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  Disability Services - What is a Disability?

     A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. A major life activity includes walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, learning, working, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself. A person’s impairment substantially limits a major life activity depending on the nature and severity of the impairment, the duration of the impairment, and the permanency or long-term impact. (Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336-, 1990).

This definition is extremely broad. It includes but is not limited to:

  • Persons with mobility impairments, such as those who suffer from paralysis or use wheelchairs, crutches or walkers;
  • Persons who have lost one or more limbs;
  • Persons who are blind or have visual impairments;
  • Persons who are deaf or hearing–impaired;
  • Persons who have mental or psychological disorders;
  • Persons with learning disabilities;
  • Persons with attention deficit or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder;
  • Persons with cosmetic disfigurements;
  • Persons with one or many serious contagious, and non-contagious diseases, including AIDS, AIDS-related complex, epilepsy, cancer and tuberculosis.
  • What Is Not Covered

  • Eye color, hair color, height, weight (except in unusual circumstances where obesity is the result of a medical condition).
  • Advanced age in and of itself is not an impairment (although hearing loss, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease are impairments).
  • Temporary impairments, such as a broken leg, sprain or infection that is expected to heal quickly, would not be protected.
  • Illiteracy or poverty (although inability to read because of a physical impairment or a specific learning disability is covered).
  • Minor impairments that do not limit a major life activity.
  • Pregnancy.
  • What is “Record of Impairment?”

         An individual has a “record” of having an impairment when s/he has a history of a disability, whether or not s/he is currently substantially limited in a major life activity. Such disabilities may include a history of heart disease, cancer, or mental illness.

    What is “Regarded as Disabled?”

         An individual is “regarded” as having an impairment when s/he is perceived or treated as having an impairment although no impairment exists. For example, an individual who speaks slowly may be regarded as having a mental impairment, although no impairment exists.


         The ADA protects individuals who have a known association or relationship with a person with a disability. For example, a public entity may not discriminate against the companion of a person with cerebral palsy. Or, an employer cannot refuse to hire an applicant because s/he is dating someone with AIDS.

    Alcoholics and Drug Addicts

         Drug addicts or persons who have suffered from drug addiction in the past are protected but not if they are currently using illegal drugs. Persons suffering from alcoholism are covered even if they are not in rehabilitation, however, they can be required to conform to the same standards as other employees or students.


    Kutztown University

    15200 Kutztown Road • Kutztown PA. 19530
    Kutztown University of Pennsylvania • P.O. Box 730 • Kutztown, PA 19530
    (610) 683-4000 • TDD (610) 683-1315, (610) 683-4499
    Member of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education

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