Disability Issues

The goal of Vermont’s anti-discrimination laws is to make businesses, jobs and housing accessible to persons with disabilities. Under Vermont’s various anti-discrimination laws a person with a disability is afforded certain protections from discrimination in places of public accommodation, housing and employment. These laws also place some specific requirements on employers, business owners (and their employees), and housing providers (and their employees) to accommodate persons with disabilities. Disability legal issues are quite complicated. If you have any questions regarding disability-related issues in employment, housing, or public accommodations, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal counsel from an attorney experienced in disability law.

The Vermont Human Rights Commission investigates allegations of disability discrimination involving state employment, public accommodations (stores, restaurants, offices, etc.), and housing. Vermont’s anti-discrimination laws include slightly different definitions of “disability” depending on the type of discrimination being addressed. See the two definitions below.

Legal definitions of disability

“An individual with a disability: means any natural person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities or has a history of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. 
21 VSA §495d(5).
        Housing and Public Accommodations:
“Handicap” or “disability” with respect to an individual means a physical or mental impairment which limits one or more major life activities, a history or record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. 
9 VSA §4501(2).
“Physical or mental impairment” means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems; neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitor-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin or endocrine; an mental psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The term “physical or mental impairment” includes but is not limited to such diseases and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental retardation, emotional illness, and drug addiction and alcoholism. A handicapped individual does not include any individual who is an alcoholic or drug abuser who, by reason of current alcohol or drug use, constitutes a direct threat to property or safety of others.
9 VSA §4501(3).

Helpful Hints: 

  • Never make employment or housing decisions based on someone having a disability.

  • Use terms such as “a person with a disability” and “accessible parking” or “accessible unit” rather than “disabled person,” “handicapped parking,” or “handicapped unit.”

The Vermont Secretary of State’s office publishes a brochure on disability etiquette that can be found at: http://www.sec.state.vt.us/municipal/pubs/disability_brochure_vermont.pdf

Please click on the links below for more information, resources, and cases about disability issues in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Disability Issues in Employment

Disability Issues in Places of Public Accommodation

Disability Issues in Housing

Reasonable Grounds Disability Cases

ADA Resources and Links