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Driving restrictions may create ADA disability

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Generally, an individual whose medical condition results in driving restrictions isn’t considered disabled under the ADA. Courts consistently have held that driving is not a major life activity.

But courts have also been willing to say that an individual whose driving restriction makes it hard to access available jobs may qualify for ADA protection because the inability to drive substantially impairs the ability to work.

Courts evaluate such cases by looking at the specific circumstances, taking into account the kind of work the employee can do and how hard it would be to get to available jobs. Generally, the more jobs in the area and the more transportation options available, the more likely a court will find driving restrictions don’t create a substantial impairment in the ability to work.

Recent case: Flora Kimble worked for the U.S. Postal Service until she had a minor stroke. Her doctors told her that she shouldn’t drive for more than 30 minutes due to dizziness.

She got a temporary assignment closer to her home that did not require her to drive outside her restriction. But when that assignment ended, she lost her job because she couldn’t drive to her former workplace.

Kimble sued, alleging that her driving restriction impaired her ability to work.

But the court disagreed. It concluded that because Kimble lived in Chicago, she had access to numerous jobs that were either in walking distance or accessible via public transportation. Therefore her medical restriction didn’t interfere with her ability to work.

The court said that if she lived in a rural area, the answer might have been different. In that case, her driving restriction might have severely limited her ability to work. (Kimble v. Potter, No. 09-2987, 7th Cir., 2010)

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