Common Questions About COVID and the ADA


From the American Disability Act -

Can long COVID be a disability under the ADA?

Long COVID can be a disability under the ADA if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. There is a wide range of ways that this could present itself.

Some examples include:

  • A person with long COVID who has lung damage that causes shortness of breath, fatigue, and related effects is substantially limited in respiratory function, among other major life activities.
  • A person with long COVID who has symptoms of intestinal pain, vomiting, and nausea that have lingered for months is substantially limited in gastrointestinal function, among other major life activities.
  • A person with long COVID who experiences memory lapses and “brain fog” is substantially limited in brain function, concentrating, and/or thinking.

Is long COVID always a disability under the ADA?


An individualized analysis is needed to determine whether a person’s long COVID condition substantially limits the person’s health and daily living.

For more information, see the Department’s Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557.


Are there resources available that help explain my rights as an employee with a disability during the COVID-19 pandemic?


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has information about the ADA and other federal laws that protect you against employment discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about your rights, visit the EEOC website at, or call 1-800-669-4000 (voice), 1-800-669-6820 (TTY), or 1-844-234-5122 (ASL Video Phone).


Can a hospital or medical facility exclude all “visitors” even where, due to a patient’s disability, the patient needs help from a family member, companion, or aide in order to equally access care?

  • No.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, medical providers have changed many of their policies, including restricting non-patients from entering health care facilities. However, where these policies do not account for the needs of people with disabilities, they may result in unequal care and violate the ADA. For instance, where a patient’s disability prevents them from providing their medical history or understanding medical decisions or directions, the medical provider should explore whether a modification to its visitor policy may be safely carried out.

Several important limitations apply. Not every person with a disability needs someone with them in order to equally access medical care. For those who do not, excluding a companion does not violate the ADA. Also, the ADA recognizes that protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities may need to be balanced with other safety concerns. For instance, the ADA allows health care providers to impose “legitimate safety requirements” that are necessary for safe operation. But a blanket ban on all non-patients in all care settings does not fall into this narrow category—even in the midst of COVID-19. Where the exclusion is necessary from a public health perspective, medical providers should think creatively about how to best serve the needs of the patient with a disability.

EXAMPLE: An adult with Down Syndrome who cannot speak has severe chest pain and goes to the hospital with his parent. Due to COVID-era restrictions on visitors, the hospital stops the patient’s parent from joining him in the hospital’s Emergency Department, resulting in delayed treatment and critical medical history not being communicated to the medical team. This is a violation of the ADA.

EXAMPLE: A person with severely limited mobility is admitted to a hospital for appendicitis. This patient would like his adult daughter to accompany him during his hospital stay. In this case, the ADA would not require the hospital to modify its COVID-era “visitor policy” to permit the daughter to enter because the daughter’s presence plays no special role in ensuring that the patient receives equal access to care.

EXAMPLE: The spouse of a patient who is being treated for a traumatic brain injury tested positive for COVID-19 two days ago. The medical office providing rehabilitation services is justified under the ADA in excluding the spouse from entering the facility. However, the provider should work with the spouse, including through the use of technology, to allow the spouse’s remote participation to ensure that the patient receives equal access to care.