Court: Blind in One Eye Is Not "Disabled" for ADA

August 22, 2003 ( - A former salesman of iron boilers who suffered blindness in one eye isn't entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) absent proof of a major impact on his everyday life activities

>In his ruling that monocular vision “is not a per se disability,” US District Judge Bruce Kauffman said plaintiff Wesley Congleton didn’t convince the court that this his vision problems rose to the requisite level to qualify for ADA coverage, the Legal Intelligencer reported.

Kauffman noted the condition results in a lack of depth perception and a limited field of vision. However, he said those who suffer from it are often able to compensate through adjustments in the brain and by turning their heads. In the plaintiff’s case, Kauffman found that Congleton lacks depth perception, has a limited field of vision, has no peripheral vision on his left side and cannot see objects on his left side clearly.

Learned to Compensate

However, the court found that Congleton “must have learned to compensate for these impairments because, at the time he returned to work in September 1999, he could drive a car, watch television, read, and perform his normal daily activities.” Further, the court pointed out that Congleton testified in a pre-trial deposition that he needs no accommodation to perform the tasks required by his job.

“In fact, plaintiff has failed to identify any daily activity that his condition prevents or substantially limits him from doing,” Kauffman wrote in the ruling.

Damaged Goods?

Kauffman also rejected Congleton’s claim that he was “regarded as” disabled, finding that the comments of his bosses showed only that they were concerned about his condition, and not that they considered it truly disabling.

“The fact that supervisors express concern for an employee’s health does not necessarily mean that they consider a condition to be a substantial limitation to a major life activity,” Kauffman wrote.
According to court papers, Congleton began working as a sales representative for Weil-McLain, a manufacturer of cast iron boilers in 1994. Five years later, he began experiencing problems with his vision and was diagnosed with a detached retina. Forced to undergo two surgeries, he was out of work for four months. The suit alleged that when Congleton returned to work, he had no restrictions other than to refrain from heavy lifting, which is not ordinarily required for his position.

Nonetheless, he claims that his supervisor saw him as “damaged goods” and did not talk to him, write to him, or call him about his job performance during the four months before he was terminated.