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Definition of Disability

An individual with a disability is someone who:

  • has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, breathing, hearing, seeing, walking, speaking, learning, performing bodily functions, etc.);
  • has a record of such an impairment; or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADA, ADAAA, and Section 504

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 are landmark pieces of civil-rights legislation affecting more than 54 million Americans with disabilities. The ADA and ADAAA are intended to ensure people with disabilities have equal access and equal opportunity to programs, services, and facilities available to individuals without disabilities. The acts prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a variety of areas, including employment, education, public and private entities, telecommunications, and transportation.

The ADA was amended in 2008 because Congress intended the law to have a broader scope which would offer greater protection to more individuals than the courts had applied.

Although the ADA was enacted in 1990, many universities and colleges have been required to provide individuals with disabilities equal access and equal opportunities to education since the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states:

"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance . . . "