What types of workplace disabilities does the ADA cover?

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2023 | Disability Discrimination |

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aims to guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else in many areas of life. In particular, the law protects people with disabilities in California workplaces.

Disability defined

To avoid disability discrimination, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 encourages covered entities to interpret disability guidelines broadly to protect as many individuals as possible. However, the ADA does apply specific guidelines to define disability in terms of gaining ADA protection. If any one of the three points below is satisfied, the person fits the ADA’s disability criteria. A disabled individual should meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • A mental or physical impairment that significantly limits at least one significant life activity
  • A perception by others as having an impairment, such as a blind individual using a white cane, or
  • A record or history of an impairment, such as cancer in remission

Physical impairments

The ADA defines physical impairments as body systems affected by an anatomical loss, physiological condition or disorder or cosmetic disfigurement. Impairments that fall under these categories include muscular dystrophy, hearing or speech impairments, epilepsy, drug addiction, diabetes and many others.

The ADA does not provide an all-inclusive list, but affected body systems include:

  • Neurological
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Digestive
  • Endocrine
  • Skin
  • Cardiovascular
  • Special-sense organs

Mental impairments

The ADA defines mental impairment as any mental or psychological disorder; the regulations do not provide an all-inclusive list of impairments. It is challenging to compile an all-inclusive list, and keeping flexible guidelines allows for the inclusion of new disorders that may come up in the future. The following are some of the covered mental impairment categories:

  • Mental retardation
  • Emotional or mental illness
  • Organic brain syndrome
  • Learning disabilities

Impairments not recognized by the ADA

Not all serious impairments are considered disabilities by the ADA. It typically does not consider temporary ailments as disabilities, such as a broken leg that heals within a few months. However, if the broken leg did not heal properly and the individual developed a permanent impairment that significantly restricted at least one significant life activity, the individual would meet the ADA’s criteria for disability.

Other temporary conditions the ADA does not consider disabilities include:

  • Sprains or broken limbs that heal normally
  • Short bouts of depression or irritability
  • Gender disorders
  • Height, weight, age, hair or eye color
  • Stress not linked to an underlying mental impairment

Each individual should have a specific assessment of their condition. Complications from non-covered conditions may result in ADA eligibility.