Indiana Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2010

Publication Citation

85 Indiana Law Journal 187 (2010)


Although the apparent purpose of the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is solely to broaden the ADA 's protected class, the manner in which the amendments achieve this purpose erodes the statute's explicit textual support for understanding persons with disabilities as a politically subordinated minority. The amendments also strengthen the statutory link between the biological severity of a person's disability and that person's right to sue for ADA accommodations. Accordingly, for some courts, the amendments will reinforce the perception that the ADA differs from traditional civil rights law.

Federal courts' understanding of the ADA 's relationship to traditional civil rights law will shape courts' resolution of unresolved questions about the ADA 's scope. Because the ADA, as amended, will now enable more plaintiffs to proceed past the preliminary question of membership in the ADA 's protected class, federal courts will soon be forced to confront broad questions about the ADA 's application. Resolution of these questions will largely turn on courts' understanding of the conceptual relationship between the ADA and traditional civil rights statutes, an underlying question that the recent amendments will unintentionally shape.