State Anti-Discrimination Law as a Model For Amending the Americans with Disabilities Act

Alex Long


By now, the rise and fall of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a familiar story. The Act was hailed as a revolutionary measure that would bring individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American life. Instead of relying on outdated notions that defined an individual’s disability solely on the basis of the existence of an impairment or an impairment that prevented the individual from being gainfully employed, the ADA, like its predecessor, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,3 was to take a functional, civil rights approach to the problem of disability discrimination. With its creation of a three-pronged definition of disability, Congress took notice of the fact that not all actual physical or mental impairments were inherently limiting, and that, in the words of the Supreme Court, “society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” Thus, the ADA would cover individuals who not only had actual physical or mental impairments that substantially limited major life activities, but also those individuals who had records of such impairments or were regarded as having such impairments.

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