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Is ADHD A Disability?

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is adhd a disability

If you’ve ever worked in an open office environment and couldn’t get a task done, you know all too well the limitations ADHD can pose on work. You may often wonder: is ADHD is a disability? The question has many contexts … what makes something a disability? And what are the implications outside of work? How about in terms of civil rights or disability benefits?  While only an attorney can tell you for sure, if ADHD makes it hard to work, it may be considered a disability under the American With Disabilities Act (ADA). However, it’s not just the diagnosis alone that classifies it as a disability. 

“It’s not enough for a physician or psychologist to give you a formal diagnosis of ADHD. He or she must indicate that your ADHD symptoms are severe enough to be considered disabling,” Philadelphia-based attorney Robin Bond tells ADDitude magazine. “If you meet these conditions, your employer is obligated by the ADA to talk with you about how the condition affects your ability to work, and to consider providing accommodations that will enable you to do your job.”

Additionally, the ADA only applies to companies with more than 15 employees. Those with fewer than 15 works may be protected under state laws.

Related: ADHD In The Workplace | How To Stay Focused At Work With ADHD

American With Disabilities Act

The ADA dates back to 1990 and was signed into law to ensure those with disabilities have the same opportunities as those without a disability. It covers not just the workplace, but also state and local government programs and services. The ADA defines a disability as defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Having a record of a disability or even being perceived as having the disability also falls under the category. Under the ADA, there is no list of medical conditions that help define a disability. 

“The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services,” according to

“Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities,”

ADHD Workplace Accommodations

So what do ADHD accommodations look like? According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, at a high level it can mean understanding that:

“Individuals with AD/HD are often perfectionists and are hard on themselves.  They have trouble setting personal boundaries like knowing when to stop working and they set unrealistic expectations for themselves.  Someone who takes work home or stays late to finish work is often given more responsibility or a heavier workload because they appear to be able to get their work done.”

How Does ADHD Limit Your Ability To Work?

Accommodations for these types of issues include identifying and reinforcing employee strengths over weaknesses, looking out for overworking or skipping lunch, enlisting the help of an ADHD coach, and more. Other key accommodations address getting to work on-time and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

There are many more accommodations (full list here), which address the following common issues:

  • Attentiveness and concentration
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Executive functioning deficits
  • Managing time
  • Memory loss
  • Multitasking
  • Organizing, planning and prioritizing
  • Social skills 

Social Security Insurance for ADHD

Can an adult with ADHD get social security disability? According to NOLO, if you can prove your ADD severely limits your functioning this is a possibility. It is classified as a “neurodevelopmental disorder” under the eligibility requirements of the Social Security Administration, a subsection of “mental disorders”. However, NOLO reports that “It is very difficult for an adult with ADHD (without other conditions) to convince the SSA that they cannot do at least unskilled work.”

“The Social Security Administration (SSA) isn’t overly concerned with your official diagnosis; they are most interested in how your disability (or disabilities) affects your everyday functioning, and thus your ability to work,” according to NOLO.

Tax Credits for People With Disabilities

NOLO also reports that if you receive SSI or SSDI benefits that you can qualify for certain tax credits. The credits, which vary in eligibility requirements, include:

  • Credit for dependent care for a disabled spouse, child or parent – Eligibility is determined by IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
  • Credit for the elderly or the disabled – Commonly, NOLA reports that homes are not eligible because they make too much income to qualify. Those who quality, the credit ranges from $3,750 and $7,500. Eligibility is determined using the IRS Schedule R form.
  • Earned income tax credit – Taxpayers can use EITC Assistant to see if they qualify.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is ADHD A Learning Disability?

According to the Learning Disabilities Association, ADHD is not a learning disability. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (ISEA), it falls under the category of “Other Health Impared” as opposed to “Special Learning Disabilities.”  In 30 to 50% of ADHD children, a learning disorder also is present. 

Can I Be Fired For Having ADHD?

Workers with ADHD are not protected from being fired, according to ADDitude magazine. They are protected under state and federal law by being fired for having ADHD or for being denied reasonable accomodations. 

Is ADHD A Disability Under The Equality Act?

According to Personnel Today, “Under the Equality Act 2010, an employee with ADHD may be considered to have a disability if their condition has a “substantial” and “long-term” negative effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”


Is ADHD a Disability? Your Legal Rights at Work

Introduction to the ADA

Asking for Workplace Accommodations

Accommodation and Compliance: AD/HD

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Can an Adult With Attention Deficit Disorder Get Social Security Disability?

Tax Credits for People With Disabilities Who Receive SSDI or SSI Benefits


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