Disability Defined

The World Health Organization defines Disabilities as follows:

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

An individual may also qualify as disabled if he/she has had an impairment in the past or is seen as disabled based on a personal or group standard or norm. Such impairments may include physical, sensory, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Mental disorders (also known as psychiatric or psychosocial disability) and various types of chronic disease may also be considered qualifying disabilities.

A disability may occur during a person’s lifetime or may be present from birth. A physical impairment is any disability which limits the physical function of limbs or fine or gross motor ability.

The ADA protects three categories of individuals:

  1. Individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one ore more major life activity.
  2. Individuals who have a record of physical or mental impairment.
  3. Individuals who are regarded as having an impairment, whether they have an impairment or not?

The ADA does not include a list of covered disabilities under the law. This makes the act both flexible; a living, breathing, ever changing document to fit and expand medical and social changes and developement.

The definition of disability does not include simple physical characteristics, common personality traits, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages. The ADA does specifically exclude coverage for individuals who currently use illegal drugs, certain sexual disorders and preferences, and compulsive gambling, kleptomania, and pyromania.

For more information, read Who is Protected by the ADA? Or visit any one of these ADA resources:

  1. ADA Document Portal
  2. U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

Disclaimer: The above sources are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement. The Disability Support Services program and Gulf Coast Community College tries its best to provide you with resources that are accurate, however, we do not take responsibility or exercise control of the organizations presented nor vouch for the accuracy of the contents of the destination link. Accessibilty for these external websites cannot be guarenteed.

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