Since I received several comments on my facebook feed on my blog post about the CTA deciding that severe allergies are a disability, I felt I should clarify a few things about the ruling.
Many of the commenters didn’t understand that it’s all a matter of degree. Not all allergies are considered a disability. For example, even though I have hay fever, sniffle when I’m around cats and cough when confronted with cigarette smoke, I am still not considered disabled. This ruling only covers severe allergies; and although mine cause me some discomfort, they’re certainly not life threatening.
That’s not the case of the complainants in the CTA case.
Katherine Covell has allergenic asthma that has, among its most serious triggers exposure to cats, particularly cat dander.
Sarah Daviau has severe allergies to animal dander, especially that of cats, which can lead to, among other reactions, asthmatic attacks.
Dr. J. David Spence has asthma and that he is very sensitive to exposure to cats and is allergic to cat dander.
Ms. Covell adds that her reaction is a severe asthma attack requiring urgent medical attention. Her doctor confirms that she has an extreme and almost immediate reaction when exposed to cats, which takes the form of bronchial constriction with restricted oxygen and breathing difficulty, which usually lasts for approximately 72 hours after the exposure.
Ms Daviau’s physician further explains that although Ms. Daviau does not have an anaphylactic reaction, she does feels unwell, and experiences shortness of breath and chest tightness. Ms. Daviau also adds that any type of exposure to cats causes her a significant health issue.
Dr. Spence’s physician states that Dr. Spence is very sensitive to cats, to the degree that being in a house that has contained cats leads to pruritus (severe itching of the skin), wheezing and the increased use of his inhaled steroids for at least three days. He further states that Dr. Spence has a history of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (cardiac arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm) and although he may need epinephrine to resolve an allergic reaction, this treatment would be best avoided due to his underlying cardiac condition. He also asserts that being on an aircraft with exposures to cats would result in a higher inoculum, given that the closed space and recirculation of air may lead to more acute exacerbation of Dr. Spence’s asthma, potentially requiring epinephrine and oxygen supplementation.
So like I said, these folks have severe allergies. And that is what the CTA ruling is all about. People with severe allergies, such as these folks, are considered disabled. Now the CTA has to figure out how the airlines should accommodate them.