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Exists an inventory of conditions covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?


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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 virtually always 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. As worded in the current regulations, the term "impairment" does not include the following:

    • Homosexuality and bisexuality.
    • Compulsive gambling.
    • Kleptomania.
    • Pyromania.
    • Exhibitionism.
    • Pedophilia.
    • Voyeurism.
    • 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.
    • Transvestism.
    • Transexualism.
    • Gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.

    The last three bullets above, while still listed in the regulations, may come under review in light of the June 2020 Supreme Court ruling in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The high court found that sex discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act includes protection for LGBTQ+ individuals, which could make these three exceptions no longer applicable.

    Even while the text of the regulation remains unchanged,  the resulting conditions from gender dysphoria (formerly referred to as "Gender Identity Disorder") could still be covered under the ADA, such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, substance abuse and others– all of which may impact a person's ability to do their job without accommodation.

    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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