Thursday, August 19, 2004

When an impairment is not a disability

While not a case under the Individuals with Disablities Education Act, the case of Wong v. Regents of the University of California should be of interest to readers of this blog. Wong had a learning impairment that limited his ability to process and communicate information. He was in medical school and had requested additional time to read and prepare for his clerkships. When such accommodation was made, Wong was able to obtain passing grades and to receive generally positive evaluations. But a time came when the school was not willing to continue to make such accommodations. When Wong received a failing grade in his pediatrics rotation, he was dismissed from the medical school. He brought an action against the University under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

The District Court dismissed the action and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Wong's learning impairment did not substantially limit him in a major life activity. While it might have been true that his impairment made it difficult to complete the medical school curiculum, that was not the issue before the Court. The issue was whether his impairment substantially limited his ability to learn as a whole, for purposes of daily living, as compared to most people. The Court noted Wong's past record of academic success and fond that he was not substantially limited in his ability to learn as a whole.

The decision can be found here.


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