Individuals & Advocates

Individuals with disabilities have diverse needs and questions in areas such as employment; using state/local government programs whether voting, obtaining a  marriage licensing, birth and death certificates; visiting local community business such as stores, theaters, and medical facilities.  Feel free to look through the topic specific FAQs to find answers to your questions. Please call us at 1-800-949-4232 if you cannot find the answer to your question.

Individuals often call us saying, "I have diabetes, am I a person with a disability?"  We answer, "It's complicated and it depends". Under the new ADA Amendments Act, a person with diabetes is considered a person with a disability because diabetes is a function of the endocrine system. Bodily functions, such as the endocrine system are now considered 'major life activities' such as:  learning ,working and breathing.

Definition of Disability under the ADA:

  1. A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
  2. A record or history of having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
  3. A person is 'regarded as' having a disability.

A person must meet only one of the three above to be considered a person with a disability under the ADA.

Call us if you have a question.

Below are sample ADA questions from individuals and advocates.

Question: 

I have diabetes. Is this a disability under the ADA?

Answer: 

Although the ADA does not include a list of diseases, diabetes is generally considered to be a disability. Diabetes affects the major bodily function of the endocrine system.  The ADA definition of disability looks at an impairment and how it affects a person in comparison to most people in the general population.

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Individuals & Advocates Frequently Asked Questions

  • Actually, what you might have heard called the “new ADA” is really called The ADA Amendments Act – or the ADAAA. After the ADA was originally passed in 1990, cases started being filed and ending up in courts. Some were appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings by the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, began to narrow the definition of disability. Whether a person had a disability in order to sue became the focus of most disputes under the ADA. Congress never intended for it to be that way. The focus of the ADA was supposed to be on access and accommodation, not on whether the person really had a disability. Congress had not foreseen the ways in which the courts would narrowly interpret, and ultimately change, the definition.

    So the ADAAA was passed in 2008 and essentially overturned those Supreme Court cases that narrowed the definition of disability. Congress made clear that the definition must be “construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals” with disabilities. So rather than this being a “new ADA,” it really is just going back to the way Congress meant the ADA to be when it was first written and passed in 1990.

  • It is important to remember that in the context of the ADA, “disability” is a legal term rather than a medical one. Because it has a legal definition, the ADA’s definition of disability is different from how disability is defined under some other laws.

    The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.

  • Major life activities are those functions that are important to most people’s daily lives. Examples of major life activities are breathing, walking, talking, hearing, seeing, sleeping, caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, and working. Major life activities also include major bodily functions such as immune system functions, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

  • Yes, the ADA definition of disability includes mental, as well as physical, impairments.

  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

  • Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under Titles II and III of the ADA. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks directly related to the person’s disability.  A service animal is NOT a pet.

    Examples include:

    • guiding a person who is blind
    • alerting a person who is deaf when a sound occurs
    • pulling a wheelchair
    • alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
    • alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
    • providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability
    • helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
    • providing a safety check or a room search for a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    An animal that provides only emotional support, crime prevention, comfort or companionship is NOT considered to be a service animal because it is not trained to perform specific tasks associated with a person’s disability.

     

  • Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires a business to modify their "no pets" policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean the business must abandon their "no pets" policy altogether but simply that they must make an exception to their general rule for service animals.

  • The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.  If a service animal’s presence compromises safety or is disruptive to the purpose of the business, they can be excluded from a specific facility such as a surgery or intensive care unit in a hospital in which a sterile field is required.

  • Yes, you can be asked about your service animal.  To determine if an animal is a service animal, you may be asked two questions:  

    Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

    What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? 

    You may not be asked these questions if the need for the service animal is obvious. Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair. You also may not be:

    asked about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability 

    required proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal

    required the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag

    asked that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work

     

    Under the ADA, it is the training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals.  Some service animals are professionally trained; others are trained by their owners.  However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

    Service animals in-training are not specifically addressed in the ADA.  However, some state laws may afford service animals in-training the same protections as service animals that have completed their training.

  • An OPDMD is any mobility device powered by batteries, fuel, or other engines that is used by individuals with mobility disabilities for the purpose of locomotion, whether or not it was designed primarily for use by individuals with mobility disabilities. OPDMDs may include golf carts, electronic personal assistance mobility devices, such as the Segway® Personal Transporter (PT), or any mobility device that is not a wheelchair, which is designed to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes. Covered entities must make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, or procedures to permit individuals with mobility disabilities to use OPDMDs unless the entity can demonstrate that the class of OPDMDs cannot be operated in accordance with legitimate safety requirements adopted by the entity.

  • Discrimination by air carriers in areas other than employment is not covered by the ADA but rather by the Air Carrier Access Act.

  • The ADA does not cover strictly residential private apartments and homes. If, however, a place of public accommodation, such as a doctor's office or day care center, is located in a private residence, those portions of the residence used for that purpose are subject to the ADA's requirements.