ADA Amendments Act Lawsuit – Kirk Jenkins v. The National Board of Medical Examiners (Day in Washington Policy Podcast #35)

Day in Washington Disability Policy PodcastEpisode Summary: Last year, one of the most contentious and the most uplifting events was the passage of the ADA Amendments Act.  On September 25, 2008, the legislation was signed into law.  In 2009, we are seeing the first applications of this new law in the American court system.  Kirk Jenkins, was denied an accommodation for the Medical Licensing Exam by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Kirk filed a lawsuit, but was denied relief because the circuit court didn’t consider him "disabled enough" under the ADA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit decided to apply the ADA Amendments Act retroactively, allowing Kirk to move forward with his suit.

Audio File: Day in Washington Podcast #35 (Kirk Jenkins vs. National Board of Medical Examiers) – Implementation of the ADA Amendment Act

Text File:  See Comments


Kirk Jenkins v. National Board of Medical Examiners Lawsuit

President Signs the ADA Amendments Act into law (September 25, 2009)

ADA Amendments Act House Passage History in the Making (September 17, 2008)

ADA Restoration Efforts Senate Passage of the ADA Amendments Act   (September 12, 2008)

ADA Restoration Policy Update – What is Really Going On  (August 29, 2008)

From the ADA Restoration Act to the ADA Amendments Act   (July 1, 2008)

ADA Restoration Act Video Testimony – Carey McClure  (January 29, 2008)

Day in Washington Podcast #5 – ADA Restoration – An Analysis

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities ADA Restoration Page  – Includes Written Testimony of Additional Supporters

ADA Restoration Archive

3 comments for “ADA Amendments Act Lawsuit – Kirk Jenkins v. The National Board of Medical Examiners (Day in Washington Policy Podcast #35)

  1. admin
    March 3, 2009 at 5:09 am

    Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast ADA Amendments Act in Lawsuit
    (March 3, 2009)


    Hello and welcome to a Day In Washington. I'm your host, Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed.


    One of my most popular series of podcasts over the last year has been with regard to the ADA Amendments Act. As you know this legislation addressed the fact that as a result of court decisions individuals with certain health conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, HIV, psychiatric diagnoses and other conditions who successfully manage their disabilities with medication, prosthetics, hearing aids, or other disease management strategies were routinely dismissed as not disabled enough to be covered by the ADA.

    Now usually, this podcast focuses on disability policy, legislation and regulations, but today, I want to indulge a little and discuss disability law.

    Kirk Jenkins is a third-year medical student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He was diagnosed with a reading disorder at a young age and has had accommodations on examinations all through his education. So following along with that, he asked for additional time on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (€œUSMLE) as an ADA accommodation for his diagnosed reading disorder. The National Board of Medical Examiners said No. So Mr. Jenkins filed a lawsuit under the ADA.

    As I mentioned earlier, the ADA Amendments Act was crafted to addresses problems with the court system and how it had been interpreting the ADA. Kirk Jenkins' case is exactly why disability advocates fought so hard for the legislation. Relying on the older Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, law case, the district court found that Kirk did not qualify as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    The court had pressed Kirk, pushing him to demonstrate how his reading difficulties limited his ability to perform tasks central to most people's daily lives. The court focused on such activities as reading menus and newspapers€”all things which he COULD do, although slowly. The court even said, and let me quote directly here, that

    €œ[t]here is ample evidence that Jenkins processes written words slowly, and that his condition prevents him from succeeding where success is measured by one's ability to read under time pressure. But Jenkins' inability to identify
    meaningful tasks central to most people's daily lives that he is precluded from performing due to his condition must be fatal to his claim of disability under the ADA.

    So basically, they were saying, €˜Yes, he has a disability that is going to prevent him from becoming a doctor without an accommodation, but it isn't THAT bad, he isn't really substantially limited, so he isn't REALLY disabled after all.

    But the story doesn't end there. Kirk Jenkins didn't give up. He took his case to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The key is that the entire lawsuit would be decided on whether Kirk Jenkins was disabled because he had substantial limitation. In the ADA Amendments Act, Congress made clear that it intended for the ADA to give broad protection to persons with disabilities and that in the past, courts had incorrectly found in individual cases that people with a range of substantially limiting impairments were not people with disabilities.

    The Appeals Court, acknowledged that the ADA Amendments Act rejects the way the courts had used the older Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams lawsuit's strict standard to decide if someone had a disability under the ADA, and then the Appeals court decided that for this lawsuit the newer ADA Amendments Act should be used.

    Although that doesn't sound like a big deal, it is. What the court did was apply this NEW legislation on a lawsuit that happened BEFORE the legislation ever passed. Applying law retroactively is something that is rarely done. Think about it, as an example, lets say, all January you would sing while brushing your teeth, and then in February Congress passed a law making it illegal to sing while brushing your teeth, and then the police came to arrest you for your January singing. Doesn't quite make sense does it?

    The Appeals court explains it by saying that rather than seeking damages for some past act of discrimination by the National Board of Medical Examiners, what Kirk Jenkins was doing was seeking the right to receive an accommodation on a test; a test that will occur in the future. Because Kirk Jenkins was seeking future relief, and no injustice would result from applying the amended law, the appeals court went ahead and applied the ADA Amendments Act.

    I have to admit, it is really good to work on crafting a piece of legislation, engage in collaborative efforts to get it passed and then to see how it can really make a difference. Whether Kirk Jenkins gets to be a doctor or not is up to him, however, it is because of all the policymakers, disability advocates, and even the business supporters who worked on getting the ADA Amendments Act passed that he will get the chance to try. Good luck, Kirk. We're rooting for you.


    This has been Day Al-Mohamed with your Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast, hoping that you stay well and stay informed. For more information about this and other disability policy issues please visit: or call 206-888-6009.

  2. Clint Stevens
    May 31, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    So, what happens if a police officer tells a disabled person over and over and over again that “he doesn’t care about your disabilities,” “doesn’t want to hear about your disabilities,” “that your disabilities don’t matter,” etc., even though you are begging and pleading and the police officer (in San Antonio in my case) and as a result gives you a chance to move immediately out of hotel where you have stayed 5 months on the 3rd floor without elevators but you cannot do it because you have severe spinal and kidney problems for which you are undergoing treatment plus numerous mental illnesses, and the choice is to move out immediately (which is not possible) or be arrested? I got arrested! And my phone logs will prove that I called for help since the officer would not listen, plus there were witnesses to boot! Can I get any feedback that makes sense? And now I have to go up for trial while being on 6 psych meds and a painkiller and an anti-nausea med. This is the United States, or the United Fascist Kingdom of Texas?

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