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What are “major life activities” under ADAAA?

They are basic activities that most people in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty. The ADAAA provides a non-exhaustive list of examples of major life activities. Many are drawn from the 1991 ADA regulation and subsequent EEOC guidances, or from ADA and Rehabilitation Act court cases.

Examples of major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working. Three of these examples – sitting, reaching, and interacting with others – are not specifically included in the ADAAA’s non-exhaustive list of major life activities, but are included in the proposed regulation.

The ADAAA also says that major life activities include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

The proposed ADA regulation adds several other examples -- hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, special sense organs and skin, genitourinary, and cardiovascular. The purpose of adding major bodily functions to the list of major life activities is to make it easier to find that individuals with certain types of impairments have a disability.

For example, cancer affects the major bodily function of normal cell growth and diabetes affects the major bodily function of the endocrine system. (See proposed regulation section 1630.2(i) and its corresponding Appendix section.)

To meet one of the first two definitions of “disability,” an individual must either have an impairment that substantially limits performance of one major life activity or have a record of an impairment that substantially limited one major life activity.

It does not matter if the major life activity is from the first list (such as hearing or lifting) or the new list of major bodily functions. It is possible in many situations that an individual will be substantially limited (or have a record of such a limitation) in more than one major life activity.

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