Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA]

CCMC Definitions Related to ADA

Disability: 1) A physical or neurological deviation in an individual makeup. It may refer to a physical, mental or sensory condition. A disability may or may not be a handicap to an individual, depending on one’s adjustment to it. 2) Diminished function, based on the anatomic, physiological or mental impairment that has reduced the individual’s activity or presumed ability to engage in any substantial gainful activity. 3) Inability or limitation in performing tasks, activities, and roles in the manner or within the range considered normal for a person of the same age, gender, culture and education. Can also refer to any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being

Handicap: The functional disadvantage and limitation of potentials based on a physical or mental impairment or disability that substantially limits or prevents the fulfillment of one or more major life activities, otherwise considered normal for that individual based on age, sex, and social and cultural factors, such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, etc. Handicap is a classification of role reduction resulting from circumstances that place an impaired or disabled person at a disadvantage compared to other persons.

Developmental Disability: Any mental and/or physical disability that has an onset before age 22 and may continue indefinitely. It can limit major life activities. Individuals with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy (and other seizure disorders), sensory impairments, congenital disabilities, traumatic brain injury, or conditions caused by disease (e.g., polio and muscular dystrophy) may be considered developmentally disabled

Disability Case Management: A process of managing occupational and nonoccupational diseases with the aim of returning the disabled employee to a productive work schedule and employment.

Total Disability: An illness or injury that prevents an insured person from continuously performing every duty pertaining to his/her occupation or engaging in any other type of work.

Overview of ADA

The ADA defines an individual with a disability as a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, (2) has a record or history of a substantially limiting impairment, or (3) is regarded or perceived by an employer as having a substantially limiting impairment.

A case by case assessment is done to determine if impairment is protected under ADA. The individual is protected…not the disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.Employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities by Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In general, the employment provisions of the ADA require:

  • equal opportunity in selecting, testing, and hiring qualified applicants with disabilities;
  • job accommodation for applicants and workers with disabilities when such accommodations would not impose “undue hardship;” and
  • equal opportunity in promotion and benefits.

An applicant with a disability, like all other applicants, must be able to meet the employer’s requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses. For example, if the job requirements state an applicant must have a collage degree, and the applicant only has a high school diploma, that applicant does not meet the employer’s requirements. In addition, an applicant with a disability must be able to perform the “essential functions” of the job the fundamental duties either on her own or with the help of “reasonable accommodation.” 

Reasonable Accomidations

A job accommodation is a reasonable adjustment to a job or work environment that makes it possible for an individual with a disability to perform job duties. Determining whether to provide accommodations involves considering the required job tasks and the functional limitations of the person doing the job. An employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that will cause “undue hardship,” which is significant difficulty or expense hardship to the employer, and other issues. Accommodations may include specialized equipment (dragon dictation or desks elevated to get wheel chair under), facility modifications (wheel chair ramps), adjustments to work schedules or job duties, as well as a whole range of other creative solutions. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides a free consulting service on workplace accommodations.

Is Addiction a Covered Disability?

The ADA protects qualified individuals with drug addiction if they have been rehabilitated. However, the ADA provides that the term “individual with a disability” does not include an individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs.

Examples of Prohibited Questions During Application/Interview

  • Do you have a heart condition?
  • Do you have asthma or any other difficulties breathing?
  • Do you have a disability which would interfere with your ability to perform the job?
  • How many days were you sick last year?
  • Have you ever filed for workers’ compensation? Have you ever been injured on the job?
  • Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
  • What prescription drugs are you currently taking?

After the Job Offer

An employer can ask all of the questions listed above and others that are likely to reveal the existence of a disability, after it extends you a job offer as long as it asks the same questions of other applicants offered the same type of job. In other words, an employer cannot ask such questions only of those who have obvious disabilities. Similarly, an employer may require a medical examination and/or drug screen after making a job offer as long as it requires the same medical examination and/or drug screen of other applicants offered the same type of job.

The employer can withdraw the job offer only if it can show that you are unable to perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodation), or that you pose a significant risk of causing substantial harm to yourself or others.

Handicap vs. Disability

The terms impairment, disability and handicap are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings. Knowing the difference is important. Impairment refers to a problem with a structure or organ of the body. Disability is a functional limitation with regard to a particular activity. Handicap refers to a disadvantage in filling a role in life relative to peers.

An example is a patient who is unable to walk after a spinal cord injury. The impairment is the inability to move his legs. The disability is the inability to walk, and the handicap is that it keeps him from fulfilling his normal role at home, work and in the community.