ADA Policy Brief Series #15: Supreme Court's Decisions Discussing "Regarded As" Prong of the ADA Definition of Disability
May 21, 2003
SCOPE AND PURPOSE:
In addition to persons who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and persons who have a record of a substantially limiting condition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provides protection from discrimination to individuals who are “regarded as having such an impairment” (42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(C)). The “regarded as” prong of the definition of disability represents a broad approach that would extend statutory protection to anyone who has been excluded or disadvantaged by a covered entity on the basis of a physical or mental impairment, whether real or perceived. The Supreme Court has taken a restrictive approach to the “regarded as” prong, narrowing its applicability in significant ways. This policy brief examines the origin, purpose, and meaning of the “regarded as” component of the definition of disability, and the implications of the Court’s interpretation and application of it.