Poor Vision Constitutes Disability Entitled To Protections Under The ADA

A recent Ninth Circuit court opinion held that a worker whose vision affected her ability to walk and drive after dark was entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against “qualified individuals with a disability” in the terms and conditions of employment. This includes requiring your employer to make an effort to reasonably accommodate your disability. Reasonable accommodations can be something as simple as changing your work time by a few minutes or altering your workspace to be more accessible. A failure or refusal to make reasonable accommodations may constitute a violation of the ADA.

In Livingston v. Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., an employee – Michelle Livingston – requested a schedule modification to avoid working after dark. She suffered from depth perception difficulties in low light that made it difficult to walk or drive a vehicle safely after dark. Livingston’s work schedule had been adjusted to accommodate her in previous years. However in 2006, Livingston’s employer refused to modify her schedule and terminated her for refusing to work after dark. Livingston subsequently filed a claim claiming her employer failed to make reasonable accommodations and terminated her in violation of the ADA. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, noting that Livingston just needed to “exercise extra care while walking.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appellate court reversed, finding that determined that despite Livingston’s ability to perform her job duties without issue during the day, her night vision impairment kept her from performing the same tasks as an average person at night, and hence in accordance with the Equal employment Opportunity Commission regulation, 29 C.F.R. Sec. 16302(i), was “substantially limited in the major life activity of seeing.”

As such, a triable issue of exists regarding Livingston’s disability bias claims.

Not all disabilities or injuries are covered under the ADA. However, those qualified individuals with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity are entitled to protections. For more information, of if you believe you’ve been discriminated against as the result of a disability or condition, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, a Georgia Law Firm dedicated to worker’s rights.