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Thankfully, over the last few decades, the government has provided for individuals with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What is ADA? The federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability. This law took effect on July 26, 1992, for companies with 25 or more employees, and July 26, 1994, for companies with 15 or more employees.

What Qualifies as a Disability?
A disability is a substantial physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities such as walking, breathing, hearing, seeing or learning. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and HIV infection are considered disabilities.

Even if you don't have a current disability, but had one in the past, you are protected by the ADA. In other words, if an employer finds out you had cancer, it can't refuse to hire you simply because it is fearful its insurance costs will go up.

You are also protected if you are associated with someone who has or has had a disability or is regarded as having or having had a disability. For instance, if your spouse or housemate has been diagnosed with AIDS, or if you work as a volunteer with people with AIDS, your employer cannot fire you simply for fear that insurance costs will go up, or because he fears the disease and associates you with it.

The ADA also covers rehabilitated drug addicts and alcoholics who remain qualified to do their jobs. In some cases obesity is covered by the ADA, but obesity claims are considered on a case-by-case basis.

The ADA does not protect pregnant women (though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does) or current users of illegal drugs. Short-term medical disabilities such as a broken arm are not covered.

How It Works in Practice
The ADA generally prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of a disability.
Remember that employers can accommodate people with disabilities through any of the following means:
If you think you have been discriminated against because of a disability, you can file a complaint with the EEOC. For a more complete list of provisions, contact the EEOC (1801 L St., N.W., Washington, DC 20507; 202?663?4001) or your local EEOC.