Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

It's Not Easy Being G-Free: Why Celiac Disease Should Be a Disability Covered under the Ada

Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

It's Not Easy Being G-Free: Why Celiac Disease Should Be a Disability Covered under the Ada

Article excerpt

I. Introduction ..........220

II. Background .............222

A. Overview of Celiac Disease ...............222

B. Federal Disability Law Statutes............. 224

1. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ..........224

2. The ADA and the AD AAA ..............225

C. Relevant Cases and Administrative Decisions ..............227

III. Analysis.................... 230

A. Celiac Disease Should Be a Covered Disability Under the ADA Because It Substantially Limits Major Life Activities and Major Bodily Functions as Expanded in the AD AAA ............230

1. Celiac Disease Substantially Limits Eating .............230

2. Celiac Disease Substantially Limits Learning .............232

3. Celiac Disease Substantially Limits the Operation of the Digestive and Bowel Functions ................233

IV. Policy Recommendations..............234

A. ADA Analysis Should Specifically Consider the Longevity of a Condition Like Celiac Disease to Ensure That Individuals Receive the Accommodations That Make Living with the Disease More Manageable Because Maintaining a Gluten-Free Diet is a Financial Burden on Those Afflicted with the Disease.................234

B. The United States Should Follow Other Western Countries That Have Responded to the Growing Prevalence of Celiac Disease by Mandating Gluten-Free Lunches for Students and Tax Breaks for Those with the Disease..........235

V. Conclusion......................236

I. Introduction

There are three million people in the United States who suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease.1 As awareness of celiac disease increases, so do requests for schools to provide special school lunch menus and possibly time to make up missed work if a student is out because of her disease.2 Current law does not require schools to provide school lunches for students with celiac disease.3 The only treatment for celiac disease, however, is a lifelong avoidance of gluten.4 The growing popularity of gluten-free diets threatens to obfuscate the fact that celiac disease sufferers have medically necessary reasons for avoiding gluten.5 Because celiac disease has a more limiting effect on an individual than a gluten sensitivity or allergy, it should be classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act so that schools are required to accommodate students who suffer from celiac disease.

The federal laws that govern individual accommodations for disabilities in schools are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),6 the Rehabilitation Act,7 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).8 In 2008, Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)9 to provide broader coverage to people with disabilities in order to prevent discrimination and ensure equal access to opportunities.10 Because no court has determined whether celiac disease is a disability, as defined by the ADA, and because the ADAAA was only recently enacted in 2009, there is little guidance as to how broadly the amended ADA may be extended.11

This Article argues that celiac disease is a disability covered under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act,12 and focuses on how the ADA impacts students in public schools. Part II will provide an overview of celiac disease and examine the ADA13 and the Rehabilitation Act14 which are the federal statutes that require programs receiving federal funding to make accommodations for individuals that have a covered disability.15 Part II will also briefly review the recent Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) decisions and case law that has applied the AD AAA to conditions comparable to celiac disease.16 Part III argues that celiac disease should be covered by the ADA, as ¿xpanded by the ADAAA, because courts have found that disorders with similar symptoms substantially limit major life activities.17 Part IV suggests that the expense of living with celiac disease should be included in the ADA claim analysis to make celiac disease more identifiable within the statutory definition of disability, and it also recommends that the United States should follow other Western countries that have laws covering celiac disease. …

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