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Americans With Disabilities Act

July 28, 2022

By Thomas McCutcheon

When dealing with the ADA, it is important to understand the concepts behind it and why the law was enacted. One reason it was enacted was the extreme cost to the federal government of supporting people with disabilities who could be productive members of the work force.

The ADA was not intended to be an affirmative action statute. Instead, its purpose is to enable people with disabilities to be placed at the same “starting line” as those who are nondisabled.

In the context of using governmental programs and places of public accommodations, getting a person with a disability to the same starting line gives them the opportunity to take advantage of the same services, activities, and businesses everyone else uses.

Because the ADA deals with discrimination against persons with disabilities, perhaps the key definition is that of the word disability. When people think of disabilities, they generally think of persons in wheelchairs or with severe vision impairments. However, the definition of disability under the ADA is far broader. A person has a disability under the ADA if he or she:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of life’s major activities;
  • Has a record of such an impairment regardless of whether he or she currently is substantially limited in a major life activity; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

With respect to substantial limitation, the ADAAA also has a couple of other things to say. First, the ADAAA says that to show a substantial limitation, a person does not need to show that an impairment impacts more than one major life activity. Second, an impairment that is episodic or in remission is still considered a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. This “episodic . . .” language is very significant for people with certain kinds of disabilities. For example, multiple sclerosis can flare up and cause real problems for the sufferer, while at times it may be quite manageable. Other disabilities may work that way as well.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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