Congress indicated that the ADA Amendments Act was meant to reinstate a broad scope of protection under the ADA. Therefore, the Department's regulation retains the three-prong definition of "disability" as: (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having a disability. The ADA Amendments Act regulations specify how that definition should be interpreted and applied.

5)    What are the changes in the revised regulations?

The revisions to the Department's title II and title III regulations are based on the broad purposes and specific requirements of the ADA Amendments Act. Consistent with the ADA Amendments Act, the regulations establish the following:

6)    Under the ADA Amendments Act regulations, if an individual can show that he or she falls within the ADA definition of "disability", does it automatically mean that he or she is a victim of unlawful discrimination?

No. As was the case before the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, the individual still has to show that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under the ADA because of the actual or perceived physical or mental impairment.

7)   How do the Department's regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act relate to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's 2011 regulation implementing the ADA Amendments Act?

The ADA Amendments Act's changes to the meaning and interpretation of the definition of "disability" apply to title I (employment), as well as to titles II and III of the ADA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for developing regulations implementing title I of the ADA, published its revised title I regulation incorporating the ADA Amendments Act requirements in March 2011. The Department's regulations pertain to titles II (State and local governments) and III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) of the ADA. The Department's regulations are consistent with the corresponding provisions in the title I regulation. This will ensure that the definition of "disability" is interpreted consistently.

8)    Has the Department published any guidance to explain this regulation?

Yes. The Final Rule includes extensive guidance on the application of the ADA Amendments Act to titles II and III of the ADA. The guidance, which includes a section-by-section analysis, is found in a new Appendix C to the title II regulation and is incorporated by reference into a new Appendix E to the title III regulation.

9)    How can I obtain a copy of the Final Rule?

A copy of the Final Rule is available at www.federalregister.gov on the Department's website at www.ada.gov.

10) Where can I find the Department's Final Regulatory Assessment regarding this Final Rule? 

A copy of the Final Regulatory Assessment is available on the Department's website at: www.ada.gov.

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August 11, 2016