ADA's Relationship to Disability Benefit Programs

  • In looking at the big picture, it is important to note the ADA’s express admonition that “Nothing in [the ADA] alters the standards for determining eligibility for benefits under State worker’s compensation laws or under State and Federal disability benefit programs.”
  • And indeed, qualification for protection under the ADA may create obstacles to simultaneously securing Social Security benefits, e.g., someone seeking a job accommodation in order to be able to do the essential elements of his/her job (ADA) may have difficulty establishing that s/he cannot work (SSDI).
  • See, also, the sections addressing Social Security and Medicare issues.

Similar State or Local Laws

  • The ADA sets a floor, not a ceiling, for disability rights nationwide.
  • If states or local units of government have laws that grant further rights, then those apply as well.
  • Many states have laws against disability discrimination, as do many cities; sometimes these are framed as human rights laws, prohibiting discrimination for other reasons as well.
  • A classic example of the importance of these laws is in the employment context: the ADA protects only employees who work for companies with 15 or more employees; many state laws will extend protection to companies with fewer employees, sometimes as few as 1 employee.
  • Knowledge of your state and local laws, both in terms of who is covered and the scope of the coverage can be critical.

Definition of “Disability”

Under the ADA, “disability” is defined as follows (in Section 12102(1)):

The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment,,,(whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity).


Content for this section provided by Mark Rubin, J.D.

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