People get confused about the definition/standards of disability.

Social Security’s definition is a high standard and difficult for many to meet, but it is only the standard for qualifying for SSDI or SSI benefits. Meeting this standard is not necessary for one to qualify as a person with a disability who has certain civil rights under federal law.

The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

There is a different legal standard of disability under federal civil rights laws — a much easier standard to meet:

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

So, a person with recurrent depression, for example, has a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities even if they can hold a full-time job. What’s a “major life activity”?

(1)  Major life activities include, but are not limited to:

(i)  Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, writing, communicating, interacting with others, and working; and

(ii)  The operation of a major bodily function, such as the functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin, normal cell growth, and digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive systems.  The operation of a major bodily function includes the operation of an individual organ within a body system.

. . . .

(i)  The term “substantially limits” shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA. “Substantially limits” is not meant to be a demanding standard.