The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that severe allergies may be counted as a disability. The decision is seen as a major win for other people with severe allergies or other periodic conditions, like epilepsy, that do not flare up all the time.
The Associated Press reports that mother Shannon Knudson wanted to enroll her daughter, who was allergic to tree nuts, in the Tiger Tots Community Day Care Center in the Iowa town of Madrid for pre-school and day care services. The day care center demurred, saying that they would not be able to properly meet her child's needs.
The attorney for the day care center, John Jordan, said that the facility had happily served children with disabilities for decades, according to the Des Moines Register. Jordan said that the day care center had objected to Knudsen's requirement, than in the event that her daughter's allergies were triggered, staff would transport her to a medical helicopter outside city limits for evacuation.
Previously, the First Coast Register reports that a district court in Iowa had ruled that Knudsen's daughter was not covered under the state's Civil Rights Act. However, the appeals court found that the lower court had made a mistake by not considering an amendment to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The act describes a disability as a physical or mental impairment that "substantially limits one or more life activities". The definition was expanded in 2008 in order to add any condition that was "episodic or in remission ... if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active."
The dissenting judge Gayle Vogel said that Knudsen's allergies were not covered under the federal statute, because the Iowa Civil Rights Act had not been updated to mirror the federal protections. She argued that states had the right to adapt the amendment of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The court did not rule on whether the day care center had discriminated against Knudson's daughter.