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Courts, DOJ contemplating new boundaries of disability

As the country adapts and continues to grow in its awareness, accommodation, and treatment of disabling ailments and injuries, it appears inevitable that the lines demarcating what is a "disability" and what is not will shift at an ever-quickening pace. Now, with the Americans with Disabilities Act more than two decades old, the recognition and protection of newly understood conditions is a frequent issue in courts both in Texas and across all of America.

The autoimmune condition of celiac disease (more commonly known as a gluten allergy) came last month to serve as a microcosm of the shifting disability debate. In a recent case involving celiac-suffering students at Massachusetts's Lesley University who were left without gluten-free options by the school's dining halls, the Department of Justice acknowledged the applicability of the ADA. Students involved in the case were paid compensatory sums and the university was forced to provide gluten-free food options in its future cafeteria offerings.

At the core of the students' case rests the question: what constitutes a disability in the 21st century? While some believe that certain allergies and sensitivities, such as celiac disease, should be covered in full by the ADA (and perhaps by future Social Security Disability benefits), others question whether the acknowledgment of a wider range of conditions will make it impossible to determine where the lines of disability stop and start.

While the nation will undoubtedly continue to contest any changes to the definition of a disability, those who do indeed have a serious condition that keeps them from working and supporting both themselves and their family have a clear and dutiful right to the support offered in the Social Security Administration's SSDI program. Working with an attorney versed in Social Security law can make the realization of these benefits an expedient reality.

Source: Forbes, "What's A Disability? Some Push For The Lines To Be Redrawn?" Alice G. Walton, Jan. 25, 2013

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