What Is the List of Disabilities Covered Under ADA?

The list of disabilities covered under ADA refers to all the disabilities for which an employee is protected from discrimination by employers. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a civil rights law, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities.

Understanding ADA

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that employees with disabilities are not excluded from taking advantage of job opportunities unless they are not qualified to do the job. This applies to all aspects of employment, such as

  • hiring
  • job application procedures
  • compensation
  • training
  • advancement
  • hiring and firing
  • benefits

Under the ADA, covered employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations for qualified people who have physical or mental limitations. The only time an employer may be exempt from this is if it can show that a reasonable accommodation would lead to undue hardship for the company's operations.

The ADA offers examples of undue hardship and reasonable accommodations. The ADA also prevents employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants who have mental and physical impairments that limit major life activities. Some examples of these life activities include

  • seeing
  • walking
  • communicating
  • sitting
  • reading

According to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, covered entities should interpret the ADA broadly to include as many disabilities as possible and protect as many people as possible.

Definition of Disability

Under most employment legislation, such as Age Discrimination in Employment Act or Title VII, it is fairly obvious whether a person is a part of a protected class. However, under the ADA, it is a bit more complicated to determine whether a person is part of a protected class.

The ADA has a three-pronged definition of disability. If any of the three prongs are satisfied, the individual counts as disabled. The definition of disability of the ADA is based on the Rehabilitation Act's definition of "handicap." A judgment under the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA is considered precedent for the other.

The ADA's first definition of disability states that a disabled person is someone who has a mental or physical impairment that prevents participation in major life activities. If an individual has a record or history of such an impairment, he is considered disabled. Finally, if the individual is regarded as having a mental or physical impairment, the individual is considered disabled under the ADA's first definition of disability.

The ADA defines a physical impairment as a physiological disorder or condition, anatomical loss, or cosmetic disfigurement that impacts one or more of these body systems

  • neurological
  • special-sense organs
  • musculoskeletal
  • digestive
  • cardiovascular
  • respiratory
  • reproductive
  • hemic and lymphatic
  • endocrine
  • skin
  • genitourinary

The ADA defines a mental impairment as any psychological or mental disorder, such as emotional or mental illness, mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, and learning disabilities. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ADA regulations do not offer a list of all the specific conditions that are considered impairments because it is difficult to be comprehensive. Also, it will be difficult to include the new disorders that may develop in the future.

The ADA did include examples of covered mental and physical impairments. Some of these impairments include

  • muscular dystrophy
  • orthopedic, speech, and hearing impairments
  • visual impairments
  • heart disease
  • epilepsy
  • cerebral palsy
  • mental retardation
  • drug addiction
  • HIV
  • specific learning disabilities
  • diabetes

Cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other serious impairments are not considered disabilities.

Under the ADA, an impairment needs to be a physiological or mental disorder. Depression, stress, and similar conditions are only sometimes considered impairments under the ADA. Whether depression and stress are considered impairments depends on if they result from a documented mental or physiological disorder or if they result from personal life or job pressures. The impairment must substantially limit at least one major life activity.

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