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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

What exactly is a “disability” under the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) provides protection for “disabled individuals” who are currently employed or seeking employment. The ADA provides many remedies for individuals who may need a special accommodation in order to secure employment. If you are an individual currently working or seeking work and need an accommodation, under the ADA, your Employer may have to provide you with such an accommodation. If your Employer fails to provide you with an accommodation, you may be able to bring a discrimination lawsuit.

Overall, the ADA ensures equal opportunity in employment for disabled persons. The statute specifically provides that:

No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12112(a).

However, the key question is what constitutes a disability?

The ADA defines a “disability” as an individual (1) with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) with a record of such an impairment or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment. 42 U.S.C. §12102(1).

The most common examples of disabilities under the ADA include:

1. Back/Spinal Injury 2. Psychiatric/Mental Impairments 3. Neurological Impairments 4. Heart Impairments 5. Hearing Impairments

However, in the 21st century, there are certain conditions that are more common now then they were back when the ADA was drafted. People in today’s society are asking if their “conditions” fall under the protection of the ADA. While the ADA provides protecton for a wide range of disabilities and conditions, the ADA specifically excludes homosexuality, bisexuality, tranvestism, transsexualism, gambling, etc. The statute specifically states:

For purposes of the definition of “disability” in section 12102(2) of this title, homosexuality and bisexuality are not impairments and as such are not disabilities under this chapter. Under this chapter, the term “disability” shall not include (1) transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders; (2) compulsive gambling, kleptomania, or pyromania; or (3) psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.

Sec. 12211 (a)-(b). While pedophilia or kleptomania may be diagnosable in the medical field, it is NOT recognized as a disability under the ADA. Therefore, individuals with any of the above conditions will not receive the protections guaranteed under the ADA.

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