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The Americans with Disabilities Act and your employer

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted in 1990, is an act that protects those with disabilities from discrimination. It also promises equal opportunities in employment, although that does not mean that a workplace has to hire someone who can't perform his or her job correctly due to a disability.

Under the ADA's description, a disability is either a mental or a physical impairment. It must substantially limit the person's life; for instance, a person with multiple sclerosis may be considered disabled due to the disease, but a person with a broken leg would not be considered disabled.

To be recognized as disabled, there must be a record of the impairment as well. This is typically presented to an employer if required, although disabilities can be straightforward (and fairly obvious) when physical.

If you use helpful devices like low-vision devices or hearing aids, they don't take away from your ability to claim a disability. At the end of the day, without this technology, you would struggle with your condition. For instance, if someone with hearing loss has a battery run out in a hearing aid, that person suddenly cannot hear (or can't hear well, depending on the severity of the hearing loss). The device is helpful, but it does not cure a disability.

If an employer fails to accommodate someone with a disability that has been hired, that could be illegal. The accommodation should be given if it's reasonable and safe for the workplace. For example, if someone can't stand for long periods of time, he or she should be able to sit on a chair while working. Not providing this simple service could mean the employer is being discriminatory.

Source: ADA.gov, "The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III," accessed Dec. 11, 2015

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