Persons with Disabilities

Does the law protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities?

Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, provides federal civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities. The laws address equal opportunities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government, and telecommunications. For more information, call 1-800-514-0301 between 9:30-5:30 EST, M,T,W,F, and 12:30-5:30 EST, TH, or visit

The Virginians With Disabilities Act (VDA) assures equal opportunity to persons with disabilities in Virginia. The VDA prohibits discrimination by state agencies, businesses, and educational institutions against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities. For information on the VDA in general, contact the Disability Law Center of Virginia at 1-800-552-3962 or visit The Disability Law Center has a very helpful page entitled “Coming of Age: Are you turning 18 or a young adult and wondering what to do next?” which is found at

Who is someone with a disability, according to the VWDA?

A person with a disability is anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities” or has a record of such impairment or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all the impairments that are covered.

How do I take care of myself if I am disabled?

A person who is disabled may apply for Social Security Disability if he or she has a work record or apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if there is an insufficient work record. Applications are filed at the local Social Security Administration Office. If your application is denied, you may appeal and have the matter heard by an Administrative Law Judge. You should consult an attorney if you appeal. For persons over the age of 18, the definition of “disability” under a Social Security Disability benefits analysis is “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” To qualify for Social Security Disability, you need a certain number of “credits” calculated using wages and years of work. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program gives cash assistance to people with limited income and resources and who are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Disability is determined similarly to Social Security Disability but does not require specific work history.

So You’re 18 is presented by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations.
For print copies of So You're 18 contact (804) 775-0521 or [email protected].