28 CFR Appendix C to Part 35 - Guidance to Revisions to ADA Title II and Title III Regulations Revising the Meaning and Interpretation of the Definition of “Disability” and Other Provisions in Order To Incorporate the Requirements of the ADA Amendments Act

Appendix C to Part 35 - Guidance to Revisions to ADA Title II and Title III Regulations Revising the Meaning and Interpretation of the Definition of “Disability” and Other Provisions in Order To Incorporate the Requirements of the ADA Amendments Act
Note:

This appendix contains guidance providing a section-by-section analysis of the revisions to 28 CFR parts 35 and 36 published on August 11, 2016.

Guidance and Section-by-Section Analysis

This section provides a detailed description of the Department's changes to the meaning and interpretation of the definition of “disability” in the title II and title III regulations, the reasoning behind those changes, and responses to public comments received on these topics. See Office of the Attorney General; Amendment of Americans with Disabilities Act Title II and Title III Regulations to Implement ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 79 FR 4839 (Jan. 30, 2014) (NPRM).

Sections 35.101 and 36.101 - Purpose and Broad Coverage

Sections 35.101 and 36.101 set forth the purpose of the ADA title II and title III regulations. In the NPRM, the Department proposed revising these sections by adding references to the ADA Amendments Act in renumbered §§ 35.101(a) and 36.101(a) and by adding new §§ 35.101(b) and 36.101(b), which explain that the ADA is intended to have broad coverage and that the definition of “disability” shall be construed broadly. The proposed language in paragraph (b) stated that the primary purpose of the ADA Amendments Act is to make it easier for people with disabilities to obtain protection under the ADA. Consistent with the ADA Amendments Act's purpose of reinstating a broad scope of protection under the ADA, the definition of “disability” in this part shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA. The primary object of attention in ADA cases should be whether covered entities have complied with their obligations and whether discrimination has occurred, not whether the individual meets the definition of disability. The question of whether an individual meets the definition of disability should not demand extensive analysis.

Many commenters supported inclusion of this information as reiterating the statutory language evincing Congress' intention “to restore a broad definition of `disability' under the ADA. . . .” Several commenters asked the Department to delete the last sentence in §§ 35.101(b) and 36.101(b), arguing that inclusion of this language is inconsistent with the individualized assessment required under the ADA. Some of these commenters acknowledged, however, that this language is drawn directly from the “Purposes” of the ADA Amendments Act. See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(5). The Department declines to remove this sentence from the final rule. In addition to directly quoting the statute, the Department believes that this language neither precludes nor is inconsistent with conducting an individualized assessment of whether an individual is covered by the ADA.

Some commenters recommended that the Department add a third paragraph to these sections expressly stating that “not all impairments are covered disabilities.” These commenters contended that “[t]here is a common misperception that having a diagnosed impairment automatically triggers coverage under the ADA.” While the Department does not agree that such a misperception is common, it agrees that it would be appropriate to include such a statement in the final rule, and has added it to the rules of construction explaining the phrase “substantially limits” at §§ 35.108(d)(1)(v) and 36.105(d)(1)(v).

Sections 35.104 and 36.104 - Definitions

The current title II and title III regulations include the definition of “disability” in regulatory sections that contain all enumerated definitions in alphabetical order. Given the expanded length of the definition of “disability” and the number of additional subsections required in order to give effect to the requirements of the ADA Amendments Act, the Department, in the NPRM, proposed moving the definition of “disability” from the general definitional sections at §§ 35.104 and 36.104 to a new section in each regulation, §§ 35.108 and 36.105, respectively.

The Department received no public comments in response to this proposal and the definition of “disability” remains in its own sections in the final rule.

Sections 35.108(a)(1) and 36.105(a)(1) Definition of “disability” - General

In the ADA, Congress originally defined “disability” as “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment.” Public Law 101-336, sec. 3 (1990). This three-part definition - the “actual,” “record of,” and “regarded as” prongs - was modeled after the definition of “handicap” found in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 6 (2008). The Department's 1991 title II and title III ADA regulations reiterate this three-part basic definition as follows:

Disability means, with respect to an individual,

• a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;

• a record of such an impairment; or

• being regarded as having such an impairment.

56 FR 35694, 35717 (July 26, 1991); 56 FR 35544, 35548 (July 26, 1991).

While the ADA Amendments Act did not amend the basic structure or terminology of the original statutory definition of “disability,” the Act revised the third prong to incorporate by reference two specific provisions construing this prong. 42 U.S.C. 12102(3)(A)-(B). The first statutory provision clarified the scope of the “regarded as” prong by explaining that “[a]n individual meets the requirement of `being regarded as having such an impairment' if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(3)(A). The second statutory provision provides an exception to the “regarded as” prong for impairments that are both transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is defined as “an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(3)(B). In the NPRM, the Department proposed revising the “regarded as” prong in §§ 35.108(a)(1)(iii) and 36.105(a)(1)(iii) to reference the regulatory provisions that implement 42 U.S.C. 12102(3). The NPRM proposed, at §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f), that “regarded as” having an impairment would mean that the individual has been subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment that is not both “transitory and minor.”

The first proposed sentence directed that the meaning of the “regarded as prong” shall be understood in light of the requirements in §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f). The second proposed sentence merely provided a summary restatement of the requirements of §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f). The Department received no comments in response to this proposed language. Upon consideration, however, the Department decided to retain the first proposed sentence but omit the second as superfluous. Because the first sentence explicitly incorporates and directs the public to the requirements set out in §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f), the Department believes that summarizing those requirements here is unnecessary. Accordingly, in the final rule, §§ 35.108(a)(1)(iii) and 36.105(a)(1)(iii) simply reference paragraph (f) of the respective section. See also, discussion in the Guidance and Section-by-Section analysis of §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f), below.

Sections 35.108(a)(2) and 36.105(a)(2) Definition of “disability” - Rules of Construction

In the NPRM, the Department proposed §§ 35.108(a)(2) and 36.105(a)(2), which set forth rules of construction on how to apply the definition of “disability.” Proposed §§ 35.108(a)(2)(i) and 36.105(a)(2)(i) state that an individual may establish coverage under any one or more of the prongs in the definition of “disability” - the “actual disability” prong in paragraph (a)(1)(i), the “record of” prong in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) or the “regarded as” prong in paragraph (a)(1)(iii). See §§ 35.108(a)(1)(i) through (iii); 36.105(a)(1)(i) through (iii). The NPRM's inclusion of rules of construction stemmed directly from the ADA Amendments Act, which amended the ADA to require that the definition of “disability” be interpreted in conformance with several specific directives and an overarching mandate to ensure “broad coverage . . . to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of [the ADA].” 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(A).

To be covered under the ADA, an individual must satisfy only one prong. The term “actual disability” is used in these rules of construction as shorthand terminology to refer to an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity within the meaning of the first prong of the definition of “disability.” See §§ 35.108(a)(1)(i); 36.105(a)(1)(i). The terminology selected is for ease of reference. It is not intended to suggest that an individual with a disability who is covered under the first prong has any greater rights under the ADA than an individual who is covered under the “record of” or “regarded as” prongs, with the exception that the ADA Amendments Act revised the ADA to expressly state that an individual who meets the definition of “disability” solely under the “regarded as” prong is not entitled to reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures. See 42 U.S.C. 12201(h).

Proposed §§ 35.108(a)(2)(ii) and 36.105(a)(2)(ii) were intended to incorporate Congress's expectation that consideration of coverage under the “actual disability” and “record of disability” prongs of the definition of “disability” will generally be unnecessary except in cases involving requests for reasonable modifications. See 154 Cong. Rec. H6068 (daily ed. June 25, 2008) (joint statement of Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Sensenbrenner). Accordingly, these provisions state that, absent a claim that a covered entity has failed to provide reasonable modifications, typically it is not necessary to rely on the “actual disability” or “record of” disability prongs. Instead, in such cases, the coverage can be evaluated exclusively under the “regarded as” prong,” which does not require a showing of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or a record of such an impairment. Whether or not an individual is challenging a covered entity's failure to provide reasonable modifications, the individual may nevertheless proceed under the “actual disability” or “record of” prong. The Department notes, however, that where an individual is challenging a covered entity's failure to provide effective communication, that individual cannot rely solely on the “regarded as prong” because the entitlement to an auxiliary aid or service is contingent on a disability-based need for the requested auxiliary aid or service. See 28 CFR 35.160(b), 28 CFR 36.303(c).

The Department received no comments objecting to these proposed rules of construction. The final rule retains these provisions but renumbers them as paragraphs (ii) and (iii) of §§ 35.108(a)(2) and 36.105(a)(2) and replaces the reference to “covered entity” in the title III regulatory text with “public accommodation.”

The Department has added a third rule of construction at the beginning of §§ 35.108(a)(2) and 36.105(a)(2), numbered §§ 35.108(a)(2)(i) and 36.105(a)(2)(i). Closely tracking the amended statutory language, these provisions state that “[t]he definition of disability shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.” See 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(A). This principle is referenced in other portions of the final rule, but the Department believes it is important to include here underscore Congress's intent that it be applied throughout the determination of whether an individual falls within the ADA definition of “disability.”

Sections 35.108(b) and 36.105(b) - Physical or Mental Impairment

The ADA Amendments Act did not change the meaning of the term “physical or mental impairment.” Thus, in the NPRM, the Department proposed only minor modifications to the general regulatory definitions for this term at §§ 35.108(b)(1)(i) and 36.105(b)(1)(i) by adding examples of two additional body systems - the immune system and the circulatory system - that may be affected by a physical impairment.

In addition, the Department proposed adding “dyslexia” to §§ 35.108(b)(2) and 36.105(b)(2) as an example of a specific learning disability that falls within the meaning of the phrase “physical or mental impairment.” Although dyslexia is a specific diagnosable learning disability that causes difficulties in reading, unrelated to intelligence and education, the Department became aware that some covered entities mistakenly believe that dyslexia is not a clinically diagnosable impairment. Therefore, the Department sought public comment regarding its proposed inclusion of a reference to dyslexia in these sections.

The Department received a significant number of comments in response to this proposal. Many commenters supported inclusion of the reference to dyslexia. Some of these commenters also asked the Department to include other examples of specific learning disabilities such as dysgraphia 1 and dyscalculia. 2 Several commenters remarked that as “research and practice bear out, dyslexia is just one of the specific learning disabilities that arise from `neurological differences in brain structure and function and affect a person's ability to receive, store, process, retrieve or communicate information.' ” These commenters identified the most common specific learning disabilities as: “Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder and non-verbal learning disabilities,” and recommended that the Department rephrase its reference to specific learning disabilities to make clear that there are many other specific learning disabilities besides dyslexia. The Department has considered all of these comments and has decided to use the phrase “dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities” in the final rule.

1 Dysgraphia is a learning disability that negatively affects the ability to write.

2 Dyscalculia is a learning disability that negatively affects the processing and learning of numerical information.

Another commenter asked the Department to add a specific definition of dyslexia to the regulatory text itself. The Department declines to do so as it does not give definitions for any other physical or mental impairment in the regulations.

Other commenters recommended that the Department add ADHD to the list of examples of “physical or mental impairments” in §§ 35.108(b)(2) and 36.105(b)(2). 3 Some commenters stated that ADHD, which is not a specific learning disability, is a very commonly diagnosed impairment that is not always well understood. These commenters expressed concern that excluding ADHD from the list of physical and mental impairments could be construed to mean that ADHD is less likely to support an assertion of disability as compared to other impairments. On consideration, the Department agrees that, due to the prevalence of ADHD but lack of public understanding of the condition, inclusion of ADHD among the examples set forth in §§ 35.108(b)(2) and 36.105(b)(2) will provide appropriate and helpful guidance to the public.

3 The Department is using the term ADHD in the same manner as it is currently used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to refer to three different presentations of symptoms: Predominantly inattentive (which was previously known as “attention deficit disorder); predominantly hyperactive or impulsive; or a combined presentation of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. The DSM-5 is the most recent edition of a widely-used manual designed to assist clinicians and researchers in assessing mental disorders. See Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, at 59-66 (2013).

Other commenters asked the Department to include arthritis, neuropathy, and other examples of physical or mental impairments that could substantially impair a major life activity. The Department declines to add any other examples because, while it notes the value in clarifying the existence of impairments such as ADHD, it also recognizes that the regulation need not elaborate an inclusive list of all impairments, particularly those that are very prevalent, such as arthritis, or those that may be symptomatic of other underlying impairments already referenced in the list, such as neuropathy, which may be caused by cancer or diabetes. The list is merely illustrative and not exhaustive. The regulations clearly state that the phrase “physical or mental impairment” includes, but is not limited to” the examples provided. No negative implications should be drawn from the omission of any specific impairment in §§ 35.108(b) and 36.105(b).

The Department notes that it is important to distinguish between conditions that are impairments and physical, environmental, cultural, or economic characteristics that are not impairments. The definition of the term “impairment” does not include physical characteristics such as eye color, hair color, or left-handedness, or height, weight, or muscle tone that are within “normal” range. Moreover, conditions that are not themselves physiological disorders, such as pregnancy, are not impairments. However, even if an underlying condition or characteristic is not itself a physical or mental impairment, it may give rise to a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. In such a case, an individual would be able to establish coverage under the ADA. For example, while pregnancy itself is not an impairment, a pregnancy-related impairment that substantially limits a major life activity will constitute a disability under the first prong of the definition. 4 Major life activities that might be substantially limited by pregnancy-related impairments could include walking, standing, and lifting, as well as major bodily functions such as the musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. Alternatively, a pregnancy-related impairment may constitute a “record of” a substantially limiting impairment, or may be covered under the “regarded as” prong if it is the basis for a prohibited action and is not both “transitory and minor.”

4 Pregnancy-related impairments may include, but are not limited to: Disorders of the uterus and cervix, such as insufficient cervix or uterine fibroids; and pregnancy-related anemia, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, gestational diabetes, nausea, abnormal heart rhythms, limited circulation, or depression. See EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, EEOC Notice 915.003, June 25, 2015, available at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_guidance.cfm (last visited Feb. 3, 2016).

Sections 35.108(c) and 36.105(c) - Major Life Activities

Prior to the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, the ADA did not define “major life activities,” leaving delineation of illustrative examples to agency regulations. Paragraph 2 of the definition of “disability” in the Department's current title II and title III regulations at 28 CFR 35.104 and 36.104 states that “major life activities” means functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

The ADA Amendments Act significantly expanded the range of major life activities by directing that “major” be interpreted in a more expansive fashion, by adding a significant new category of major life activities, and by providing non-exhaustive lists of examples of major life activities. The amended statute's first list of major life activities includes, but is not limited to, “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(A). The ADA Amendments Act also broadened the definition of “major life activity” to include physical or mental impairments that substantially limit the operation of a “major bodily function,” which include, but are not limited to, the “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(B). These expanded lists of examples of major life activities reflect Congress's directive to expand the meaning of the term “major” in response to court decisions that interpreted the term more narrowly than Congress intended. See Public Law 110-25, sec. 3 (b)(4).

Examples of Major Life Activities, Other Than the Operations of a Major Bodily Function

In the NPRM, at §§ 35.108(c) and 36.105(c), the Department proposed revisions of the title II and title III lists of examples of major life activities (other than the operations of a major bodily function) to incorporate all of the statutory examples, as well as to provide additional examples included in the EEOC title I final regulation - reaching, sitting, and interacting with others. See 29 CFR 1630.2(i)(1)(i).

A number of commenters representing persons with disabilities or the elderly recommended that the Department add a wide variety of other activities to this first list. Some commenters asked the Department to include references to test taking, writing, typing, keyboarding, or executive function. 5 Several commenters asked the Department to include other activities as well, such as the ability to engage in sexual activity, perform mathematical calculations, travel, or drive. One commenter asked the Department to recognize that, depending upon where people live, other life activities may fall within the category of major life activities. This commenter asserted, for example, that tending livestock or operating farm equipment can be a major life activity in a farming or ranching community, and that maintaining septic, well or water systems, or gardening, composting, or hunting may be a major life activity in a rural community.

5 “Executive function” is an umbrella term that has been described as referring to “a constellation of cognitive abilities that include the ability to plan, organize, and sequence tasks and manage multiple tasks simultaneously.” See, e.g. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Domain Specific Tasks of Executive Functions, available atgrants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-NS-04-012.html (last visited Feb. 3, 2016).

On consideration of the legislative history and the relevant public comments, the Department decided to include “writing” as an additional example in its non-exhaustive list of examples of major life activities in the final rule. The Department notes Congress repeatedly stressed that writing is one of the major life activities that is often affected by a covered learning disability. See, e.g., 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers); H.R. Rep. No. 110-730 pt. 1, at 10-11 (2008).

Other than “writing,” the Department declines to add additional examples of major life activities to these provisions in the final rule. This list is illustrative, and the Department believes that it is neither necessary nor possible to list every major life activity. Moreover, the Department notes that many of the commenters' suggested inclusions implicate life activities already included on the list. For example, although, as commenters pointed out, some courts have concluded that test taking is a major life activity, 6 the Department notes that one or more already-included major life activities - such as reading, writing, concentrating, or thinking, among others - will virtually always be implicated in test taking. Similarly, activities such as operating farm equipment, or maintaining a septic or well system, implicate already-listed major life activities such as reaching, lifting, bending, walking, standing, and performing manual tasks.

6 In Bartlett v. N.Y. State Bd. of Law Exam'rs, 970 F. Supp. 1094, 1117 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), aff'd in part and vacated in part, 156 F.3d 321 (2d Cir. 1998), cert. granted, judgment vacated on other grounds, 527 U.S. 1031 (1999), and aff'd in part, vacated in part, 226 F.3d 69 (2d Cir. 2000), then-Judge Sotomayor stated, “[I]n the modern era, where test-taking begins in the first grade, and standardized tests are a regular and often life-altering occurrence thereafter, both in school and at work, I find test-taking is within the ambit of `major life activity.' ” See also Rawdin v. American Bd. of Pediatrics, 985 F. Supp. 2d 636 (E.D. Pa. 2013), aff'd. on other grounds, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 17002 (3d Cir. Sept. 3, 2014).

The commenters' suggested additions also implicate the operations of various bodily systems that may already be recognized as major life activities. See discussion of §§ 35.108(c)(1)(ii) and 36.105(c)(1)(ii), below. For example, it is the Department's view that individuals who have cognitive or other impairments that affect the range of abilities that are often described as part of “executive function” will likely be able to assert that they have impairments that substantially limit brain function, which is one of the major bodily functions listed among the examples of major life activities.

Examples of Major Life Activities - Operations of a Major Bodily Function

In the NPRM, the Department proposed revising the regulatory definitions of disability at §§ 35.108(c)(1)(ii) and 36.105(c)(1)(ii) to make clear that the operations of major bodily functions are major life activities, and to include a non-exhaustive list of examples of major bodily functions, consistent with the language of the ADA as amended. Because the statutory list is non-exhaustive, the Department also proposed further expanding the list to include the following examples of major bodily functions: The functions of the special sense organs and skin, genitourinary, cardiovascular, hemic, lymphatic, and musculoskeletal systems. These six major bodily functions also are specified in the EEOC title I final regulation. 29 CFR 1630.2(i)(1)(i).

One commenter objected to the Department's inclusion of additional examples of major life activities in both these lists, suggesting that the Department include only those activities and conditions specifically set forth in the ADA as amended. The Department believes that providing other examples of major life activities, including major bodily functions, is within the Attorney General's authority to both interpret titles II and III of the ADA and promulgate implementing regulations and that these examples provide helpful guidance to the public. Therefore, the Department declines to limit its lists of major life activities to those specified in the statute. Further, the Department notes that even the expanded lists of major life activities and major bodily functions are illustrative and non-exhaustive. The absence of a particular life activity or bodily function from the list should not create a negative implication as to whether such activity or function constitutes a major life activity under the statute or the implementing regulation.

Rules of Construction for Major Life Activities

In the NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(c)(2) and 36.105(c)(2) set out two specific principles applicable to major life activities: “[i]n determining other examples of major life activities, the term `major' shall not be interpreted strictly to create a demanding standard for disability,” and “[w]hether an activity is a `major life activity' is not determined by reference to whether it is of `central importance to daily life.' ” The proposed language furthered a main purpose of the ADA Amendments Act - to reject the standards enunciated by the Supreme Court in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams that (1) strictly interpreted the terms “substantially” and “major” in the definition of “disability” to create a demanding standard for qualifying as disabled under the ADA, and that (2) required an individual to have an impairment that prevents or severely restricts the individual from doing activities that are of central importance to most people's daily lives to be considered as “substantially limited” in performing a major life activity under the ADA. Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(4).

The Department did not receive any comments objecting to its proposed language. In the final rule, the Department retained these principles but has numbered each principle individually and deemed them “rules of construction” because they are intended to inform the determination of whether a particular activity is a major life activity.

Sections 35.108(d)(1) and 36.105(d)(1) - Substantially Limits

Overview. The ADA as amended directs that the term “substantially limits” shall be “interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes of the ADA Amendments Act.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(B). See also Findings and Purposes of the ADA Amendments Act, Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(a)-(b). In the NPRM, the Department proposed to add nine rules of construction at §§ 35.108(d) and 36.105(d) clarifying how to interpret the meaning of “substantially limits” when determining whether an individual's impairment substantially limits a major life activity. These rules of construction are based on the requirements of the ADA as amended and the clear mandates of the legislative history. Due to the insertion of the rules of construction, these provisions are renumbered in the final rule.

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(i) and 36.105(d)(1)(i) - Broad Construction, Not a Demanding Standard

In accordance with Congress's overarching directive to construe the term “disability” broadly, see 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(A), the Department, in its NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(1)(i) and 36.105(d)(1)(i), which state: “The term `substantially limits' shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.” These provisions are also rooted in the Findings and Purposes of the ADA Amendments Act, in which Congress instructed that “the question of whether an individual's impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis.” See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(1), (4)-(5).

Several commenters on these provisions supported the Department's proposal to include these rules of construction, noting that they were in keeping with both the statutory language and Congress's intent to broaden the definition of “disability” and restore expansive protection under the ADA. Some of these commenters stated that, even after the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, some covered entities continued to apply a narrow definition of “disability.”

Other commenters expressed concerns that the proposed language would undermine congressional intent by weakening the meaning of the word “substantial.” One of these commenters asked the Department to define the term “substantially limited” to include an element of materiality, while other commenters objected to the breadth of these provisions and argued that it would make the pool of people who might claim disabilities too large, allowing those without substantial limitations to be afforded protections under the law. Another commenter expressed concern about the application of the regulatory language to the diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD.

The Department considered all of these comments and declines to provide a definition of the term “substantially limits” or make any other changes to these provisions in the final rule. The Department notes that Congress considered and expressly rejected including language defining the term “substantially limits”: “We have concluded that adopting a new, undefined term that is subject to widely disparate meanings is not the best way to achieve the goal of ensuring consistent and appropriately broad coverage under this Act. The resulting need for further judicial scrutiny and construction will not help move the focus from the threshold issue of disability to the primary issue of discrimination.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8441. (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers).

The Department believes that the nine rules of construction interpreting the term “substantially limits” provide ample guidance on determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity and are sufficient to ensure that covered entities will be able to understand and apply Congress's intentions with respect to the breadth of the definition of “disability.”

Moreover, the commenters' arguments that these provisions would undermine congressional intent are unsupported. To the contrary, Congress clearly intended the ADA Amendments Act to expand coverage: “The managers have introduced the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 to restore the proper balance and application of the ADA by clarifying and broadening the definition of disability, and to increase eligibility for the protections of the ADA. It is our expectation that because this bill makes the definition of disability more generous, some people who were not covered before will now be covered.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8441 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers).

The Department has also considered the comments expressed about the interplay between the proposed regulatory language and the diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD disorders. The Department believes that the revised definition of “disability,” including, in particular, the provisions construing “substantially limits,” strikes the appropriate balance to effectuate Congress's intent when it passed the ADA Amendments Act, and will not modify its regulatory language in response to these comments.

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(ii) and 36.105(d)(1)(ii) - Primary Object of ADA Cases

In the ADA Amendments Act, Congress directed that rules of construction should ensure that “substantially limits” is construed in accordance with the findings and purposes of the statute. See 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(B). One of the purposes of the Act was to convey that “the primary object of attention in cases brought under the ADA should be whether entities covered under the ADA have complied with the obligations and to convey that the question of whether an individuals' impairment is a disability should not demand extensive analysis.” Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(5). The legislative history clarifies that: “Through this broad mandate [of the ADA], Congress sought to protect anyone who is treated less favorably because of a current, past, or perceived disability. Congress did not intend for the threshold question of disability to be used as a means of excluding individuals from coverage. Nevertheless, as the courts began interpreting and applying the definition of disability strictly, individuals have been excluded from the protections that the ADA affords because they are unable to meet the demanding judicially imposed standard for qualifying as disabled.”). H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 5 (2008) (House Committee on the Judiciary).

In keeping with Congress's intent and the language of the ADA Amendments Act, the rules of construction at proposed §§ 35.108(d)(1)(iii) and 36.105(d)(1)(iii) make clear that the primary object of attention in ADA cases should be whether public or other covered entities have complied with their obligations and whether discrimination has occurred, not the extent to which an individual's impairment substantially limits a major life activity. In particular, the threshold issue of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity should not demand extensive analysis.

A number of commenters expressed support for these rules of construction, noting that they reinforced Congress's intent in ensuring that the primary focus will be on compliance. Several commenters objected to the use of the word “cases” in these provisions, stating that it lacked clarity. The word “cases” tracks the language of the ADA Amendments Act and the Department declines to change the term.

A few commenters objected to these provisions because they believed that the language would be used to supersede or otherwise change the required analysis of requests for reasonable modifications or testing accommodations. See 28 CFR 35.130(b)(7), 36.302, 36.309. The Department disagrees with these commenters. These rules of construction relate only to the determination of coverage under the ADA. They do not change the analysis of whether a discriminatory act has taken place, including the determination as to whether an individual is entitled to a reasonable modification or testing accommodation. See discussion of §§ 35.108(d)(1)(vii) and 36.105(d)(1)(vii) below.

The Department retained the language of these rules of construction in the final rule except that in the title III regulatory text it has changed the reference from “covered entity” to “public accommodation.” The Department also renumbered these provisions as §§ 35.108(d)(1)(ii) and 36.105(d)(1)(ii).

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(iii) and 36.105(d)(1)(iii) - Impairment Need Not Substantially Limit More Than One Major Life Activity

Proposed §§ 35.108(d)(1)(viii) and 36.105(d)(1)(viii) stated that “[a]n impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not substantially limit other major life activities in order to be considered a substantially limiting impairment.” See 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(C). This language reflected the statutory intent to reject court decisions that had required individuals to show that an impairment substantially limits more than one major life activity. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8841-44 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). Applying this principle, for example, an individual seeking to establish coverage under the ADA need not show a substantial limitation in the ability to learn if that individual is substantially limited in another major life activity, such as walking, or the functioning of the nervous or endocrine systems. The proposed rule also was intended to clarify that the ability to perform one or more particular tasks within a broad category of activities does not preclude coverage under the ADA. See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 19 & n.52 (2008) (House Committee on the Judiciary). For instance, an individual with cerebral palsy could have a capacity to perform certain manual tasks yet nonetheless show a substantial limitation in the ability to perform a “broad range” of manual tasks.

The Department received one comment specifically supporting this provision and none opposing it. The Department is retaining this language in the final rule although it is renumbered and is found at §§ 35.108(d)(1)(iii) and 36.105(d)(1)(iii).

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(iv) and 36.105(d)(1)(iv) - Impairments That Are Episodic or in Remission

The ADA as amended provides that “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”

42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(D). In the NPRM, the Department proposed §§ 35.108(d)(1)(vii) and 36.105(d)(1)(vii) to directly incorporate this language. These provisions are intended to reject the reasoning of court decisions concluding that certain individuals with certain conditions - such as epilepsy or post traumatic stress disorder - were not protected by the ADA because their conditions were episodic or intermittent. The legislative history provides that “[t]his . . . rule of construction thus rejects the reasoning of the courts in cases like Todd v. Academy Corp.

[57 F. Supp. 2d 448, 453 (S.D. Tex. 1999)] where the court found that the plaintiff's epilepsy, which resulted in short seizures during which the plaintiff was unable to speak and experienced tremors, was not sufficiently limiting, at least in part because those seizures occurred episodically. It similarly rejects the results reached in cases [such as Pimental v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic, 236 F. Supp. 2d 177, 182-83 (D.N.H. 2002)] where the courts have discounted the impact of an impairment [such as cancer] that may be in remission as too short-lived to be substantially limiting. It is thus expected that individuals with impairments that are episodic or in remission (e.g., epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer) will be able to establish coverage if, when active, the impairment or the manner in which it manifests (e.g., seizures) substantially limits a major life activity.” H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 19-20 (2008) (House Committee on the Judiciary).

Some examples of impairments that may be episodic include hypertension, diabetes, asthma, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. The fact that the periods during which an episodic impairment is active and substantially limits a major life activity may be brief or occur infrequently is no longer relevant to determining whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. For example, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder who experiences intermittent flashbacks to traumatic events is substantially limited in brain function and thinking.

The Department received three comments in response to these provisions. Two commenters supported this provision and one commenter questioned about how school systems should provide reasonable modifications to students with disabilities that are episodic or in remission. As discussed elsewhere in this guidance, the determination of what is an appropriate modification is separate and distinct from the determination of whether an individual is covered by the ADA, and the Department will not modify its regulatory language in response to this comment.

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(v) and 36.105(d)(1)(v) - Comparisons to Most People in the Population, and Impairment Need Not Prevent or Significantly or Severely Restrict a Major Life Activity

In the legislative history of the ADA Amendments Act, Congress explicitly recognized that it had always intended that determinations of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity should be based on a comparison to most people in the population. The Senate Managers Report approvingly referenced the discussion of this requirement in the committee report from 1989. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers) (citing S. Rep. No. 101-116, at 23 (1989)). The preamble to the Department's 1990 title II and title III regulations also referenced that the impact of an individual's impairment should be based on a comparison to most people. See 56 FR 35694, 35699 (July 26, 1991).

Consistent with its longstanding intent, Congress directed, in the ADA Amendments Act, that disability determinations “should not demand extensive analysis” and that impairments do not need to rise to the level of “prevent[ing] or severely restrict[ing] the individual from doing activities that are of central importance to most people's daily lives.” See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(4)-(5). In giving this direction, Congress sought to correct the standard that courts were applying to determinations of disability after Toyota, which had created “a situation in which physical or mental impairments that would previously have been found to constitute disabilities are not considered disabilities under the Supreme Court's narrower standard.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8840-8841 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). The ADA Amendments Act thus abrogates Toyota's holding by mandating that “substantially limited” must no longer create “an inappropriately high level of limitation.” See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(4)-(5) and 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(B). For example, an individual with carpal tunnel syndrome, a physical impairment, can demonstrate that the impairment substantially limits the major life activity of writing even if the impairment does not prevent or severely restrict the individual from writing.

Accordingly, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(1)(ii) and 36.105(d)(1)(ii) state that an impairment is a disability if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. However, an impairment does not need to prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, an individual from performing a major life activity in order to be substantially limiting. The proposed language in the NPRM was rooted in the corrective nature of the ADA Amendments Act and its explicit rejection of the strict standards imposed under Toyota and its progeny. See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(4).

The Department received several comments on these provisions, none of which recommended modification of the regulatory language. A few commenters raised concerns that are further addressed in the “Condition, manner, or duration” section below, regarding the Department's inclusion in the NPRM preamble of a reference to possibly using similarly situated individuals as the basis of comparison. The Department has removed this discussion and clarified that it does not endorse reliance on similarly situated individuals to demonstrate substantial limitations. For example, the Department recognizes that when determining whether an elderly person is substantially limited in a major life activity, the proper comparison is most people in the general population, and not similarly situated elderly individuals. Similarly, someone with ADHD should be compared to most people in the general population, most of whom do not have ADHD. Other commenters expressed interest in the possibility that, in some cases, evidence to support an assertion that someone has an impairment might simultaneously be used to demonstrate that the impairment is substantially limiting. These commenters approvingly referenced the EEOC's interpretive guidance for its ADA Amendments Act regulation, which provided an example of an individual with a learning disability. See 76 FR 16978, 17009 (Mar. 25, 2011). In that example, evidence gathered to demonstrate the impairment of a learning disability showed a discrepancy between the person's age, measured intelligence, and education and that person's actual versus expected achievement. The EEOC noted that such individuals also likely would be able to demonstrate substantial limitations caused by that impairment to the major life activities of learning, reading, or thinking, when compared to most people in the general population, especially when the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures were set aside. The Department concurs with this view.

Finally, the Department added an explicit statement recognizing that not every impairment will constitute a disability within the meaning of the section. This language echoes the Senate Statement of Managers, which clarified that: “[N]ot every individual with a physical or mental impairment is covered by the first prong of the definition of disability in the ADA. An impairment that does not substantially limit a major life activity is not a disability under this prong.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8841 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers).

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(vi) and 36.105(d)(1)(vi) - “Substantially Limits” Shall Be Interpreted To Require a Lesser Degree of Functional Limitation Than That Required Prior to the ADA Amendments Act

In the NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(1)(iv) and 36.105(d)(1)(iv) state that determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized assessment. But, the interpretation and application of the term “substantially limits” for this assessment requires a lower degree of functional limitation than the standard applied prior to the ADA Amendments Act.

These rules of construction reflect Congress's concern that prior to the adoption of the ADA Amendments Act, courts were using too high a standard to determine whether an impairment substantially limited a major life activity. See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(4)-(5); see also 154 Cong. Rec. S8841 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers) (“This bill lowers the standard for determining whether an impairment constitute[s] a disability and reaffirms the intent of Congress that the definition of disability in the ADA is to be interpreted broadly and inclusively.”).

The Department received no comments on these provisions. The text of these provisions is unchanged in the final rule, although they have been renumbered as §§ 35.108(d)(1)(vi) and 36.105(d)(1)(vi).

Sections §§ 35.108(d)(1)(vii) and 36.105(d)(1)(vii) - Comparison of Individual's Performance of Major Life Activity Usually Will Not Require Scientific, Medical, or Statistical Analysis

In the NPRM, the Department proposed at §§ 35.108(d)(1)(v) and 36.105(d)(1)(v) rules of construction making clear that the comparison of an individual's performance of a major life activity to that of most people in the general population usually will not require scientific, medical, or statistical evidence. However, this rule is not intended to prohibit or limit the use of scientific, medical, or statistical evidence in making such a comparison where appropriate.

These rules of construction reflect Congress's rejection of the demanding standards of proof imposed upon individuals with disabilities who tried to assert coverage under the ADA prior to the adoption of the ADA Amendments Act. In passing the Act, Congress rejected the idea that the disability determination should be “an onerous burden for those seeking accommodations or modifications.” See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). These rules make clear that in most cases, people with impairments will not need to present scientific, medical, or statistical evidence to support their assertion that an impairment is substantially limiting compared to most people in the general population. Instead, other types of evidence that are less onerous to collect, such as statements or affidavits of affected individuals, school records, or determinations of disability status under other statutes, should, in most cases, be considered adequate to establish that an impairment is substantially limiting. The Department's proposed language reflected Congress's intent to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not precluded from seeking protection under the ADA because of an overbroad, burdensome, and generally unnecessary requirement.

The Department received several comments in support of these provisions and a number of comments opposing all or part of them. One commenter representing individuals with disabilities expressed support for the proposed language, noting that “[m]any people with disabilities have limited resources and requiring them to hire an expert witness to confirm their disability would pose an insurmountable barrier that could prevent them from pursuing their ADA cases.”

Commenters representing testing entities objected to this language arguing that they needed scientific, medical, or statistical evidence in order to determine whether an individual has a learning disability or ADHD. These commenters argued that, unlike other disabilities, assessment of learning disabilities and ADHD require scientific, medical, or statistical evidence because such disabilities have no overt symptoms, cannot be readily observed, and lack medical or scientific verifiability. One commenter stated that the proposed language “favor[s] expedience over evidence-based guidance.”

In opposing these provisions, these commenters appear to conflate proof of the existence of an impairment with the analysis of how an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. These provisions address only how to evaluate whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity, and the Department's proposed language appropriately reflects Congress's intent to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not precluded from seeking protection under the ADA because of overbroad, burdensome, and generally unnecessary evidentiary requirements. Moreover, the Department disagrees with the commenters' suggestion that an individual with ADHD or a specific learning disability can never demonstrate how the impairment substantially limits a major life activity without scientific, medical, or statistical evidence. Scientific, medical, or statistical evidence usually will not be necessary to determine whether an individual with a disability is substantially limited in a major life activity. However, as the rule notes, such evidence may be appropriate in some circumstances.

One commenter suggested that the words “where appropriate” be deleted from these provisions in the final rule out of concern that they may be used to preclude individuals with disabilities from proffering scientific or medical evidence in support of a claim of coverage under the ADA. The Department disagrees with the commenter's reading of these provisions. Congress recognized that some people may choose to support their claim by presenting scientific or medical evidence and made clear that “plaintiffs should not be constrained from offering evidence needed to establish that their impairment is substantially limiting.” See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). The language “where appropriate” allows for those circumstances where an individual chooses to present such evidence, but makes clear that in most cases presentation of such evidence shall not be necessary.

Finally, although the NPRM did not propose any changes with respect to the title III regulatory requirements applicable to the provision of testing accommodations at 28 CFR 36.309, one commenter requested revisions to § 36.309 to acknowledge the changes to regulatory language in the definition of “disability.” Another commenter noted that the proposed changes to the regulatory definition of “disability” warrant new agency guidance on how the ADA applies to requests for testing accommodations.

The Department does not consider it appropriate to include provisions related to testing accommodations in the definitional sections of the ADA regulations. The determination of disability, and thus coverage under the ADA, is governed by the statutory and regulatory definitions and the related rules of construction. Those provisions do not speak to what testing accommodations an individual with a disability is entitled to under the ADA nor to the related questions of what a testing entity may request or require from an individual with a disability who seeks testing accommodations. Testing entities' substantive obligations are governed by 42 U.S.C. 12189 and the implementing regulation at 28 CFR 36.309. The implementing regulation clarifies that private entities offering covered examinations need to make sure that any request for required documentation is reasonable and limited to the need for the requested modification, accommodation, or auxiliary aid or service. Furthermore, when considering requests for modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids or services, the entity should give considerable weight to documentation of past modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids or services received in similar testing situations or provided in response to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) provided under the IDEA or a plan describing services provided under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (often referred as a Section 504 Plan).

Contrary to the commenters' suggestions, there is no conflict between the regulation's definitional provisions and title III's testing accommodation provisions. The first addresses the core question of who is covered under the definition of “disability,” while the latter sets forth requirements related to documenting the need for particular testing accommodations. To the extent that testing entities are urging conflation of the analysis for establishing disability with that for determining required testing accommodations, such an approach would contradict the clear delineation in the statute between the determination of disability and the obligations that ensue.

Accordingly, in the final rule, the text of these provisions is largely unchanged, except that the provisions are renumbered as §§ 35.108(d)(1)(vii) and 36.108(d)(1)(vii), and the Department added “the presentation of,” in the second sentence, which was included in the corresponding provision of the EEOC final rule. See 29 CFR 1630.2(j)(1)(v).

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(viii) and 36.105(d)(1)(viii) - Determination Made Without Regard to the Ameliorative Effects of Mitigating Measures

The ADA as amended expressly prohibits any consideration of the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures when determining whether an individual's impairment substantially limits a major life activity, except for the ameliorative effects of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses. 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(E). The statute provides an illustrative, and non-exhaustive list of different types of mitigating measures. Id.

In the NPRM, the Department proposed §§ 35.108(d)(2)(vi) and 36.105(d)(2)(vi), which tracked the statutory language regarding consideration of mitigating measures. These provisions stated that the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures should not be considered when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. However, the beneficial effects of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses should be considered when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses refer to lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or to eliminate refractive errors. Proposed §§ 35.108(d)(4) and 36.105(d)(4), discussed below, set forth examples of mitigating measures.

A number of commenters agreed with the Department's proposed language and no commenters objected. Some commenters, however, asked the Department to add language to these sections stating that, although the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures may not be considered in determining whether an individual has a covered disability, they may be considered in determining whether an individual is entitled to specific testing accommodations or reasonable modifications. The ADA Amendments Act revised the definition of “disability” and the Department agrees that the Act's prohibition on assessing the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures applies only to the determination of whether an individual meets the definition of “disability.” The Department declines to add the requested language, however, because it goes beyond the scope of this rulemaking by addressing ADA requirements that are not related to the definition of “disability.” These rules of construction do not apply to the requirements to provide reasonable modifications under §§ 35.130(b)(7) and 36.302 or testing accommodations under § 36.309 in the title III regulations. The Department disagrees that further clarification is needed at this point and declines to modify these provisions except that they are now renumbered as §§ 35.108(d)(1)(viii) and § 36.105(d)(1)(viii).

The Department notes that in applying these rules of construction, evidence showing that an impairment would be substantially limiting in the absence of the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures could include evidence of limitations that a person experienced prior to using a mitigating measure or evidence concerning the expected course of a particular disorder absent mitigating measures.

The determination of whether an individual's impairment substantially limits a major life activity is unaffected by an individual's choice to forgo mitigating measures. For individuals who do not use a mitigating measure (including, for example, medication or auxiliary aids and services that might alleviate the effects of an impairment), the availability of such measures has no bearing on whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. The limitations posed by the impairment on the individual and any negative (non-ameliorative) effects of mitigating measures will serve as the foundation for a determination of whether an impairment is substantially limiting. The origin of the impairment, whether its effects can be mitigated, and any ameliorative effects of mitigating measures that are employed may not be considered in determining if the impairment is substantially limiting.

Sections 35.108(d)(1)(ix) and 36.105(d)(1)(ix) - Impairment That Lasts Less Than Six Months Can Still Be a Disability Under First Two Prongs of the Definition

In §§ 35.108(d)(1)(ix) and 36.105(d)(1)(ix), the NPRM proposed rules of construction noting that the six-month “transitory” part of the “transitory and minor” exception does not apply to the “actual disability” or “record of” prongs of the definition of “disability.” Even if an impairment may last or is expected to last six months or less, it can be substantially limiting.

The ADA as amended provides that the “regarded as” prong of the definition of “disability” does “not apply to impairments that are [both] transitory and minor.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(3)(B). “Transitory impairment” is defined as “an impairment with an actual or expected duration of six months or less.” Id. The statute does not define the term “minor.” Whether an impairment is both “transitory and minor” is a question of fact that is dependent upon individual circumstances. The ADA as amended contains no such provision with respect to the first two prongs of the definition of “disability” - “actual disability,” and “record of” disability. The application of the “transitory and minor” exception to the “regarded as” prong is addressed in §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f).

The Department received two comments on this proposed language. One commenter recommended that the Department delete this language and “replace it with language clarifying that if a condition cannot meet the lower threshold of impairment under the third prong, it cannot meet the higher threshold of a disability under the first and second prongs.” The Department declines to modify these provisions because the determination of whether an individual satisfies the requirements of a particular prong is not a comparative determination between the three means of demonstrating disability under the ADA. The Department believes that the suggested language would create confusion because there are significant differences between the first two prongs and the third prong. In addition, the Department believes its proposed language is in keeping with the ADA Amendments Act and the supporting legislative history.

The other commenter suggested that the Department add language to provide greater clarity with respect to the application of the transitory and minor exception to the “regarded as prong.” The Department does not believe that additional language should be added to these rules of construction, which relate only to whether there is a six-month test for the first two prongs of the definition. As discussed below, the Department has revised both the regulatory text at §§ 35.108(f) and 36.105(f) and its guidance on the application of the “transitory and minor” exception to the “regarded as” prong. See discussion below.

Sections 35.108(d)(2) and 36.105(d)(2) - Predictable Assessments

In the NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(2) and 36.105(d)(2) set forth examples of impairments that should easily be found to substantially limit one or more major life activities. These provisions recognized that while there are no “per se” disabilities, for certain types of impairments the application of the various principles and rules of construction concerning the definition of “disability” to the individualized assessment would, in virtually all cases, result in the conclusion that the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Thus, the necessary individualized assessment of coverage premised on these types of impairments should be particularly simple and straightforward. The purpose of the “predictable assessments” provisions is to simplify consideration of those disabilities that virtually always create substantial limitations to major life activities, thus satisfying the statute's directive to create clear, consistent, and enforceable standards and ensuring that the inquiry of “whether an individual's impairment is a disability under the ADA should not demand extensive analysis.” See Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(1), (5). The impairments identified in the predictable assessments provision are a non-exhaustive list of examples of the kinds of disabilities that meet these criteria and, with one exception, are consistent with the corresponding provision in the EEOC ADA Amendments Act rule. See 29 CFR 1630.2(j)(3)(iii). 7

7 In the NPRM, the Department proposed adding “traumatic brain injury” to the predictable assessments list.

The Department believes that the predictable assessments provisions comport with the ADA Amendments Act's emphasis on adopting a less burdensome and more expansive definition of “disability.” The provisions are rooted in the application of the statutory changes to the meaning and interpretation of the definition of “disability” contained in the ADA Amendments Act and flow from the rules of construction set forth in §§ 35.108(a)(2)(i), 36.105(a)(2)(i), 35.108(c)(2)(i) and (ii), 36.105(c)(2)(i) and (ii). These rules of construction and other specific provisions require the broad construction of the definition of “disability” in favor of expansive coverage to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA. In addition, they lower the standard to be applied to “substantially limits,” making clear that an impairment need not prevent or significantly restrict an individual from performing a major life activity; clarify that major life activities include major bodily functions; elucidate that impairments that are episodic or in remission are disabilities if they would be substantially limiting when active; and incorporate the requirement that the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures (other than ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses) must be disregarded in assessing whether an individual has a disability.

Several organizations representing persons with disabilities and the elderly, constituting the majority of commenters on these provisions, supported the inclusion of the predictable assessments provisions. One commenter expressed strong support for the provision and recommended that it closely track the corresponding provision in the EEOC title I rule, while another noted its value in streamlining individual assessments. In contrast, some commenters from educational institutions and testing entities recommended the deletion of these provisions, expressing concern that it implies the existence of “per se” disabilities, contrary to congressional intent that each assertion of disability should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Department does not believe that the predictable assessment provisions constitutes a “per se” list of disabilities and will retain it. These provisions highlight, through a non-exhaustive list, impairments that virtually always will be found to substantially limit one or more major life activities. Such impairments still warrant individualized assessments, but any such assessments should be especially simple and straightforward.

The legislative history of the ADA Amendments Act supports the Department's approach in this area. In crafting the Act, Congress hewed to the ADA definition of “disability,” which was modeled on the definition of “disability” in the Rehabilitation Act, and indicated that it wanted courts to interpret the definition as it had originally been construed. See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 6 (2008). Describing this goal, the legislative history states that courts had interpreted the Rehabilitation Act definition “broadly to include persons with a wide range of physical and mental impairments such as epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and intellectual and developmental disabilities . . . even where a mitigating measure - like medication or a hearing aid - might lessen their impact on the individual.” Id.; see also id. at 9 (referring to individuals with disabilities that had been covered under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and that Congress intended to include under the ADA - “people with serious health conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, intellectual and developmental disabilities”); id. at 6, n.6 (citing cases also finding that cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities, heart disease, and vision in only one eye were disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act); id. at 10 (citing testimony from Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, one of the original lead sponsors of the ADA in 1990, stating that “[w]e could not have fathomed that people with diabetes, epilepsy, heart conditions, cancer, mental illnesses and other disabilities would have their ADA claims denied because they would be considered too functional to meet the definition of disability”); 2008 Senate Statement of Managers at 3 (explaining that “we [we]re faced with a situation in which physical or mental impairments that would previously have been found to constitute disabilities [under the Rehabilitation Act] [we]re not considered disabilities” and citing individuals with impairments such as amputation, intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and cancer as examples).

Some commenters asked the Department to add certain impairments to the predictable assessments list, while others asked the Department to remove certain impairments. Commenters representing educational and testing institutions urged that, if the Department did not delete the predictable assessment provisions, then the list should be modified to remove any impairments that are not obvious or visible to third parties and those for which functional limitations can change over time. One commenter cited to a pre-ADA Amendments Act reasonable accommodations case, which included language regarding the uncertainty facing employers in determining appropriate reasonable accommodations when mental impairments often are not obvious and apparent to employers. See Wallin v. Minnesota Dep't of Corrections, 153 F.3d 681, 689 (8th Cir. 1998). This commenter suggested that certain impairments, including autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, should not be deemed predictable assessments because they are not immediately apparent to third parties. The Department disagrees with this commenter, and believes that it is appropriate to include these disabilities on the list of predictable assessments. Many disabilities are less obvious or may be invisible, such as cancer, diabetes, HIV infection, schizophrenia, intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injury, as well as those identified by the commenter. The likelihood that an impairment will substantially limit one or more major life activities is unrelated to whether or not the disability is immediately apparent to an outside observer. Therefore, the Department will retain the examples that involve less apparent disabilities on the list of predictable assessments.

The Department believes that the list accurately illustrates impairments that virtually always will result in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities. The Department recognizes that impairments are not always static and can result in different degrees of functional limitation at different times, particularly when mitigating measures are used. However, the ADA as amended anticipates variation in the extent to which impairments affect major life activities, clarifying that impairments that are episodic or in remission nonetheless are disabilities if they would be substantially limiting when active and requiring the consideration of disabilities without regard to ameliorative mitigating measures. The Department does not believe that limiting the scope of its provisions addressing predictable assessments only to those disabilities that would never vary in functional limitation would be appropriate.

Other commenters speaking as individuals or representing persons with disabilities endorsed the inclusion of some impairments already on the list, including traumatic brain injury, sought the inclusion of additional impairments, requested revisions to some descriptions of impairments, or asked for changes to the examples of major life activities linked to specific impairments.

Several commenters requested the expansion of the predictable assessments list, in particular to add specific learning disabilities. Some commenters pointed to the ADA Amendments Act's legislative history, which included Representative Stark's remarks that specific learning disabilities are “neurologically based impairments that substantially limit the way these individuals perform major life activities, like reading or learning, or the time it takes to perform such activities.” 154 Cong. Rec. H8291 (daily ed. Sept. 17, 2008). Others recommended that some specific types of specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and slowed processing speed should be referenced as predictable assessments. With respect to the major life activities affected by specific learning disabilities, commenters noted that specific learning disabilities are neurologically based and substantially limit learning, thinking, reading, communicating, and processing speed.

Similarly, commenters recommended the inclusion of ADHD, urging that it originates in the brain and affects executive function skills including organizing, planning, paying attention, regulating emotions, and self-monitoring. One commenter noted that if ADHD meets the criteria established in the DSM-5, then it would consistently meet the criteria to establish disability under the ADA. The same commenter noted that ADHD is brain based and affects the major life activity of executive function. Another commenter suggested that ADHD should be included and should be identified as limiting brain function, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working. Other commenters urged the inclusion of panic disorders, anxiety disorder, cognitive disorder, and post-concussive disorder. A number of commenters noted that the exclusion of impairments from the predictable assessments list could be seen as supporting an inference that the impairments that are not mentioned should not easily be found to be disabilities.

The Department determined that it will retain the language it proposed in the NPRM and will not add or remove any impairments from this list. As discussed above, the list is identical to the EEOC's predictable assessments list, at 29 CFR 1630.2(g)(3)(iii), except that the Department's NPRM added traumatic brain injury. The Department received support for including traumatic brain injury and did not receive any comments recommending the removal of traumatic brain injury from the list; thus, we are retaining it in this final rule.

The Department's decision to track the EEOC's list, with one minor exception, stems in part from our intent to satisfy the congressional mandate for “clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards.” A number of courts already have productively applied the EEOC's predictable assessments provision, and the Department believes that it will continue to serve as a useful, common-sense tool in promoting judicial efficiency. It is important to note, however, that the failure to include any impairment in the list of examples of predictable assessments does not indicate that that impairment should be subject to undue scrutiny.

Some commenters expressed concern about the major life activities that the Department attributed to particular impairments. Two commenters sought revision of the major life activities attributed to intellectual disabilities, suggesting that it would be more accurate to reference cognitive function and learning, instead of reading, learning, and problem solving. One commenter recommended attributing the major life activity of brain function to autism rather than learning, social interaction, and communicating. The Department determined that it will follow the EEOC's model and, with respect to both intellectual disabilities and autism, it will reference the major bodily function of brain function. By using the term “brain function” to describe the system affected by various mental impairments, the Department intends to capture functions such as the brain's ability to regulate thought processes and emotions.

The Department considers it important to reiterate that, just as the list of impairments in these sections is not comprehensive, the list of major bodily functions or other major life activities linked to those impairments are not exhaustive. The impairments identified in these sections, may affect a wide range of major bodily functions and other major life activities. The Department's specification of certain major life activities with respect to particular impairments simply provides one avenue by which a person might elect to demonstrate that he or she has a disability.

The Department recognizes that impairments listed in §§ 35.108(d)(2) and 36.105(d)(2) may substantially limit other major life activities in addition to those listed in the regulation. For example, diabetes may substantially limit major life activities including eating, sleeping, and thinking. Major depressive disorder may substantially limit major life activities such as thinking, concentrating, sleeping, and interacting with others. Multiple sclerosis may substantially limit major life activities such as walking, bending, and lifting.

One commenter noted that the NPRM did not track the EEOC's language with respect to the manner in which it identified a major bodily function that is substantially limited by epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis in 29 CFR 1630.2(j)(3)(iii). While the EEOC listed each of these three impairments individually, noting in each case that the major bodily function affected is neurological function, at 29 CFR 1630.2(j)(3)(iii), the NPRM grouped the three impairments and noted that they affect neurological function. In order to clarify that each of the three impairments may manifest a substantial limitation of neurological function, the final rule incorporates “each” immediately following the list of the three impairments. Similarly, the Department added an “each” to §§ 35.108(d)(2)(iii)(K) and 36.105(d)(2)(iii)(K) to make clear that each of the listed impairments substantially limits brain function.

Some commenters representing testing entities and educational institutions sought the insertion of language in the predictable assessment provisions that would indicate that individuals found to have disabilities are not, by virtue of a determination that they have a covered disability, eligible for a testing accommodation or a reasonable modification. The Department agrees with these commenters that the determination of disability is a distinct determination separate from the determination of the need for a requested modification or a testing accommodation. The Department declines to add the language suggested by the commenters to §§ 35.108(d)(2) and 36.105(d)(2), however, because the requirements for reasonable modifications are addressed separately in §§ 35.130(b)(7) and 36.302 of the title II and III regulations and the requirements related to providing appropriate accommodations in testing and licensing are found at § 36.309.

Sections 35.108(d)(3) and 36.105(d)(3) - Condition, Manner, or Duration

Overview. Proposed §§ 35.108(d)(3) and 36.105(d)(3), both titled “Condition, manner[,] and duration,” addressed how evidence related to condition, manner, or duration may be used to show how impairments substantially limit major life activities. These principles were first addressed in the preamble to the 1991 rule. At that time, the Department noted that “[a] person is considered an individual with a disability . . . when the individual's important life activities are restricted as to the conditions, manner, or duration under which they can be performed in comparison to most people.” 56 FR 35544, 35549 (July 26, 1991); see also S. Rep. No. 101-116, at 23 (1989).

These concepts were affirmed by Congress in the legislative history to the ADA Amendments Act: “We particularly believe that this test, which articulated an analysis that considered whether a person's activities are limited in condition, duration and manner, is a useful one. We reiterate that using the correct standard - one that is lower than the strict or demanding standard created by the Supreme Court in Toyota - will make the disability determination an appropriate threshold issue but not an onerous burden for those seeking accommodations or modifications. At the same time, plaintiffs should not be constrained from offering evidence needed to establish that their impairment is substantially limiting.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8346 (Sept. 11, 2008). Noting its continued reliance on the functional approach to defining disability, Congress expressed its belief that requiring consistency with the findings and purposes of the ADA Amendments Act would “establish[ ] an appropriate functionality test for determining whether an individual has a disability.” Id. While condition, manner, and duration are not required factors that must be considered, the regulations clarify that these are the types of factors that may be considered in appropriate cases. To the extent that such factors may be useful or relevant to show a substantial limitation in a particular fact pattern, some or all of them (and related facts) may be considered, but evidence relating to each of these factors often will not be necessary to establish coverage.

In the NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(3)(i) and 35.105(d)(3)(i) noted that the rules of construction at §§ 35.108(d)(1) and 35.105(d)(1) should inform consideration of how individuals are substantially limited in major life activities. Sections 35.108(d)(3)(ii) and 36.105(d)(3)(ii) provided examples of how restrictions on condition, manner, or duration might be interpreted and also clarified that the negative or burdensome side effects of medication or other mitigating measures may be considered when determining whether an individual has a disability. In §§ 35.108(d)(3)(iii) and 36.105(d)(3)(iii), the proposed language set forth a requirement to focus on how a major life activity is substantially limited, rather than on the ultimate outcome a person with an impairment can achieve.

The Department received comments on the condition, manner, or duration provision from advocacy groups for individuals with disabilities, from academia, from education and testing entities, and from interested individuals. Several advocacy organizations for individuals with disabilities and private individuals noted that the section title's heading was inconsistent with the regulatory text and sought the replacement of the “and” in the section's title, “Condition, manner, and duration,” with an “or.” Commenters expressed concern that retaining the “and” in the heading title would be inconsistent with congressional intent and would incorrectly suggest that individuals are subject to a three-part test and must demonstrate that an impairment substantially limits a major life activity with respect to condition, manner, and duration. The Department agrees that the “and” used in the title of the proposed regulatory provision could lead to confusion and a misapplication of the law and has revised the title so it now reads “Condition, manner, or duration.” Consistent with the regulatory text, the revised heading makes clear that any one of the three descriptors - “condition,” “manner,” or “duration” - may aid in demonstrating that an impairment substantially limits a major life activity or a major bodily function.

Condition, Manner, or Duration

In the NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(3)(i) and 36.105(d)(3)(i) noted that the application of the terms “condition” “manner,” or “duration” should at all times take into account the principles in § 35.108(d)(1) and § 36.105(d)(1), respectively, which referred to the rules of construction for “substantially limited.” The proposed regulatory text also included brief explanations of the meaning of the core terms, clarifying that in appropriate cases, it could be useful to consider, in comparison to most people in the general population, the conditions under which an individual performs a major life activity; the manner in which an individual performs a major life activity; or the time it takes an individual to perform a major life activity, or for which the individual can perform a major life activity.

Several disability rights advocacy groups and individuals supported the NPRM approach, with some referencing the value of pointing to the rules of construction and their relevance to condition, manner, or duration considerations. Some commenters noted that it was helpful to highlight congressional intent that the definition of “disability” should be broadly construed and not subject to extensive analysis. Another commenter recommended introducing a clarification that, while the limitation imposed by an impairment must be important, it does not need to rise to the level of severely or significantly restricting the ability to perform a major life activity. Some commenters sought additional guidance regarding the meaning of the terms “condition,” “manner,” and “duration” and recommended the addition of more illustrative examples.

In response to commenters' concerns, the Department has modified the regulatory text in §§ 35.108(d)(3)(i) and 36.105(d)(3)(i) to reference all of the rules of construction rather than only those pertaining to “substantially limited.” The Department also added §§ 35.108(d)(3)(iv) and 36.105(d)(3)(iv), further discussed below, to clarify that the rules of construction will not always require analysis of condition, manner, or duration, particularly with respect to certain impairments, such as those referenced in paragraph (d)(2)(iii) (predictable assessments). With these changes, the Department believes that the final rule more accurately reflects congressional intent. The Department also believes that clarifying the application of the rules of construction to condition, manner, or duration will contribute to consistent interpretation of the definition of “disability” and reduce inadvertent reliance on older cases that incorporate demanding standards rejected by Congress in the ADA Amendments Act.

It is the Department's view that the rules of construction offer substantial guidance about how condition, manner, or duration must be interpreted so as to ensure the expansive coverage intended by Congress. Except for this clarification, the Department did not receive comments opposing the proposed regulatory text on condition, manner, or duration in §§ 35.108(d)(3)(i) and 36.105(d)(3)(i) and did not make any other changes to these provisions.

Some commenters objected to language in the preamble to the NPRM which suggested that there might be circumstances in which the consideration of condition, manner, or duration might not include comparisons to most people in the general population. On reconsideration, the Department recognizes that this discussion could create confusion about the requirements. The Department believes that condition, manner, or duration determinations should be drawn in contrast to most people in the general population, as is indicated in the related rules of construction, at §§ 35.108(d)(1)(v) and 36.105(d)(1)(v).

Condition, Manner, or Duration Examples, Including Negative Effects of Mitigating Measures

Proposed §§ 35.108(d)(3)(ii) and 36.105(d)(3)(ii) set forth examples of the types of evidence that might demonstrate condition, manner, or duration limitations, including the way an impairment affects the operation of a major bodily function, the difficulty or effort required to perform a major life activity, the pain experienced when performing a major life activity, and the length of time it takes to perform a major life activity. These provisions also clarified that the non-ameliorative effects of mitigating measures may be taken into account to demonstrate the impact of an impairment on a major life activity. The Department's discussion in the NPRM preamble noted that such non-ameliorative effects could include negative side effects of medicine, burdens associated with following a particular treatment regimen, and complications that arise from surgery, among others. The preamble also provided further clarification of the possible applications of condition, manner, or duration analyses, along with several examples. Several commenters supported the proposed rule's incorporation of language and examples offering insight into the varied ways that limitations on condition, manner, or duration could demonstrate substantial limitation. One commenter positively noted that the language regarding the “difficulty, effort, or time required to perform a major life activity” could prove extremely helpful to individuals asserting a need for testing accommodations, as evidence previously presented regarding these factors was deemed insufficient to demonstrate the existence of a disability. Some commenters requested the insertion of additional examples and explanation in the preamble about how condition, manner or duration principles could be applied under the new rules of construction. Another commenter sought guidance on the specific reference points that should be used when drawing comparisons with most people in the general population. The commenter offered the example of delays in developmental milestones as a possible referent in evaluating children with speech-language disorders, but noted a lack of guidance regarding comparable referents for adults. The commenter also noted that guidance is needed regarding what average or acceptable duration might be with respect to certain activities. An academic commenter expressed support for the Department's reference to individuals with learning impairments using certain self-mitigating measures, such as extra time to study or taking an examination in a different format, and the relevance of these measures to condition, manner, and duration.

The Department did not receive comments opposing the NPRM language on condition, manner, or duration in §§ 35.108(d)(3)(ii) and 36.105(d)(3)(ii) and is not making any changes to this language. The Department agrees that further explanation and examples as provided below regarding the concepts of condition, manner, or duration will help clarify how the ADA Amendments Act has expanded the definition of “disability.” An impairment may substantially limit the “condition” or “manner” in which a major life activity can be performed in a number of different ways. For example, the condition or manner in which a major life activity can be performed may refer to how an individual performs a major life activity; e.g., the condition or manner under which a person with an amputated hand performs manual tasks will likely be more cumbersome than the way that most people in the general population would perform the same tasks. Condition or manner also may describe how performance of a major life activity affects an individual with an impairment. For example, an individual whose impairment causes pain or fatigue that most people would not experience when performing that major life activity may be substantially limited. Thus, the condition or manner under which someone with coronary artery disease performs the major life activity of walking would be substantially limited if the individual experiences shortness of breath and fatigue when walking distances that most people could walk without experiencing such effects. An individual with specific learning disabilities may need to approach reading or writing in a distinct manner or under different conditions than most people in the general population, possibly employing aids including verbalizing, visualizing, decoding or phonology, such that the effort required could support a determination that the individual is substantially limited in the major life activity of reading or writing.

Condition or manner may refer to the extent to which a major life activity, including a major bodily function, can be performed. In some cases, the condition or manner under which a major bodily function can be performed may be substantially limited when the impairment “causes the operation [of the bodily function] to over-produce or under-produce in some harmful fashion.” See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 17 (2008). For example, the endocrine system of a person with type I diabetes does not produce sufficient insulin. For that reason, compared to most people in the general population, the impairment of diabetes substantially limits the major bodily functions of endocrine function and digestion. Traumatic brain injury substantially limits the condition or manner in which an individual's brain functions by impeding memory and causing headaches, confusion, or fatigue - each of which could constitute a substantial limitation on the major bodily function of brain function.

“Duration” refers to the length of time an individual can perform a major life activity or the length of time it takes an individual to perform a major life activity, as compared to most people in the general population. For example, a person whose back or leg impairment precludes him or her from standing for more than two hours without significant pain would be substantially limited in standing, because most people can stand for more than two hours without significant pain. However, “[a] person who can walk for 10 miles continuously is not substantially limited in walking merely because on the eleventh mile, he or she begins to experience pain because most people would not be able to walk eleven miles without experiencing some discomfort.” See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers) (quoting S. Rep. No. 101-116, at 23 (1989)). Some impairments, such as ADHD, may have two different types of impact on duration considerations. ADHD frequently affects both an ability to sustain focus for an extended period of time and the speed with which someone can process information. Each of these duration-related concerns could demonstrate that someone with ADHD, as compared to most people in the general population, takes longer to complete major life activities such as reading, writing, concentrating, or learning.

The Department reiterates that, because the limitations created by certain impairments are readily apparent, it would not be necessary in such cases to assess the negative side effects of a mitigating measure in determining that a particular impairment substantially limits a major life activity. For example, there likely would be no need to consider the burden that dialysis treatment imposes for someone with end-stage renal disease because the impairment would allow a simple and straightforward determination that the individual is substantially limited in kidney function.

One commenter representing people with disabilities asked the Department to recognize that, particularly with respect to learning disabilities, on some occasions the facts related to condition, manner, or duration necessary to reach a diagnosis of a learning disability also are sufficient to establish that the affected individual has a disability under the ADA. The Department agrees that the facts gathered to establish a diagnosis of an impairment may simultaneously satisfy the requirements for demonstrating limitations on condition, manner, or duration sufficient to show that the impairment constitutes a disability.

Emphasis on Limitations Instead of Outcomes

In passing the ADA Amendments Act, Congress clarified that courts had misinterpreted the ADA definition of “disability” by, among other things, inappropriately emphasizing the capabilities of people with disabilities to achieve certain outcomes. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). For example, someone with a learning disability may achieve a high level of academic success, but may nevertheless be substantially limited in one or more of the major life activities of reading, writing, speaking, or learning because of the additional time or effort he or she must spend to read, speak, write, or learn compared to most people in the general population. As the House Education and Labor Committee Report emphasized:

[S]ome courts have found that students who have reached a high level of academic achievement are not to be considered individuals with disabilities under the ADA, as such individuals may have difficulty demonstrating substantial limitation in the major life activities of learning or reading relative to “most people.” When considering the condition, manner or duration in which an individual with a specific learning disability performs a major life activity, it is critical to reject the assumption that an individual who performs well academically or otherwise cannot be substantially limited in activities such as learning, reading, writing, thinking, or speaking. As such, the Committee rejects the findings in Price v. National Board of Medical Examiners, Gonzales v. National Board of Medical Examiners, and Wong v. Regents of University of California.

The Committee believes that the comparison of individuals with specific learning disabilities to “most people” is not problematic unto itself, but requires a careful analysis of the method and manner in which an individual's impairment limits a major life activity. For the majority of the population, the basic mechanics of reading and writing do not pose extraordinary lifelong challenges; rather, recognizing and forming letters and words are effortless, unconscious, automatic processes. Because specific learning disabilities are neurologically-based impairments, the process of reading for an individual with a reading disability (e.g., dyslexia) is word-by-word, and otherwise cumbersome, painful, deliberate and slow - throughout life. The Committee expects that individuals with specific learning disabilities that substantially limit a major life activity will be better protected under the amended Act.

H.R. Rep. No. 110-730 pt. 1, at 10-11 (2008).

Sections 35.108(d)(3)(iii) and 36.105(d)(3)(iii) of the proposed rule reflected congressional intent and made clear that the outcome an individual with a disability is able to achieve is not determinative of whether an individual is substantially limited in a major life activity. Instead, an individual can demonstrate the extent to which an impairment affects the condition, manner, or duration in which the individual performs a major life activity, such that it constitutes a substantial limitation. The ultimate outcome of an individual's efforts should not undermine a claim of disability, even if the individual ultimately is able to achieve the same or similar result as someone without the impairment.

The Department received several comments on these provisions, with disability organizations and individuals supporting the inclusion of these provisions and some testing entities and an organization representing educational institutions opposing them. The opponents argued that academic performance and testing outcomes are objective evidence that contradict findings of disability and that covered entities must be able to focus on those outcomes in order to demonstrate whether an impairment has contributed to a substantial limitation. These commenters argued that the evidence frequently offered by those making claims of disability that demonstrate the time or effort required to achieve a result, such as evidence of self-mitigating measures, informal accommodations, or recently provided reasonable modifications, is inherently subjective and unreliable. The testing entities suggested that the Department had indicated support for their interest in focusing on outcomes over process-related obstacles in the NPRM preamble language where the Department had noted that covered entities “may defeat a showing of substantial limitation by refuting whatever evidence the individual seeking coverage has offered, or by offering evidence that shows that an impairment does not impose a substantial limitation on a major life activity.” NPRM, 79 FR 4839, 4847-48 (Jan. 30, 2014). The commenters representing educational institutions and testing entities urged the removal of §§ 35.108(d)(3)(iii) and 36.105(d)(3)(iii) or, in the alternative, the insertion of language indicating that outcomes, such as grades and test scores indicating academic success, are relevant evidence that should be considered when making disability determinations.

In contrast, commenters representing persons with disabilities and individual commenters expressed strong support for these provisions, noting that what an individual can accomplish despite an impairment does not accurately reflect the obstacles an individual had to overcome because of the impairment. One organization representing persons with disabilities noted that while individuals with disabilities have achieved successes at work, in academia, and in other settings, their successes should not create obstacles to addressing what they can do “in spite of an impairment.” Commenters also expressed concerns that testing entities and educational institutions had failed to comply with the rules of construction or to revise prior policies and practices to comport with the new standards under the ADA as amended. Some commenters asserted that testing entities improperly rejected accommodation requests because the testing entities focused on test scores and outcomes rather than on how individuals learn; required severe levels of impairment; failed to disregard the helpful effect of self-mitigating measures; referenced participation in extracurricular activities as evidence that individuals did not have disabilities; and argued that individuals diagnosed with specific learning disabilities or ADHD in adulthood cannot demonstrate that they have a disability because their diagnosis occurred too late.

Commenters representing persons with disabilities pointed to the discussion in the legislative history about restoring a focus on process rather than outcomes with respect to learning disabilities. They suggested that such a shift in focus also would be helpful in evaluating ADHD. One commenter asked the Department to include a reference to ADHD and to explain that persons with ADHD may achieve a high level of academic success but may nevertheless be substantially limited in one or more major life activities, such as reading, writing, speaking, concentrating, or learning. A private citizen requested the addition of examples demonstrating the application of these provisions because, in the commenter's view, there have been many problems with decisions regarding individuals with learning disabilities and an inappropriate focus on outcomes and test scores.

The Department declines the request to add a specific reference to ADHD in these provisions. The Department believes that the principles discussed above apply equally to persons with ADHD as well as individuals with other impairments. The provision already references an illustrative, but not exclusive, example of an individual with a learning disability. The Department believes that this example effectively illustrates the concern that has affected individuals with other impairments due to an inappropriate emphasis on outcomes rather than how a major life activity is limited.

Organizations representing testing and educational entities asked the Department to add regulatory language indicating that testing-related outcomes, such as grades and test scores, are relevant to disability determinations under the ADA. The Department has considered this proposal and declines to adopt it because it is inconsistent with congressional intent. As discussed earlier in this section, Congress specifically stated that the outcome an individual with a disability is able to achieve is not determinative of whether that individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The analysis of whether an individual with an impairment has a disability is a fact-driven analysis shaped by how an impairment has substantially limited one or more major life activities or major bodily functions, considering those specifically asserted by the individual as well as any others that may apply. For example, if an individual with ADHD seeking a reasonable modification or a testing accommodation asserts substantial limitations in the major life activities of concentrating and reading, then the analysis of whether or not that individual has a covered disability will necessarily focus on concentrating and reading. Relevant considerations could include restrictions on the conditions, manner, or duration in which the individual concentrates or reads, such as a need for a non-stimulating environment or extensive time required to read. Even if an individual has asserted that an impairment creates substantial limitations on activities such as reading, writing, or concentrating, the individual's academic record or prior standardized testing results might not be relevant to the inquiry. Instead, the individual could show substantial limitations by providing evidence of condition, manner, or duration limitations, such as the need for a reader or additional time. The Department does not believe that the testing results or grades of an individual seeking reasonable modifications or testing accommodations always would be relevant to determinations of disability. While testing and educational entities may, of course, put forward any evidence that they deem pertinent to their response to an assertion of substantial limitation, testing results and grades may be of only limited relevance.

In addition, the Department does not agree with the assertions made by testing and educational entities that evidence of testing and grades is objective and, therefore, should be weighted more heavily, while evidence of self-mitigating measures, informal accommodations, or recently provided accommodations or modifications is inherently subjective and should be afforded less consideration. Congress's discussion of the relevance of testing outcomes and grades clearly indicates that it did not consider them definitive evidence of the existence or non-existence of a disability. While tests and grades typically are numerical measures of performance, the capacity to quantify them does not make them inherently more valuable with respect to proving or disproving disability. To the contrary, Congress's incorporation of rules of construction emphasizing broad coverage of disabilities to the maximum extent permitted, its direction that such determinations should neither contemplate ameliorative mitigating measures nor demand extensive analysis, and its recognition of learned and adaptive modifications all support its openness for individuals with impairments to put forward a wide range of evidence to demonstrate their disabilities.

The Department believes that Congress made its intention clear that the ADA's protections should encompass people for whom the nature of their impairment requires an assessment that focuses on how they engage in major life activities, rather than the ultimate outcome of those activities. Beyond directly addressing this concern in the debate over the ADA Amendments Act, Congress's incorporation of the far-reaching rules of construction, its explicit rejection of the consideration of ameliorative mitigating measures - including “learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications,” 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(E)(i)(IV), such as those often employed by individuals with learning disabilities or ADHD - and its stated intention to “reinstat[e] a broad scope of protection to be available under the ADA,” Public Law 110-325, sec. 2(b)(1), all support the language initially proposed in these provisions. For these reasons, the Department determined that it will retain the language of these provisions as they were originally drafted.

Analysis of Condition, Manner, or Duration Not Always Required

As noted in the discussion above, the Department has added §§ 35.108(d)(3)(iv) and 36.105(d)(3)(iv) in the final rule to clarify that analysis of condition, manner, or duration will not always be necessary, particularly with respect to certain impairments that can easily be found to substantially limit a major life activity. This language is also found in the EEOC ADA title I regulation. See 29 CFR 1630(j)(4)(iv). As noted earlier, the inclusion of these provisions addresses several comments from organizations representing persons with disabilities. This language also responds to several commenters' concerns that the Department should clarify that, in some cases and particularly with respect to predictable assessments, no or only a very limited analysis of condition, manner, or duration is necessary.

At the same time, individuals seeking coverage under the first or second prong of the definition of “disability” should not be constrained from offering evidence needed to establish that their impairment is substantially limiting. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). Such evidence may comprise facts related to condition, manner, or duration. And, covered entities may defeat a showing of substantial limitation by refuting whatever evidence the individual seeking coverage has offered, or by offering evidence that shows that an impairment does not impose a substantial limitation on a major life activity. However, a showing of substantial limitation is not defeated by facts unrelated to condition, manner, or duration that are not pertinent to the substantial limitation of a major life activity that the individual has proffered.

Sections 35.108(d)(4) and 36.105(d)(4) - Examples of Mitigating Measures

The rules of construction set forth at §§ 35.108(d)(1)(viii) and 36.105(d)(1)(viii) of the final rule make clear that the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures shall not be considered when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. In the NPRM, proposed §§ 35.108(d)(4) and 36.105(d)(4) provided a non-inclusive list of mitigating measures, which includes medication, medical supplies, equipment, appliances, low-vision devices, prosthetics, hearing aids, cochlear implants and implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, oxygen therapy equipment, and assistive technology. In addition, the proposed regulation clarified that mitigating measures can include “learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications,” psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, or physical therapy, and “reasonable modifications” or auxiliary aids and services.

The phrase “learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications,” is intended to include strategies developed by an individual to lessen the impact of an impairment. The phrase “reasonable modifications” is intended to include informal or undocumented accommodations and modifications as well as those provided through a formal process.

The ADA as amended specifies one exception to the rule on mitigating measures, stating that the ameliorative effects of ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether a person has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and thereby is a person with a disability. 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(E)(ii). As discussed above, §§ 35.108(d)(4)(i) and 36.105(d)(4)(i) incorporate this exception by excluding ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses from the definition of “low-vision devices,” which are mitigating measures that may not be considered in determining whether an impairment is a substantial limitation.

The Department received a number of comments supporting the Department's language in these sections and its broad range of examples of what constitutes a mitigating measure. Commenters representing students with disabilities specifically supported the inclusion of “learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications,” noting that the section “appropriately supports and highlights that students [and individuals in other settings] may have developed self-imposed ways to support their disability in order to perform major life activities required of daily life and that such measures cannot be used to find that the person is not substantially limited.”

The Department notes that self-mitigating measures or undocumented modifications or accommodations for students who have impairments that substantially limit learning, reading, writing, speaking, or concentrating may include such measures as arranging to have multiple reminders for task completion; seeking help from others to provide reminders or to assist with the organization of tasks; selecting courses strategically (such as selecting courses that require papers instead of exams); devoting a far larger portion of the day, weekends, and holidays to study than students without disabilities; teaching oneself strategies to facilitate reading connected text or mnemonics to remember facts (including strategies such as highlighting and margin noting); being permitted extra time to complete tests; receiving modified homework assignments; or taking exams in a different format or in a less stressful or anxiety-provoking setting. Each of these mitigating measures, whether formal or informal, documented or undocumented, can improve the academic function of a student having to deal with a substantial limitation in a major life activity such as concentrating, reading, speaking, learning, or writing. However, when the determination of disability is made without considering the ameliorative effects of these measures, as required under the ADA as amended, these individuals still have a substantial limitation in major life activities and are covered by the ADA. See also discussion of §§ 35.108(d)(1) and 36.105(d)(1), above.

Some commenters argued that the Department's examples of mitigating measures inappropriately include normal learning strategies and asked that the Department withdraw or narrow its discussion of self-mitigating measures. The Department disagrees. Narrowing the discussion of self-mitigating measures to exclude normal or common strategies would not be consistent with the ADA Amendments Act. The Department construes learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications broadly to include strategies applied or utilized by an individual with a disability to lessen the effect of an impairment; whether the strategy applied is normal or common to students without disabilities is not relevant to whether an individual with a disability's application of the strategy lessens the effect of an impairment.

An additional commenter asked the Department to add language to the regulation and preamble addressing mitigating measures an individual with ADHD may employ. This commenter noted that “[a]n individual with ADHD may employ a wide variety of self-mitigating measures, such as exertion of extensive extra effort, use of multiple reminders, whether low tech or high tech, seeking a quiet or distraction free place or environment to do required activities.” The Department agrees with this commenter that these are examples of the type of self-mitigating measures used by individuals with ADHD, but believes that they fall within the range of mitigating measures already addressed by the regulatory language.

Another commenter asked the Department to add language to the regulation or preamble addressing surgical interventions in a similar fashion to the approach taken in the EEOC's title I preamble, 76 FR 16978, 16983 (Mar. 25, 2011). There, the EEOC noted that a surgical intervention may be an ameliorative mitigating measure that could result in the permanent elimination of an impairment, but it also indicated that confusion about how this example might apply recommended against its inclusion in the regulatory text. Therefore, the EEOC eliminated that example from the draft regulatory text and recommended that, “[d]eterminations about whether surgical interventions should be taken into consideration when assessing whether an individual has a disability are better assessed on a case-by-case basis.” The Department agrees with the EEOC and underscores that surgical interventions may constitute mitigating measures that should not be considered in determining whether an individual meets the definition of “disability.” The Department declines to make any changes to its proposed regulatory text for these sections of the final rule.

The ADA Amendments Act provides an “illustrative but non-comprehensive list of the types of mitigating measures that are not to be considered.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers) at 9; see also H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 20 (2008). The absence of any particular mitigating measure should not convey a negative implication as to whether the measure is a mitigating measure under the ADA. Id. This principle applies equally to the non-exhaustive list in §§ 35.108(d)(4) and 36.105(d)(4).

Sections 35.108(e) and 36.105(e) - Has a Record of Such an Impairment

The second prong of the definition of “disability” under the ADA provides that an individual with a record of an impairment that substantially limits or limited a major life activity is an individual with a disability. 42 U.S.C. 12102(1)(B).

Paragraph (3) of the definition of “disability” in the existing title II and title III regulations states that the phrase “has a record of such an impairment” means has a history of, or has been misclassified as having, a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. 28 CFR 35.104, 36.104. The NPRM proposed keeping the language in the title II and title III regulations (with minor editorial changes) but to renumber it as §§ 35.108(e)(1) and 36.105(e)(1). In addition, the NPRM proposed adding a new second paragraph stating that any individual's assertion of a record of impairment that substantially limits a major life activity should be broadly construed to the maximum extent permitted by the ADA and should not require extensive analysis. If an individual has a history of an impairment that substantially limited one or more major life activities when compared to most people in the general population or was misclassified as having had such an impairment, then that individual will satisfy the third prong of the definition of “disability.” The NPRM also proposed adding paragraph (3), which provides that “[a]n individual with a record of a substantially limiting impairment may be entitled to a reasonable modification if needed and related to the past disability.”

The Department received no comments objecting to its proposed language for these provisions and has retained it in the final rule. The Department received one comment requesting additional guidance on the meaning of these provisions. The Department notes that Congress intended this prong of the definition of “disability” to ensure that people are not discriminated against based on prior medical history. This prong is also intended to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against because they have been misclassified as an individual with a disability. For example, individuals misclassified as having learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities are protected from discrimination on the basis of that erroneous classification. See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 7-8 & n.14 (2008).

This prong of the definition is satisfied where evidence establishes that an individual has had a substantially limiting impairment. The impairment indicated in the record must be an impairment that would substantially limit one or more of the individual's major life activities. The terms “substantially limits” and “major life activity” under the second prong of the definition of “disability” are to be construed in accordance with the same principles applicable under the “actual disability” prong, as set forth in §§ 35.108(b) and 36.105(b).

There are many types of records that could potentially contain this information, including but not limited to, education, medical, or employment records. The Department notes that past history of an impairment need not be reflected in a specific document. Any evidence that an individual has a past history of an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity is all that is necessary to establish coverage under the second prong. An individual may have a “record of” a substantially limiting impairment - and thus establish coverage under the “record of” prong of the statute - even if a covered entity does not specifically know about the relevant record. For the covered entity to be liable for discrimination under the ADA, however, the individual with a “record of” a substantially limiting impairment must prove that the covered entity discriminated on the basis of the record of the disability.

Individuals who are covered under the “record of” prong may be covered under the first prong of the definition of “disability” as well. This is because the rules of construction in the ADA Amendments Act and the Department's regulations provide that an individual with an impairment that is episodic or in remission can be protected under the first prong if the impairment would be substantially limiting when active. See §§ 35.108(d)(1)(iv); 36.105(d)(1)(iv). Thus, an individual who has cancer that is currently in remission is an individual with a disability under the “actual disability” prong because he has an impairment that would substantially limit normal cell growth when active. He is also covered by the “record of” prong based on his history of having had an impairment that substantially limited normal cell growth.

Finally, these provisions of the regulations clarify that an individual with a record of a disability is entitled to a reasonable modification currently needed relating to the past substantially limiting impairment. In the legislative history, Congress stated that reasonable modifications were available to persons covered under the second prong of the definition. See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 22 (2008) (“This makes clear that the duty to accommodate . . . arises only when an individual establishes coverage under the first or second prong of the definition.”). For example, a high school student with an impairment that previously substantially limited, but no longer substantially limits, a major life activity may need permission to miss a class or have a schedule change as a reasonable modification that would permit him or her to attend follow-up or monitoring appointments from a health care provider.

Sections 35.108(f) and 36.105(f) - Is Regarded as Having Such an Impairment

The “regarded as having such an impairment” prong of the definition of “disability” was included in the ADA specifically to protect individuals who might not meet the first two prongs of the definition, but who were subject to adverse decisions by covered entities based upon unfounded concerns, mistaken beliefs, fears, myths, or prejudices about persons with disabilities. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). The rationale for the “regarded as” part of the definition of “disability” was articulated by the Supreme Court in the context of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in School Board of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273 (1987). In Arline, the Court noted that, although an individual may have an impairment that does not diminish his or her physical or mental capabilities, it could “nevertheless substantially limit that person's ability to work as a result of the negative reactions of others to the impairment.” Id. at 283. Thus, individuals seeking the protection of the ADA under the “regarded as” prong only had to show that a covered entity took some action prohibited by the statute because of an actual or perceived impairment. At the time of the Arline decision, there was no requirement that the individual demonstrate that he or she, in fact, had or was perceived to have an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8842 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). For example, if a daycare center refused to admit a child with burn scars because of the presence of the scars, then the daycare center regarded the child as an individual with a disability, regardless of whether the child's scars substantially limited a major life activity.

In Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471 (1999), the Supreme Court significantly narrowed the application of this prong, holding that individuals who asserted coverage under the “regarded as having such an impairment” prong had to establish either that the covered entity mistakenly believed that the individual had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity, or that the covered entity mistakenly believed that “an actual, nonlimiting impairment substantially limit[ed]” a major life activity, when in fact the impairment was not so limiting. Id. at 489. Congress expressly rejected this standard in the ADA Amendments Act by amending the ADA to clarify that it is sufficient for an individual to establish that the covered entity regarded him or her as having an impairment, regardless of whether the individual actually has the impairment or whether the impairment constitutes a disability under the Act. 42 U.S.C. 12102(3)(A). This amendment restores Congress's intent to allow individuals to establish coverage under the “regarded as” prong by showing that they were treated adversely because of an actual or perceived impairment without having to establish the covered entity's beliefs concerning the severity of the impairment. See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 18 (2008).

Thus, under the ADA as amended, it is not necessary, as it was prior to the ADA Amendments Act and following the Supreme Court's decision in Sutton, for an individual to demonstrate that a covered entity perceived him as substantially limited in the ability to perform a major life activity in order for the individual to establish that he or she is covered under the “regarded as” prong. Nor is it necessary to demonstrate that the impairment relied on by a covered entity is (in the case of an actual impairment) or would be (in the case of a perceived impairment) substantially limiting for an individual to be “regarded as having such an impairment.” In short, to be covered under the “regarded as” prong, an individual is not subject to any functional test. See 154 Cong. Rec. S8843 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers) (“The functional limitation imposed by an impairment is irrelevant to the third `regarded as' prong.”); H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 17 (2008) (“[T]he individual is not required to show that the perceived impairment limits performance of a major life activity.”) The concepts of “major life activities” and “substantial limitation” simply are not relevant in evaluating whether an individual is “regarded as having such an impairment.”

In the NPRM, the Department proposed §§ 35.108(f)(1) and 36.105(f)(1), which are intended to restore the meaning of the “regarded as” prong of the definition of “disability” by adding language that incorporates the amended statutory provision: “An individual is `regarded as having such an impairment' if the individual is subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment, whether or not that impairment substantially limits, or is perceived to substantially limit, a major life activity, except for an impairment that is both transitory and minor.”

The proposed provisions also incorporate the statutory definition of transitory impairment, stating that a “transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of six months or less.” The “transitory and minor” exception was not in the third prong in the original statutory definition of “disability.” Congress added this exception to address concerns raised by the business community that “absent this exception, the third prong of the definition would have covered individuals who are regarded as having common ailments like the cold or flu.” See H.R. Rep. No. 110-730, pt. 2, at 18 (2008). However, as an exception to the general rule for broad coverage under the “regarded as” prong, this limitation on coverage should be construed narrowly. Id. The ADA Amendments Act did not define “minor.”

In addition, proposed §§ 35.108(f)(2) and 36.105(f)(2) stated that any time a public entity or covered entity takes a prohibited action because of an individual's actual or perceived impairment, even if the entity asserts, or may or does ultimately establish, a defense to such action, that individual is “regarded as” having such an impairment. Commenters on these provisions recommended that the Department revise its language to clarify that the determination of whether an impairment is in fact “transitory and minor” is an objective determination and that a covered entity may not defeat “regarded as” coverage of an individual simply by demonstrating that it subjectively believed that the impairment is transitory and minor. In addition, a number of commenters cited the EEOC title I rule at 29 CFR 1630.15(f) and asked the Department to clarify that “the issue of whether an actual or perceived impairment is `transitory and minor' is an affirmative defense and not part of the plaintiff's burden of proof.” The Department agrees with these commenters and has revised paragraphs (1) and (2) of these sections for clarity, as shown in §§ 35.108(f)(2) and 36.105(f)(2) of the final rule.

The revised language makes clear that the relevant inquiry under these sections is whether the actual or perceived impairment that is the basis of the covered entity's action is objectively “transitory and minor,” not whether the covered entity claims it subjectively believed the impairment was transitory and minor. For example, a private school that expelled a student whom it believes has bipolar disorder cannot take advantage of this exception by asserting that it believed the student's impairment was transitory and minor, because bipolar disorder is not objectively transitory and minor. Similarly, a public swimming pool that refused to admit an individual with a skin rash, mistakenly believing the rash to be symptomatic of HIV, will have “regarded” the individual as having a disability. It is not a defense to coverage that the skin rash was objectively transitory and minor because the covered entity took the prohibited action based on a perceived impairment, HIV, that is not transitory and minor.

The revised regulatory text also makes clear that the “transitory and minor” exception to a “regarded as” claim is a defense to a claim of discrimination and not part of an individual's prima facie case. The Department reiterates that to fall within this exception, the actual or perceived impairment must be both transitory (less than six months in duration) and minor. For example, an individual with a minor back injury could be “regarded as” an individual with a disability if the back impairment lasted or was anticipated to last more than six months. The Department notes that the revised regulatory text is consistent with the EEOC rule which added the transitory and minor exception to its general affirmative defense provision in its title I ADA regulation at 29 CFR 1630.15(f). Finally, in the NPRM, the Department proposed §§ 35.108(f)(3) and 36.105(f)(3) which provided that an individual who is “regarded as having such an impairment” does not establish liability based on that alone. Instead, an individual can establish liability only when an individual proves that a private entity or covered entity discriminated on the basis of disability within the meaning of the ADA. This provision was intended to make it clear that in order to establish liability, an individual must establish coverage as a person with a disability, as well as establish that he or she had been subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA.

The Department received no comments on the language in these paragraphs. Upon consideration, in the final rule, the Department has decided to retain the regulatory text for §§ 35.108(f)(3) and 36.105(f)(3) except that the reference to “covered entity” in the title III regulatory text is changed to “public accommodation.”

Sections 35.108(g) and 36.105(g) - Exclusions

The NPRM did not propose changes to the text of the existing exclusions contained in paragraph (5) of the definition of “disability” in the title II and title III regulations, see 28 CFR 35.104, 36.104, which are based on 42 U.S.C. 12211(b), a statutory provision that was not modified by the ADA Amendments Act. The NPRM did propose to renumber these provisions, relocating them at §§ 35.108(g) and 36.105(g) of the Department's revised definition of “disability.” The Department received no comments on the proposed renumbering, which is retained in the final rule.

Sections 35.130(b)(7)(i) - General Prohibitions Against Discrimination and 36.302(g) - Modifications in Policies, Practices, or Procedures

The ADA Amendments Act revised the ADA to specify that a public entity under title II, and any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation under title III, “need not provide a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification to policies, practices, or procedures to an individual who meets the definition of disability” solely on the basis of being regarded as having an impairment. 42 U.S.C. 12201(h). In the NPRM, the Department proposed §§ 35.130(b)(7)(i) and 36.302(g) to reflect this concept, explaining that a public entity or covered entity “is not required to provide a reasonable modification to an individual who meets the definition of disability solely under the `regarded as' prong of the definition of disability.” These provisions clarify that the duty to provide reasonable modifications arises only when the individual establishes coverage under the first or second prong of the definition of “disability.” These provisions are not intended to diminish the existing obligations to provide reasonable modifications under title II and title III of the ADA.

The Department received no comments associated with these provisions and retains the NPRM language in the final rule except for replacing the words “covered entity” with “public accommodation” in § 36.302(g).

Sections 35.130(i) and 36.201(c) - Claims of No Disability

The ADA as amended provides that “[n]othing in this [Act] shall provide the basis for a claim by an individual without a disability that the individual was subject to discrimination because of the individual's lack of disability.” 42 U.S.C. 12201(g). In the NPRM the Department proposed adding §§ 35.130(i) and 36.201(c) to the title II and title III regulations, respectively, which incorporate similar language. These provisions clarify that persons without disabilities do not have an actionable claim under the ADA on the basis of not having a disability.

The Department received no comments associated with this issue and has retained these provisions in the final rule.

Effect of ADA Amendments Act on Academic Requirements in Postsecondary Education

The Department notes that the ADA Amendments Act revised the rules of construction in title V of the ADA by including a provision affirming that nothing in the Act changed the existing ADA requirement that covered entities provide reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures unless the entity can demonstrate that making such modifications, including academic requirements in postsecondary education, would fundamentally alter the nature of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations involved. See 42 U.S.C. 12201(f). Congress noted that the reference to academic requirements in postsecondary education was included “solely to provide assurances that the bill does not alter current law with regard to the obligations of academic institutions under the ADA, which we believe is already demonstrated in case law on this topic. Specifically, the reference to academic standards in post-secondary education is unrelated to the purpose of this legislation and should be given no meaning in interpreting the definition of disability.” 154 Cong. Rec. S8843 (daily ed. Sept. 16, 2008) (Statement of the Managers). Given that Congress did not intend there to be any change to the law in this area, the Department did not propose to make any changes to its regulatory requirements in response to this provision of the ADA Amendments Act.

[AG Order 3702-2016, 81 FR 53225, Aug. 11, 2016]