Office of the General Counsel

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines

Qualified Individual with a Disability

Discrimination is prohibited against qualified persons with physical or mental impairments that substantially affect major life activities, those with records of such impairments, and those who are regarded as so impaired.

Physical or mental impairment is (a) a physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss such as epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, or substantial hearing or vision impairment or (b) a mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities. Examples of conditions that would not be disabilities are short-term, non-chronic conditions such as a broken leg, a sprain or the flu.

Major life activities include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. The existence of an impairment must be determined with reference to mitigating measures such as medicines or prosthetic devices. The effects of these mitigating measures, both positive and negative, must be taken into account when judging whether the individual is substantially limited in a major life activity.

Substantially limits means a significant restriction of the duration, manner or condition under which an individual can perform a major life activity exists when compared to the average person's ability to perform that same major life activity. Temporary impairments that take significantly longer than normal to heal, long-term impairments, or potentially long-term impairments of indefinite duration may be disabilities if they are severe. Evaluate whether the impairment substantially limits any of the major life activities of the person in question, not whether the impairment is substantially limiting in general.

When addressing the major life activity of performing manual tasks, the central inquiry must be whether the claimant is unable to perform the variety of tasks central to most people's daily lives, not whether the claimant is unable to perform the tasks associated with her specific job.*

Substantially limited with respect to working requires careful consideration. An individual is not substantially limited in working just because he or she is unable to perform a particular job for one employer. Consideration must be given to the geographical area to which the individual has reasonable access, the scope and variety of jobs that utilize similar training and skills in that area from which the individual is also disqualified, and the scope and variety of jobs in that geographical area utilizing different skills and training and for which the individual is also disqualified.

Record of such an impairment means has a history of, or has been classified as having, a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Individuals who have been misclassified by a school or hospital as having mental retardation or a substantially limiting learning disability would be covered by this part of the definition of disability.

Is regarded as having an impairment means (a) has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but that is treated by the university as constituting such a limitation; (b) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such impairment; or (c) has none of the impairments defined above but is treated by the university as having such an impairment. For example, an applicant rejected for a job on the basis of a back x-ray that reveals some anomaly, even though that person has no back impairment, would fall under this category.

Qualified student with a disability means an individual who, with reasonable modifications (if necessary) to rules, policies or practices, the removal of barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of the services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a school.

Qualified employee with a disability means an individual who, with reasonable accommodation if necessary, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.

Alcohol and substance abuse are not protected by the ADA. A drug user who is in a supervised rehabilitation program, or has completed such a program successfully is protected by the law against discrimination. Addiction to alcohol is considered a disability. Current alcoholics (even if they are still drinking), recovering alcoholics, relapsed alcoholics, individuals with a history of alcoholism, and individuals wrongly regarded as alcoholic are protected by the ADA if they are qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. An alcoholic whose use of alcohol impairs performance on the job is not protected, although reasonable accommodations such as a leave of absence to seek treatment may be required. The University has the right to require adherence to its substance abuse policies. The University Statement on Alcohol and Drugs applies to all students and employees regardless of the presence or absence of a disability.

Source: 42 U.S.C. § 12,102(2) and 29 U.S.C. § 706(8)(B); 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 and 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2; EEOC Compliance Manual

Section 902 (3/95); and Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 119 S. Ct. 2139 (1999).

*Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. v. Williams, No. 00-1089 534 U.S. 184 (2002)

Last updated: 10-21-02 (added language from Toyota case).

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Last Modified: 10/31/06 at 12:18:17 PM