Career Resources

Understanding Your Rights

Understand your rights and the laws that protect individuals with a disability/disabilities.

Understanding your rights and the laws that protect individuals with a disability/disabilities is a good place to start when considering your needs in the workplace.  The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.  

From the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission:

The ADA directs that the definition of disability is construed broadly, in favor of extensive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the law. Nonetheless, not everyone with a medical condition is protected from disability discrimination. Under the law, a person has a disability if the person:

  • Has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning, or operation of a major bodily function, such as brain, musculoskeletal, respiratory, circulatory, or endocrine function).
  • Has a history of a disability.
  • Is subject to an adverse employment action because of a physical or mental impairment the individual actually has or is perceived to have, except if it is transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor.

A medical condition does not need to be long-term, permanent, or severe to be substantially limiting.  Also, if symptoms come and go, what matters is how limiting the symptoms are when they are active.

The ADA protects individuals with disabilities, defined as an individual who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • Has a history or record of such an impairment (such as cancer that is in remission), or
  • Is perceived by others as having such an impairment (such as a person who has scars from a severe burn).

The ADA covers a variety of disabilities, visible and invisible. Learn more.


You can learn more about disability laws and your rights by visiting the ACLU Know Your Disability Rights website.