Who is Protected from Discrimination?
The ADA and Section 504 protect qualified individuals with disabilities. Under the law, individuals with disabilities are defined as persons with a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. People who have a history of, or who are regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, are also covered.
Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, and learning. Major life activities also include the operation of major bodily functions such as the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive system, etc. Some examples of impairments which may substantially limit major life activities, even with the help of medication or aids/devices, are: AIDS, alcoholism, blindness or visual impairment, cancer, deafness or hearing impairment, diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.
In addition to meeting the above definition, for purposes of receiving services, education or training, qualified individuals with disabilities are persons who meet normal and essential eligibility requirements.
For purposes of employment, qualified individuals with disabilities are persons who, with reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job for which they have applied or have been hired to perform. Reasonable accommodation means an employer is required to take reasonable steps to accommodate a disability unless it would cause the employer undue hardship.