Justices: A Flaw Does Not a Handicap Make

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In a world where everyone can be diagnosed as having a medical condition of some sort, what does it mean to be disabled? In a trio of decisions on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, as far as the Americans With Disabilities Act is concerned, disability does not mean poor eyesight or high blood pressure. The ADA, one of the nation’s major civil rights measures, bans discrimination by employers against handicapped workers. Because of its broad language -- a disability is any condition that limits a major life activity -- the statute has been generously interpreted over the years by the Supreme Court. But on Tuesday the Justices decided that there are limits.

Writing for the Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said that "the ADA’s coverage is restricted to only those whose impairments are not mitigated by corrective measures." People whose conditions are easily dealt with by medications or simple devices like eyeglasses are not protected under the act. "This was clearly a line-drawing set of decisions," says TIME senior writer Adam Cohen, "and now it will be important to see how the line-drawing gets done in the lower courts."