What Is a Major Life Activity?
Many of the federal courts do not like the broad reach of the ADA and have attempted to limit it by a restricted reading of what constitutes a major life activity. The regulations to the Rehabilitation Act, which also govern this aspect of the ADA, are ambiguous: “Major life activities” means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. [45 C.F.R. § 84.3(j) (ii).] Some courts take this literally, finding that activities that are not on the list, such as reproduction, are not major life activities. [ Krauel v. Iowa Methodist Med. Ctr., 95 F.3d 674 (8th Cir. 1996).]
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the definition of major life activity in a case involving a patient who claimed she was discriminated against by a medical care practitioner because she had HIV. [ Bragdon v. Abbott, 118 S. Ct. 2196, 141 L. Ed. 2d 540 (1998).] The defendant claimed that HIV was not a disability because the patient was asymptomatic and thus there was no affect on any of her major life activities.