US Department of Education NIDRR Technical Assistance Program

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Regulatory references: 28 CFR 35.104.

II-2.2000 Physical or mental impairments.

The first category of persons covered by the definition of an individual with a disability is restricted to those with "physical or mental impairments." Physical impairments include --

  1. Physiological disorders or conditions;
  2. Cosmetic disfigurement; or
  3. Anatomical loss

affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs (which would include speech organs that are not respiratory such as vocal cords, soft palate, tongue, etc.); respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine.

Specific examples of physical impairments include orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV disease (symptomatic or asymptomatic), tuberculosis, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

Mental impairments include mental or psychological disorders, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

Simple physical characteristics such as the color of one's eyes, hair, or skin; baldness; left-handedness; or age do not constitute physical impairments. Similarly, disadvantages attributable to environmental, cultural, or economic factors are not the type of impairments covered by title II. Moreover, the definition does not include common personality traits such as poor judgment or a quick temper, where these are not symptoms of a mental or psychological disorder.

Does title II prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation? No. The phrase "physical or mental impairment" does not include homosexuality or bisexuality.