NAICU Washington Update

Senate Passes ADA, Almost Ready for President

The Senate has passed reauthorization of the Americans with Disabilities Act by voice vote. The intent of the rewrite passed on September 11 is to clarify the definition of disability, and to reverse several U.S. Supreme Court rulings on disability claims that have left some people with disabilities unprotected (see Week in Review June 12, 2008, and June 27, 2008). Now that a new version has passed the Senate as S. 3406, it will be sent back to the House for passage under suspension of the rules on September 17, and then will then go to the White House for signature.

While it is considered an employment and civil rights law, colleges and universities must comply with the ADA both as employers and as providers of education. Earlier this summer, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a roundtable discussion on education issues in ADA. Through that discussion, higher education representatives were included in the conversations with disability and business representatives.

The result of these negotiations is the new Senate version of the bill, S. 3406, which includes statutory language clarifying that the new definition of disability is not intended to change college and university academic standards:


(f) Fundamental Alteration- Nothing in this Act alters the provision of section 302(b)(2)(A)(ii), specifying that reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures shall be required, unless an entity can demonstrate that making such modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, including academic requirements in postsecondary education, would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations involved.

The full text of Senate Bill 3406 is available on the Thomas Web site by searching for the bill number.

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