September 01, 2012

Concepts Underlying the ADA and Key Definitions (Part 2)

William D. Goren

From Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act, 3rd edition, Chapter 1

Editor's Note: Because we believe that this recently updated chapter of a forthcoming book could be very important to you, we have opted to include the entire first chapter in a two-part format. You can find Part 1 of Chapter 1 in the August issue.

  • Learn how to more fully understand the Americans with Disabilities Act

The second definition of disability under the ADA includes a person who has a record of an impairment regardless of whether he or she is currently substantially limited in a major life activity.1 This definition commonly applies to people who have records of learning disabilities. Many students are diagnosed with learning disabilities very early in their education. Some outgrow those disabilities (some studies show that 80 percent of children with Attention Deficit Disorder outgrow it), and others learn to compensate for their learning disabilities without accommodations. Those persons will still be protected under the ADA and should not be discriminated against because of a documented learning disability.2 The definition of discrimination is met if a record relied on by the employer indicates that the person either has or had a substantially limiting impairment.3 The information could be found in medical records, education records, and personnel records, although with respect to personnel records, the ADA, due to a requirement that medical information not be contained in a person’s personnel records, has lessened the likelihood of such information appearing there.

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