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NCD assesses, advises on impact of Supreme Court Cummings decision

Thursday, January 19, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       

January 19, 2023

WASHINGTON—Today the National Council on Disability releases a policy brief on a legal decision impacting people experiencing disability-based discrimination.

Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller PLLC: Implications and Avenues for Reform examines the U.S. Supreme Court decision of April 28, 2022. In that case, justices held that a plaintiff bringing suit to enforce the antidiscrimination provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cannot recover damages for emotional distress resulting from intentional disability-based discrimination.

“With the Cummings decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled back the clock 50 years to an era when it was permissible to subject the ‘handicapped’ to separate and unequal treatment without repercussion,” said NCD Chairman Andrés Gallegos. “Section 504 opened the courts to aggrieved disabled people who with the protection of that newly-amended federal legislation – for which the community fiercely fought to attain since we were left behind with the passage of the Civil Rights Act nine years prior -  could recover monetary damages for emotional distress that inarguably accompanies blatant acts of discrimination.”

NCD’s policy brief analyzes the Supreme Court’s decision, discusses the challenge of securing injunctive relief when emotional distress damages are not available; describes the impacts of Cummings on people with disabilities, including immediate impacts already experienced; and lists the availability of emotional distress damages under state laws.

The policy brief concludes by recommending a legislative fix to the Supreme Court decision.

NCD is an independent, nonpartisan federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy. The report is available at



An official website of the National Council on Disability