What is Disability?

What is Disability?

Legal Definition of Disability

A person meets the legal definition of having a disability if they:

  • Have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, learning, working, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, such as normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
  • Have a record of such conditions.
  • Or, are regarded as having such an impairment (perceived by others to have a disability).

Typical disability types experienced by college students include (but are not limited to):

  • Learning Disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Disorders
  • Psychological Challenges
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Speech & Language Disorders
  • Head Injuries
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Deafness
  • Mobility Challenges
  • Blindness
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Challenges

Relevant Laws and Responsibilities

The law protects people with disabilities from discrimination. Most relevant to the college environment are three specific laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Discrimination is prohibited against students with disabilities who are otherwise qualified, and when appropriate reasonable accommodations must be provided. A student who has a disability is considered otherwise qualified if academic and technical standards for admission and participation in the program are met.

When a student with a disability is accepted into the university or specific program, that student has demonstrated that he or she is a qualified individual. The university is then required to remove barriers impacting access to programs, activities, and services.