Health On the Hill

Biden Announces Plan to Protect “Long Covid” Patients Under Federal Disability Law on 31st Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

On Monday, President Joe Biden honored the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by announcing a new initiative to qualify “long Covid” symptoms as disability and grant Americans with “long Covid” protections under the ADA.

People who suffer from “long Covid” experience serious and ongoing health issues that originated from a previous Covid-19 infection.

“Many Americans seemingly recovered from the virus still face lingering challenges like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue,” Biden said. “These conditions can sometimes rise to the level of disability. So we’re bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long covid, who have a disability, have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law, which includes accommodations and services.”

President Biden made these remarks in the Rose Garden during the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The historic civil rights act bans discrimination against people with disabilities and mandates accessibility in public places, such as workplaces, schools, and public transportation.

Biden had been a co-sponsor of the ADA when it was first introduced in Congress. In 1990, Former President George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law.

Although the Biden administration’s guidance regarding “long Covid” patients does not automatically include “long Covid” as a disability, it does allow a person suffering from the condition to undergo an “individualized assessment” to ascertain if their symptoms “substantially limits a major life activity” and can be considered a disability.

“We are glad that the White House recognizes that many COVID long haulers will not be part of the disability community, and therefore are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy for the Arc, a disability rights organization, told Bloomberg Law.

“The ADA gives all Americans the opportunity to determine their own future,” said Vice President Kamala Harris at the Rose Garden ceremony. “Self-determination, which I believe the government must facilitate, that is the impact of the ADA and after all, the promise of America.”

“For our nation, the ADA is more than a law,” Biden said.

“It’s a testament to our character as a people, our character as Americans. It’s a triumph of American values. But of course, this law didn’t bring an end to the work we need to do today.” 

Sources: Washington Post 7/26/21; New York Times 7/26/21; The Hill 7/26/21; Department of Health and Human Services 7/26/21; Bloomberg Law 7/26/21

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