The EEOC recently published proposed regulations designed to implement provisions of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). The proposed regulations incorporate significant changes to the law and provide numerous illustrative examples. A full copy of the proposed regulations can be accessed here.  The following sections summarize some of the significant points.

Presumptively Disabling Impairments

The proposed regulations provide a list of impairments that the EEOC believes will consistently qualify as disabilities. These include: deafness, blindness, intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia. 

Conversely, the proposed regulations also identify several impairments that, when temporary or of short duration and having little residual effects, will not normally constitute disabilities. These include: common cold, seasonal or common influenza, a sprained joint, minor and non-chronic gastrointestinal disorders, or a broken bone that is expected to heal completely).

Substantially Limiting Impairments

The regulations suggest that whether an individual has a disability should not demand extensive analysis. In determining whether a physical or mental impairment substantially limits a major life activity, the proposed regulations direct that ameliorative or other mitigating measures (e.g., medication, medical supplies, learned behaviors, assistive technologies, surgical interventions or reasonable accommodations) should not be considered in determining whether the impairment is substantially limiting. Furthermore, for episodic or impairments in remission, the inquiry is whether the impairment would limit a major life activity when active.

Major Life Activities

The proposed regulations expand the definition of “major life activities” through two non-exclusive lists. The first list includes activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.

The second list focuses on the body systems and functions and includes functions of the immune system, special sense organs, and skin; normal cell growth; and digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions.

With respect to working as a major life activity, the proposed regulations jettison the concept that an individual must be substantially limited in the ability to perform a broad range and class of jobs for working to constitute a major life activity. Instead, the proposed regulations direct that the ability of the individual to meet the qualifications for the type of work at issue is the proper inquiry.

Regarded As Disabled and Reasonable Accommodations

The proposed regulation eliminate the requirement that an individual demonstrate the employer regarded the individual as disabled. Rather, if the individual is subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment, that alone will be sufficient to establish the individual is regarded as disabled. 

The proposed regulations also clarify that individuals who are solely disabled under the “regarded as” prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodations.