Advocates for the disabled achieved their greatest triumph in 1990 with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But for the first time, many are coming to the reluctant conclusion that the law has been limited so drastically by a series of recent Supreme Court decisions that it ought to be rewritten. In the latest case, Toyota v. Williams, the court further narrowed the definition of who is disabled. Being unable to do your job isn't enough, the court said; you must also have significant trouble with daily activities like brushing your teeth. This could eliminate many people with disabilities such as carpal-tunnel syndrome.
Disabled-rights advocates have long been reluctant to reopen the landmark law, knowing that to do so would subject it to renewed attack by employers. But the Toyota case "should be a wake-up call to Congress," said Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor who worked for the A.D.A.'s passage, because many workers whom Congress intended to cover can't fit into the shrinking space the court has now created: they must prove they are disabled, in the court's eyes, but also show they are qualified to hold a job with reasonable accommodation. Business cheered last week's decision but was already doing well under the law. Last year employers won 96.4% of A.D.A. court decisions, according to the American Bar Association.
--By Viveca Novak