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How is disability defined under California’s equal access laws?

When it comes to ensuring equal access for people with disabilities, California has three major laws:

  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • The Unruh Civil Rights Act
  • The Disabled Persons Act

These laws apply to businesses, employers and housing providers and require them to make reasonable accommodations to allow equal access for anyone with a covered disability. California law is generally broader than similar laws at the federal level.

In general, a disability is defined as a qualifying condition that limits any major life activity. This includes physical and mental conditions, along with other medical conditions that may not initially strike someone as an obvious disability, such as HIV/AIDS status.

Specifically, the word “disability” is to be broadly construed and includes a physical or mental condition that does both of these:

  1. Affects one or more of the following body systems: neurological; immunological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; circulatory; skin; and endocrine; and
  2. Limits a major life activity

By law, the definition of disability also includes being “regarded as” or “perceived as” having a disability, being regarded as having a perceived potential disability, and also having a record or history of a disability, even if it was the result of a misclassification.

Also by law, there are some conditions that are specifically excluded from being considered disabilities. These include:

  • Compulsive gambling
  • Kleptomania
  • Pyromania
  • Psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from the current unlawful use of controlled substances or other drugs
  • Sexual behavior disorders

Other conditions will not be considered disabilities if they are mild and do not limit a major life activity. This is generally decided on a case-by-case basis, but here are some examples of conditions that have been excluded:

  • Common cold
  • Seasonal or common influenza
  • Minor cuts
  • Sprains
  • Muscle aches
  • Soreness
  • Bruises
  • Abrasions
  • Non-migraine headaches

Minor, non-chronic gastrointestinal disorders

Does California law protect your disability?

If you have a serious medical condition that limits a major life activity, you are probably protected by California’s disability rights laws. This means that you can insist upon equal access to jobs, housing and commercial activity. For more information, contact an experienced California disability rights attorney.