Bree Walker Interview

The ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination. Under other laws that prohibit employment discrimination, it usually is a simple matter to know whether an individual is covered because of his or her race, color, sex, national origin or age. But to know whether an individual is covered by the employment provisions of the ADA can be more complicated. It is first necessary to understand the Act's very specific definitions of "disability" and "qualified individual with a disability." Like other determinations under the ADA, deciding case-by case process, depending on the circumstances of the particular employment situation.
The ADA has a three-part defination of "disability." This definition, based on the definition under the Rehabilitation Act, reflects the specific types of discrimination experienced by people with disabilities. Accordingly, it is not the same as the definition of disability in other laws, that provide benefits for people with disabilities and disabled veterans.

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A record of such an impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.

The first part of this definition has three major subparts that further define who is and who is not protected by the ADA. A physical impairment is defined by the ADA as any physiological disorder, or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine."

A mental impairment is defined by the ADA a any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrom, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. Neither the statue nor EEOC regulations list all diseases or conditions, that make up "physical or mental impairments," becase it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive list of possible impairments.

A person's impairment is dermined withour regard to any medication or asistive device that s/he may use. For example, a person who has epilepsy and uses medication to control seizures, or a person who walks with an artificial leg would be considered to have an impairment, even if the medicine or prosthesis reduces the impact of that impairment.

An impairment under the ADA is a physiological or mental disorder; simple physical characteristics, therefore, such as eye or hair color, lefthandeness, or height or weight within a normal range, are not impairments. A physical condition or a predisposition to a certain disease would not be an impairment. Similarly, personality traits such as poor judgement, quick temper or irresponsible behavior, are not themselves impairments. Enviromental, cultural or economic disadvantages, suchas lack of education or a prison record also are not impairments. For example, a person who cannot read due to dyslexia is an individual with a disability because dyslexia, which is a learning disability, is an impairment. But a person who cannot read because she dropped out of school is not an idividual wiht a disability, because lack of education is not an impairment.

"Stress" and "depression" are conditions that may or may not be considered impairments, depending on whether these conditions resulted froma a documented physioloagical or mental disorder. A person suffering from general "stress" because of job or pesonal life pressures would not be considered to have an impairment. However, if this person is diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having an impairment that may be a disability.

A person who has a contagious disease has an impairment. For example, infection with the Human Immunideficeincy Virus (HIV) is an impairment. The Supreme Court ha ruled that an individual with tuberculosis which affected his respiratory system had an impairment. However, although a person who has a contagious disease may be coveresd by the ADA, an employer would not have to hire or retain a person whose contagious disease posed a direct threat to health or safety, if no reaonable accommodations could be reduce or eliminate this threat.
To be a disability covered by the ADA, an impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. These are activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty. Examples are walking, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing,learning, caring for oneself, and working. These are examples only. Other activities such as sitting, standing, lifting or reading are also major life activities.

An impairment is only a "disability": under the ADA if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. An individual must be unable to perform, or be significantly limited in the ability to perform an activity compared t an average person in the general population.

The regulation provide three factors to consider in determining wheter a person's impairment substantially limits a major life activity; It's nature and severity; how long it will last or is expected to last; it's impact or long term impact, or expected impact.

These factors must be considered because, generally, it is not the name of an impariment or a codition that determines whether a person is protected by the ADA, but rather the effect of an impariment or donditon on the life of a particalar person. Some impariments, such as blindness, deafness, HIV infection or AIDS, are by their nature substantially limiting, but may other impairments may be disabeling for some individuals but not for others, depending on the impact on their activities.




More stories from Bree Walker issue:

Bree Walker Interview

Wilderness Inquiry

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