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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 & the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Both laws ban discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity. Each uses a definition of “disabled person” that is broad and includes:

  1. Persons with physical and/or mental impairments1, or
  2. Persons with a history of such impairments, or
  3. Persons who are perceived as having such impairments, even though such impairments do not, in fact, exist.
  4. Impairments must substantially limit one or more major life activities

The term physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, such diseases and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments; cerebral palsy; epilepsy; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; cancer; AIDS, HIV infection, heart disease; mental retardation; emotional illness; drug addiction; and alcoholism.

Terms explained and clarified

  1. Physical and/or mental impairment means
    • Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular, reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or
    • Any mental or psychological disorder, such as, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  2. Substantially limits means
    • Unable to perform major life activities, or
    • Is restricted significantly in the condition, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed - compared to others.
  3. Major life activities means
    • Daily and routine functions such as caring for one's self
    • Performing manual tasks
    • Walking
    • Seeing
    • Hearing
    • Speaking
    • Breathing
    • Learning
    • Working

For additional information about either of these two laws and their enforcement, contact your nearest Office for Civil Rights or the United States Department of Justice or visit:

Staff Login Form

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