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Definition of Disability Terms

Below are a few disability-related definitions that can assist you in your job search.


The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment (reference: American Disability Act of 1990).

Major Life Activities

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Major life activities also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Section 508

Section 508 establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. An accessible information technology system is one that can be operated in a variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or ability of the user. For example, a system that provides information only in visual format may not be accessible to people with visual impairments and a system that provides information only in audio format may not be accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some individuals with disabilities may need accessibility-related software or peripheral devices in order to use systems. Section 508 requires systems to work with the accessibility-related solutions.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodations are changes or modifications to a job or work environment that make it possible for an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of that job. Reasonable accommodations create equal access and opportunities in the workplace so that people with disabilities can be productive team players whose unique perspectives promote the development of successful programs. Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, managers and supervisors are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified Federal employees and applicants. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is available to help all Department of Transportation managers, supervisors, and employees understand the accommodation process and obtain necessary equipment and services. While managers and employees are experts in their respective fields, they may not know how to go about providing specific reasonable accommodation solutions for different situations. That's where the DRC can offer their expertise.

Last updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2015