Defining Disability and the ADA

Understand the language, the law, and your rights as a person with a disability.

NC Department of Health and Human Services


What is a disability?

Disability is not only diverse, it is part of the human experience and it affects all individuals at some point in their lives, either directly or through a family member or close friend. If you have, or think you have, a disability, it will be important to learn more about the law and your rights.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Amendments Act (ADAAA) provide a specific legal definition of disability:
(A) a physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning;
(B) a record of such an impairment, such as an illness that is in remission; or
(C) being regarded as having such an impairment, even if it is not present.

What is disability discrimination?
Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats a qualified individual with a disability unfavorably because she or he has a disability. Not everyone with a medical condition is protected by the law. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined above.

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