44 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2007
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with a "disability," which the Act defines as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a "major life activity." This Article argues that "belonging" is a major life activity. Belonging has two aspects: personal relationships, including bonds of love, friendship and shared purpose; and social acceptance, or the regard of others that fosters integration into the mainstream of society. Belonging is central to most people's lives. It also is at the heart of the ADA, with its emphasis on the freedom to enjoy life among family, friends, coworkers and fellow citizens and its promise of the inclusion, integration, and participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of modern American life. Belonging also occupies an important role in accounts of the "good life" articulated by philosophers, sociologists, psychologists and prominent thinkers in other fields. This striking consensus among public, political, and scholarly understandings of the importance of belonging provides compelling support for judicial recognition of belonging as a major life activity.
Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, relationships, inclusion, integration, participation
JEL Classification: K1, K2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Hubbard, Ann, The Major Life Activity of Belonging. Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 217, 2004; U of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 07-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1011444