- Do you have questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act?
- Are you an employer, business, school, or government entity who would like to be in voluntary compliance with the ADA or other civil rights laws specific to people who experience disabilities such as the Rehabilitation Act?
- Have you experienced discrimination or need help advocating for your rights as a person with a qualifying disability under the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, or similar civil rights laws that provide protection at the state and federal level?
- Are you a religious organization that is exempt from certain provisions, which are typically mandated by civil rights laws such as the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, but would like to become voluntarily compliant?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil rights law that is difficult for many people to understand, particularly because of the original court challenges that resulted in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which Congress enacted to provide clarification to the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts about the original definition of “disability” and intent behind ADA. Still, ongoing court cases and the specific regulations and the different regulatory bodies within the federal government based on the different Titles of ADA are other sources of confusion. Many people do not even realize that they are in violation of ADA, but ignorance of the law is not a legal defense.
Another challenge is that the law does not specify what is required for someone to be qualified to be an ADA Coordinator, so many people are simply “designated” to have this responsibility when they have no knowledge, skills, abilities or even a desire to fulfill this role when a government entity is required to meet this obligation or a larger employer decides that it would be beneficial to designate someone to protect themselves “legally”. This is a mistake and breaks the basic rules of “risk management”. It’s important to have someone who is knowledgeable of disability/accessibility, ADA and other civil rights laws such as the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act, as well as state laws that may provide even greater protection, as well as knowledge of your business or organization with sufficient time devoted to the duties related to the tasks that the federal government has stated minimally include if they are going to be a designated employee.
ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE LIVE WITH A DISABILITY IN THE UNITED STATES
Disability can affect us all at some point in our lives, with half of the people who experience disabilities experiencing it before retirement age and the other half experiencing it afterwards. People who experience disabilities are much less likely to be employed, with rates consistently less than twenty-percent employed and of workers who experience disabilities, 29 percent were employed part-time, compared with 16 percent of workers with no disability. Despite employers consistently reporting that people who experience disabilities saying that they are some of their best workers and they are surprised to learn that the cost of a reasonable accommodation may be at no-cost to them or if there is any cost, some of the benefits they find are a) increased productivity, b) increased diversity, c) retention of a valued employee, d) improved interactions with co-workers, e) increased overall company morale, and f) increased overall company productivity.
Employment is only one area that ADA compliance is of a major area of concern, but it’s also one that receives the most complaints. Other areas are related to access to government programs and services, transportation, housing, and more. However, many people who experience disabilities or who run a business, operate or work in a school or government entity, or provide housing or transportation to the public do not understand how ADA and other civil rights laws that protect people who experience disabilities affect you too. The good news is, you don’t have to wait for a conflict to occur. You can be proactive and work towards compliance now. If a dispute has already started or if you have a question, it’s still possible to keep it out of court with my consultation services.
CONSULTATION FOR ADA COMPLIANCE AND OTHER DISABILITY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS
When I work with people who experience visual impairments to include blindness and/or disabilities regarding accessibility issues, my approach is to help them advocate for their rights in a manner where I provide education and resources to the employer, business, school, or government entity so that we can try to find a voluntary solution(s) to the barrier(s) that works for all parties. If you are an employer, business, school, or government entity that is interested in evaluating your compliance with ADA and other disability civil rights laws and/or becoming friendlier to people who experience blindness or disabilities, it’s best to start having the conversation now and working towards solutions than to get sued because you have simply decided to take a back seat to such an important cause that affects us all.
ALTHOUGH YOU MAY SEE THE BENEFITS OF CONSULTATION FOR ADA COMPLIANCE AND OTHER DISABILITY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS, YOU MAY STILL HAVE SOME QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE PROCESS…
You’re not a lawyer. What gives you credibility in this area?
It’s true that I’m not a lawyer and I do not offer legal advice when I provide consultation on compliance with the ADA and other disability civil rights laws, but I am a consultant for attorneys as well. Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, the U.S. Department of Justice has never formally recognized an ADA Coordinator Certification and even the term “ADA Coordinator” is not specifically named in law or regulations, although what is described in the law is now informally referred to in job announcements and even other documents that the federal government has published in “tool kits” refers to someone like me as an “ADA Coordinator”. Additionally, in a recent settlement, the U.S. Department of Justice specifically recommended the specific program that I completed. It may be the first time in history that they have done such a thing.
In addition to my ADA Coordinator Certification, it should be noted that during my first master’s degree, I was trained by one of the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act who was also one of many who were present at the signing and one of the original directors of the regional ADA Centers that was implemented after ADA was signed into law. I am also a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC), which this national credential has long been accepted by the courts for expert witness testimony in areas of disability, particularly related to employment, accommodations, and employability related to social security and worker’s compensation to name a few.
The VA’s disability claims process can be a daunting task for anyone to go through and the medical retirement system is even worse when they determine the ratings. If your son or daughter is not yet out of the military, it may benefit your son or daughter for them to talk to me or a good advocate through one of the non-profits before they leave the military because military medical records can help or hurt the VA disability claims process. While it’s not a complete lost cause if we have not spoken beforehand, the claim should be filed as soon as possible after exiting the military and with the help of someone who is familiar with filing VA claims. It is critical that along with getting a copy of their military medical records, that they also get copies of any outside medical records, and duplicate copies of any images on discs (e.g., MRI, CT, etc.) or videos (VEEG) USB flash drives for their personal records because the hospitals are only required to keep records for seven years and the military doesn’t provide these automatically. These may be needed later. A minimum one-hour initial consultation is recommended for situations like these. You can find more information on my experience and approach to working with military and veterans here.
My employer doesn’t want to provide me the accommodations that I need. I don’t think you can help.
It’s unfortunate that you are receiving that kind of response from your employer and I certainly empathize with your situation. When we experience a disability and believe that we need an accommodation, it can feel like we are being discriminated against because that’s what happens in many cases. It’s possible that an alternative accommodation may still allow you to do the essential functions of the job, even though the accommodation that you are requesting may maximize your productivity people who experience disabilities typically know their disability and what works best for them. I would need to know more about your unique situation and individualized needs before I could make a judgment call about whether I believe there is a possibility that my specialty and approach with ADA compliance may help your situation. My other specialties of case management and/or career counseling may be a better fit for you if your employer is not willing to be voluntarily compliant or if your accommodation request doesn’t have to be granted due to language in the law. If I believe that you are asking for a reasonable accommodation or modification, but your employer has refused to provide it to you and I don’t think my services will improve your situation, I will advise you about alternative ways to seek remedy if you choose.
I am the parent or guardian of a child or adult with a disability. Do you work with children and adults with guardians or power of attorneys?
It depends. Generally speaking, I do not work with children or adults who are unable to make decisions on their own, such as by way of providing counseling or therapy services. In regards to accessing services and employment based on a person’s disability, I may be able to help you and him or her, on your behalf, as the parent, legal guardian, or power of attorney or with your consent. You, as an adult parent who has a child with a disability or is the guardian or power of attorney of an adult with a disability, may contact me for a consultation per my office policies and fee schedule, but as to whether I will be involved in the same way that I would be for an adult with a disability who is able to make all of their own decisions and contacts me on their own, I determine that on a case-by-case basis. The same policy applies for case management.