Impairment Law and Legal Definition

Impairment is when a person's faculties are reduced so that his or her ability to see, hear, walk, talk and judge distances is below the normal level as defined by the state. Generally, impairment is caused by drug or alcohol use, but can also be caused by mental illness. Even if a person's alcohol level is lower than the legal intoxication level, he can still be convicted if the state can show his abilities were impaired. It's never safe to drive a vehicle or operate machinery when ability is impaired.

Impaiment is also an issue in disability claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person who has a medical condition (such as hearing loss, osteoporosis, or arthritis) often associated with age has an impairment on the basis of the medical condition. A person does not have an impairment, however, simply because (s)he is advanced in years. Also, environmental, cultural, and economic disadvantages such as a prison record or a lack of education are not impairments.