facebook pixel

The Americans with Disabilities Act & the definition of disability today

By Christina August 13, 2019

With the month of August comes the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.  This is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in key areas such as jobs, schools, transportation, etc. The law is intended to protect people with disabilities and ensure that they have the same rights and opportunities as anyone else. This is a significant law for many reasons, not the least of which being that disabilities are far more common than most people think, as many illnesses and injuries are sudden and unforeseen. In fact, one in four of today’s twenty year-olds will become disabled before reaching retirement age—leading them to potentially depend on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for either a short or prolonged period of time.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the number of disability beneficiaries has grown from just over three million to roughly eight million individuals each year!  Because so many people rely on these benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) needs to maintain a very strict definition of disability, by which all SSDI applications are evaluated.  SSA must determine that an individual’s health condition(s) prevent them from doing any type of work for at least one full year, taking into consideration their age, education and work history, in order to determine that they qualify for SSDI. Awarded claims will also continue to be reviewed after an award is issued to ensure that those individuals continue to meet SSA’s definition of disability in the years following their SSDI award.

While this may feel frustrating for claimants at the beginning of the SSDI application process, these strict rules are put in place as a protective measure meant to ensure that those with the most severe impairments who are unable to do any type of work (considering their age, education, and work history) are able to get benefits. SSDI is not intended to be a complete income replacement, but these benefits can provide essential security to individuals who are working hard to recover from disabling health conditions in hopes of ultimately returning to work.

Throughout the month of August, we will continue to share more key facts and insights about SSDI. The anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is the perfect opportunity to learn more about these benefits and how they could help you or someone you know prioritize their health and strive toward the life, and potentially the career, they want.


Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way.  The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances.


cover image:  https://adata.org/ada-timeline/ada-passed-house-july-26-ada-signed

Need help applying for SSDI?

Brown & Brown can help you better understand and take advantage of the many benefits of Social Security Disability, to help maximize your financial well-being during your period of disability.

Get a Free Evaluation