Before the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was landmark legislation in part because there were very few legal protections for members of the disability community at the time. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 had made some headway when it prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability in federal employment, in the employment practices of federal contractors, and in programs that were run by federal agencies or that received federal financial assistance. But additional protections were needed to build from this law and apply protections to additional situations that individuals with disabilities faced every day. The following are select cases and commentary from this time period.

United States Supreme Court

School Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273 (1987) (person with the contagious disease of tuberculosis may be a "handicapped individual" within the meaning of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).

United States Circuit Courts of Appeal

Reynolds v. Brock, 815 F.2d 571 (9th Cir. 1987) (person with epilepsy found to have a disability).

Bentivegna v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, 694 F.2d 619 (9th Cir. 1982) (person with diabetes found to have a disability).

Pushkin v. Regents of Univ. of Colo., 658 F.2d 1372 (10th Cir. 1981) (person with multiple sclerosis found to have a disability).

United States District Courts

Local 1812, Am. Fed’n. of Gov’t Emp. v. Dept. of State, 662 F. Supp. 50 (D.D.C. 1987) (person with HIV found to have a disability).

Flowers v. Webb, 575 F. Supp. 1450 (E.D.N.Y. 1983) (person with intellectual and developmental disabilities found to have a disability

Schmidt v. Bell, No. 82-1758 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 9, 1983) (person with post-traumatic stress disorder found to have a disability).

Helpful Commentary

National Council on Disability, On the Threshold of Independence: Progress on Legislative Recommendations from Toward Independence (1988).

National Council on Disability, Toward Independence: An Assessment of Federal Laws and Programs Affecting Persons with Disabilities - With Legislative Recommendations (1986).