Identification of Protected Individuals

Who is Protected Under the Law?

A "person with a disability" is "any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment."

A "qualified person with a disability" is one who meets the academic and technical standards required for admission to or participation in a postsecondary institution's programs and activities. Section 504 regulations and court cases interpreting Section 504 have identified the following physical and mental impairments:

  • Blindness or visual impairments
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Chronic illnesses, such as:

    • AIDS
    • Arthritis
    • Cancer
    • Cardiac diseases
    • Diabetes
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Muscular dystrophy
    • Mental illnesses

  • Deafness or hearing impairments
  • Drug or alcohol addiction (Section 504 covers former users and those in recovery programs who currently do not use drugs or alcohol.)
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder
  • Mental retardation
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech impairment
  • Spinal cord or traumatic brain injury

A diagnosis of impairment alone, however, does not establish that an individual has a disability within the meaning of Section 504. Rather, to be protected by the law, the individual must, due to the impairment's current, past or perceived effect on a major life activity, meet the definition of person with a disability as described above.

Source: The George Washington University HEATH Resource Center