Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide a list of conditions that are covered under the act?

November 5, 2019
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No, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include an exclusive list of conditions considered to be a disability under the act. 

An individual with a disability is defined in the act as someone who has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment." The regulations define "physical or mental impairment" as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine. The regulations also cover any mental or psychological disorder, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities.

Although there is not an exhaustive list of disabilities under the ADA, the regulations identify medical conditions that would easily be considered a disability within the meaning of the law. These medical conditions are:

  • Deafness.
  • Blindness.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cancer.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Intellectual disabilities.
  • Partial or completely missing limbs.
  • Mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheel chair.
  • Autism.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • HIV infection.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Muscular dystrophy.
  • Major depressive disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Schizophrenia.

The ADA does contain guidance regarding specific conditions that are not considered to be impairments under the act and that are excluded from coverage. The term "impairment" does not include the following:

  • Homosexuality and bisexuality.
  • Compulsive gambling.
  • Kleptomania.
  • Pyromania.
  • Transvestism.
  • Transexualism.
  • Exhibitionism.
  • Pedophilia.
  • Voyeurism.
  • Gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.
  • Sexual behavior disorders.
  • Physical characteristics (eye color, hair color, left-handedness, etc.).
  • Common personality traits.
  • Psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance indicates employers should not be spending a lot of time analyzing whether employees meet the definition of disability under the ADA as amended. Rather, the focus should be on the accommodation requested, whether it is reasonable, whether it can be provided without an undue hardship, and whether other accommodations can be considered.

For more information, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)

Disability discrimination is also addressed in the book, "The SHRM Essential Guide to Employment Law".



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