Passed by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was intended to ensure that people living with disabilities have access to all of the same opportunities as those without disabilities. The ADA extended coverage provided by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to employees and participants in federal agencies and federally-funded programs by applying its requirements to the private sector as well as to state entities. The ADA defines disability as "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." As a result of the ADA being enacted, thousands of people have benefited not only from its prohibitions on discrimination in employment, transportation, and public accommodations, but also from its requirements that facilities and public spaces be made more accessible to people with physical disabilities. In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first decision addressing the ADA as it relates to HIV infection as a disability (see Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624 (1998)). Since then, the Court has interpreted the language of the ADA in ways that have severely limited its scope of coverage (see Sutton v. United Airlines, 527 U.S. 471 (1999) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002)). In response, Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act, which will reinstate some of the original intent of the ADA and specifically reject the Supreme Court's reasoning in Sutton and Toyota, while seeking to reaffirm the court's reasoning in School Board of Nassau County v. Arline (480 U.S. 273 (1987)), which broadly interpreted the definition of disability in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The Center for HIV Law and Policy challenges barriers to the rights and health of people affected by HIV through legal advocacy, high-impact policy initiatives, and creation of cross-issue partnerships, networks and resources. We support movement building that amplifies the power of individuals and communities to mobilize for change that is rooted in racial, gender and economic justice.