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Celiac Disease Can Be a Disability Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams
Celiac.com 11/19/2013 - There's an interesting take on the precedent-setting ruling issued early in 2013 by the U.S. Justice Department, which found that celiac disease and other serious food allergies and sensitivities can be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ruling arises from a settlement between the Justice Department and Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts that came after Justice investigated the university in response to a student complaint that the school’s mandatory meal plan did not provide sufficient gluten-free food alternatives, and that the school did not accommodate the needs of those on gluten-free diets by excusing their participation in the meal plan or providing a reasonable alternative.
The ruling has led a number of colleges and universities with student meal programs to make efforts to offer suitable options for students with celiac disease and other serious food allergies.
However, Janet Raasch, points out in a blog entry on lawyers.com that the ruling applies more broadly to schools and restaurants at large. Raasch says that "…schools, restaurants and other places that serve food can be exposed to legal challenges if they fail to honor requests for accommodations by people with celiac disease."
It's important to remember that Ms. Raasch is not a lawyer. So, while she has an interesting take, and it remains to be seen if gluten-free options become more numerous partly out of a push for restaurants and other food service establishments to follow in the footsteps of colleges and universities with student meal programs.
What do you think will be the impact if schools, restaurants and food purveyors treat celiac and other food allergies as an ADA disability? Will it mean more gluten-free options? Better standards? Share your comments below.
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