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Publication Date

January 2006

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INTRODUCTION: Although lay people frequently conflate a diagnosis of mental illness with the existence of a disability, these concepts should properly be separated. The inclination towards conflation might be diminished by reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) distinction between the existence of a disability and the legal ability to recover under the ADA. Specifically, under the ADA the claimant must not only establish a disability, which is a physical or mental impairment, but this impairment must "substantially limit one or more major life activities."' A disability is "an alteration of an individual's capacity to meet personal, social, or occupational demands or statutory or regulatory requirements, because of impairment."' Impairment, on the other hand, is "seen as a purely medical judgment, whereas the disability created by the impairment is context specific."

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