Tag Archives: Americans with Disabilities Act

Tips For Including People With Disabilities At A Party

With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to hold a party where all guests — with and without disabilities — feel welcomed, respected and have fun. All it takes is some planning.

 Don’t be afraid to include guests with disabilities
People with disabilities have their disabilities 24/7, so they know how to create work-arounds so that they feel comfortable. If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included. All too often people with disabilities are not invited to events, or don’t go because they feel embarrassed to “put someone out” by asking for a simple thing that will help them attend. By telling them that their presence is valued, and asking what they need, you will build a new level of trust and affection. For example, one of the biggest things that aging loved ones need is a ride. So help them find a carpool or send an accessible taxi or ride to pick them up and return them home.

RSVP
Not all disabilities are visible, so you may not know that someone you want to include in your event has some special needs. By including a line about accommodations in the invitation’s RSVP, you are already letting guests know that everyone is welcome. If it’s a party for children, parents can tell you, right off the bat, what their child’s needs might be to attend the party. They will be happy you asked! “We want everyone to have fun — please let us know if you have dietary restrictions or require other special accommodations to attend! We will do our best to meet everyones needs.” Note that you aren’t promising to meet all needs — if you can’t find a sign language interpreter at the last minute or there is another issue, for example, you will be able to let your guest know in advance. Indeed, they may be able to help you find a solution!

Physical Access
Most public places are accessible. However, because religious institutions are exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many of them are not fully accessible. Thus, if your event is at a venue that is not physically accessible to all, move it to a place that is. That can mean a different room in a place of worship, or to a completely different place. Venues should have a ground level entrance or ramp, an elevator if it’s upstairs, and accessible bathrooms. Most public places (hotels, restaurants, bowling, video games, pools, bounce houses, etc.) are usually equipped for people with disabilities. Just check with the venue ahead of time. If you have someone coming who uses a wheelchair, you should also put the menorah on a table that is low enough for them to also be able to light candles.

Special Diets
Anyone can have allergies, celiac disease or lactose intolerance, but you won’t know unless you ask on the invitation RSVP. Making sure there is an option for cake, snacks, treats and other food for these guests can be as simple as picking up a gluten free cupcake to serve with the cake. It is thoughtful to have refreshments that everyone can enjoy.

Addressing attitude
Kids and adults can be daunted when encountering someone who is different from them. If it’s a children’s event you can talk to the group at the start of the party about kindness and respect for each other and each others differences. A party is a great opportunity for kids to learn about one another.

Involving parents
Parties can be exhausting for the hosts. Asking a parent or two to volunteer to help at the party, particularly if it’s a big group, can lighten the load for the hosts. Parents may feel more comfortable, especially if their child has social anxiety issues, if they are invited to stay or help as an option.

Sensory overload awareness
Parties can cause sensory overload for any child or adult. But for a person with autism or a sensory processing disorder, a party can be really overwhelming. Offer opportunities for guests to take a break, perhaps in a quiet room away from the crowd. Some venues may have options for turning down music or minimizing stimulation — and that is useful anywhere there are a lot of kids! Latex allergies (balloons) and chemical sensitivities (use of highly scented cleaners or staff wearing perfumes) are real issues. Solutions: Use alternative mylar balloons. Ask people to not wear strong scents, and choose unscented cleaning products.

Communication
If a guest attending the party is non-verbal or communicates in other ways such as American Sign Language or a communication board, talk about it with the guests. Installing free Dragon software onto an Ipad in advance can enable you to speak with someone who is deaf as it instantly transcribes what you are saying. Having an interpreter can be worth the cost, as all the people can communicate and maybe learn a little sign language! Remember to speak directly to a child or adult whether s/he is verbal or not.

Reading, Cognitive Access and Vision Issues
Children and adults with cognitive, learning disabilities or vision impairments might not be able to read the menu, instructions for a scavenger hunt or a game score sheet. Pictures and verbal instructions are useful, as well as pairing children with those who can help. It’s always great to have an extra pair of reading glasses around if you are inviting seniors. But you can always tell someone who can’t see or read what they will need or what to know.

Enjoy the party!
Don’t let inclusion stress you out. If you are reading this list and considering these tips, you’re already doing more than most! Stay positive, smile and throw that PARTY!

The Difference Between Service, Therapy and Emotional Support Animals

Many times, the terms service, therapy and emotional support are mistakenly used interchangeably to describe an animal accompanying a person with a disability. While animals falling into each of these categories can be invaluable additions to the lives of their owners, their training and characteristics are notably different and as such they have varying responsibilities and rights.

Service Animals
Undergoing rigorous and highly specific training, service animals are taught to provide special, sometimes life-saving services to persons with disabilities. Dogs are most commonly used for this type of work, with certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, being popular for their temperament, versatility, size and intelligence. Due to the nature of their roles, service dogs are granted certain rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, like being allowed to accompany their owners into establishments inside which pets are not generally allowed. Service dogs can be trained to provide countless services to their owner depending on his or her needs, from alerting their owners to the sounds of smoke alarms or ringing phones to pulling their wheelchairs or leading them through a crowd.

Therapy Animals
Therapy animals also receive extensive training but their role in a person’s life is a little different than that of a service dog. These animals provide psychological and physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers, visiting hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other such institutions. These animals are trained to socialize and interact with those around them during their time on duty, participating in various activities while maintaining a calm demeanor. While dogs are also common in animal-assisted therapy, horses and dolphins, amongst many others, have been known to take on the challenge. Professional handlers may not be in charge of an animal’s training, however their training must meet certain criteria as specified for the organization for which they will work.

Emotional Support Animals
While emotional support animals are not required to undergo special training, their presence in a person’s life can be tremendously beneficial. By providing comfort, support and a calming presence, this type of animal can help relieve anxiety and reduce stress. Emotional support animals do not fall under the same category as service or therapy animals, however they are afforded certain rights. The Fair Housing Act allows ESAs to bypass “no pet” policies in housing complexes while the Air Carrier Access Act permits these animals to travel alongside their companions in an aircraft, as long as they possess the proper documentation.

Service, therapy and emotional support animals offer guidance and assistance to their owners or handlers in unique yet indispensable ways. For a person with a disability, these types of animals can make a world of difference.

Universal design

Universal design

Universal Design makes things safer, easier and more convenient for everyone.
Universal Design involves designing products and spaces so that they can be used by the widest range of people possible. Universal Design evolved from Accessible Design, a design process that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. Universal Design goes further by recognizing that there is a wide spectrum of human abilities. Everyone, even the most able-bodied person, passes through childhood, periods of temporary illness, injury and old age. By designing for this human diversity, we can create things that will be easier for all people to use.

Who Does Universal Design Benefit?
Everyone.
Universal Design takes into account the full range of human diversity, including physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities, as well as different body sizes and shapes. By designing for this diversity, we can create things that are more functional and more user-friendly for everyone. For instance, curb cuts at sidewalks were initially designed for people who use wheelchairs, but they are now also used by pedestrians with strollers or rolling luggage. Curb cuts have added functionality to sidewalks that we can all benefit from.

What can be Universally Designed?
Everything.

  • Universal Design can apply to anything that can be designed, including products like door handles, kitchen utensils and smartphones.
  • Universal Design can be applied to architecture and the built environment, including public and commercial buildings, as well as residential buildings and family homes.
  • Universal Design can also be applied to the community at large through urban planning and public transportation.

Universal Design vs. the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a piece of legislation that protects the civil rights of people with disabilities by ensuring that they are not unfairly denied access to job opportunities, goods or services due to their disability. The ADA includes the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which outlines accessibility requirements for buildings and facilities. There is a great deal of overlap between what is required under the ADA and what would be suggested by Universal Design, but there are also differences. The ADA outlines the bare minimum necessary in order to curb discrimination against people with disabilities, while Universal Design strives to meet the best practices for design, which are always evolving and improving as we continue to learn more about how to best meet people’s different needs. The ADA focuses solely on the civil rights of people with disabilities, while Universal Design is designed with everyone in mind. The ADA does not apply to single family residences, while Universal Design can and should.

Below are some examples of universal designs:

Low Force Flooring Materials
There is actually a reason that short, stiff carpets and hard surface floors are found in most public buildings. If you use a wheelchair, you know how difficult it can be to push through even slightly plush carpet. Wheelchairs, handcarts, strollers – they are all easier to operate on hard surfaces.

Seamless Room Transitions
Room thresholds are most common in transitions between areas of carpeting and hard surfaces, and those lips can be not only difficult, but painful to maneuver over. Sticking to a consistent flooring style and removing those thresholds can make a huge impact on ease of maneuvering an interior.

Access for Pools
An hour of freely moving around in the water gives people with severe arthritis, muscle atrophy, and more a way to recover and live a significantly more pain-free life. This is why an increasing number of public pools have accessible chairs on metal arms by the side of the pool.

Lever Handles Instead of Knobs
Knobs, while being visually more appealing, require quite a bit more arm and wrist torque to move the bolt. Lever handles require both less force and overall motion.

Close Captioning/Large Print
Tablets, eReaders, smartphones, and more have shortcuts to increase font size easily – another great example of subtle universal design. This is the same principle behind why Netflix, YouTube and others alike now have captioning built in. Disability or not, these features can make life easier.

 

Is Your Business Accessible and Safe?

More awareness has been focused on making buildings accessible and safe for those with disAbilities. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses must provide everyone equal access around their property. However, despite these regulations there are still businesses that have failed to meet federal guidelines. For those failing to comply, fines and penalties can be severe and can potentially lead to the closure of the business if changes are not made in a timely manner. According to the ADA, businesses are required to make reasonable accommodations allowing everyone to enjoy the goods and services provided by the business. In order to comply, several areas must be addressed.

Entryways
Wheelchair users find many businesses almost impossible to enter. If the only access to a building is steps or stairs, the ADA requires that a wheelchair-accessible ramp be provided to allow easy access to the building.

Auxiliary Communication Assistance
For those individuals who are blind or need other assistance with communication, the ADA also requires businesses to make the appropriate accommodations for them as well. Signage outside offices, bathrooms and other areas is required to have words in Braille, and employees who have communication disabilities are also required to have access to closed-captioning and sign-language interpretation if needed.

Bathrooms
For years bathrooms in almost all businesses were obstacles that many found to be nearly insurmountable challenges. However, with the passage of the ADA, using a bathroom has become much easier for both customers and employees with a disability. According to ADA regulations, all bathrooms should have at least one stall that is designed for people with a disability. The door to the stall is required to be wide enough for a mobility device to easily go through, and the stall large enough to have room for the individual and another person if necessary to assist. Hand rails are also required for safety and comfort, and the sinks are to be low enough for a person using a wheelchair to easily reach and use.

Parking
All states require businesses to provide parking spaces that are designated exclusively for drivers with a disability. The parking spaces should be clearly marked and located as close to the business as possible, and are usually near a wheelchair-accessible ramp. The penalties for parking in a handicapped parking space can be severe, often resulting in a fine of $500 and the vehicle being towed away at the owner’s expense.

Aisles
While the least-regulated aspect of most businesses, aisles still fall under ADA rules and must be in compliance with federal regulations. Under ADA rules, aisles in retail businesses or others as well must be free of any barriers that would prohibit a person in a wheelchair from gaining access to that area. However, it’s recommended by most experts that in addition to being barrier-free, all aisles be clear of clutter and be made wide enough for shoppers using a mobility device to easily navigate. While not required by law, doing so is seen as an act of courtesy and respect for employees and customers.

Fines and Penalties
To ensure your business is in compliance with ADA laws, it’s a good idea to have a safety audit. Hiring an expert to conduct a safety and accessibility audit is the best way to ensure your business is in full compliance and is in no way violating ADA regulations. Under Title III of the ADA, the maximum penalty for a first violation of ADA rules is set at $75,000. For a second violation, the fine goes up to $150,000. If the Department of Justice finds evidence of repeated violations, the fines can accrue significantly and can greatly affect businesses that are operating with profit margins that have little or no room for error. The federal government is currently very aggressive with its ADA enforcement, with healthcare businesses currently being targeted for investigation due to the DOJ’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative.

While much has been done to make the world an easier place for people of all abilities to live and work, it is clear there is still much work left to be done. However, with continued ADA enforcement equal access is getting easier by the day.

False Assumptions About DisAbilities and Employment

More than 80% of Americans with disAbilities are unemployed.  Most of these people would very much prefer to be employed.  Sometimes the barriers to employment are related to the disAbility itself, and sometimes the barriers are created by co-workers and employers in the form of false assumptions.

It’s not fair.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against Americans who have disAbilities. The ADA requires employers with 15 employees or more to make “reasonable accommodation” to enable a person with a disAbility to perform at his or her job.  The accommodations level the play field so that a person with a disAbility can make contributions in the workplace.  In other words, accommodations make the workplace more fair, not less fair.

Employees with disAbilities are too expensive.
More than half of all workplace accommodations or adjustments cost nothing to the employer.  These include accommodations such as permitting sitting instead of standing, or standing instead of sitting.  For the accommodations that do require an expenditure, there is typically a one-time cost of about $500 (such as a wheelchair-accessible desk), which quickly pays for itself in the form of increased productivity, decreased insurance and training costs and longer tenure of the employee.

There’s no proof that this person can do the job.
In most cases, the only way to prove this is to go ahead and do the job.  If proof of ability were to be required of every applicant, no one would ever be able to get his or her first job and no one would ever be promoted to higher levels of responsibility.  This assumption is a good example of blatant discrimination.

All new employees should be healthy.
Employers are prohibited from asking employees about medical conditions either before or after being hired, but they are allowed to ask if an applicant is capable of performing the job requirements.  Medical screenings are permitted as long as all employees go through the same screening for job-related requirements.  The truth is that many new employees have some type of pre-existing medical condition, such as a thyroid disease, a pregnancy or a history of depression.  The same consideration must be given to employees with disAbilities, according to the ADA.  Every applicant deserves to be considered on the basis of past qualifications and present job requirements.

Invisible DisAbilities

Invisible DisAbilities

In general, the term disAbility is often used to describe an ongoing physical challenge. This could be a bump in life that can be well managed or a mountain that creates serious changes and loss. Either way, this term should not be used to describe a person as weaker or lesser than anyone else. Every person has a purpose, special uniqueness and value, no matter what hurdles they may face.

In addition, just because a person has a disAbility, does not mean they are disAbled. Many living with these challenges are still fully active in their work, families, sports or hobbies. Some with disAbilities are able to work full or part time, but struggle to get through their day, with little or no energy for other things. Others are unable to maintain gainful or substantial employment due to their disAbility, have trouble with daily living activities and/or need assistance with their care.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disAbility is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment (Disability Discrimination).

Furthermore, “A person is considered to have a disability if he or she has difficulty performing certain functions (seeing, hearing, talking, walking, climbing stairs and lifting and carrying), or has difficulty performing activities of daily living, or has difficulty with certain social roles (doing school work for children, working at a job and around the house for adults)” (Disabilities Affect One-Fifth of All Americans).

Often people think the term, disAbility, only refers to people using a wheelchair or walker. On the contrary,  the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) were considered to have a severe disAbility, while only 1.8 million used a wheelchair and 5.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker (Americans with Disabilities 94-95). In other words, 74% of Americans who live with a severe disAbility do not use such devices. Therefore, a disAbility cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses assistive equipment.

The term invisible disAbilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.

Also, someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can also have invisible disAbilities. For example, whether or not a person utilizes an assistive device, if they are debilitated by such symptoms as described above, they live with invisible disAbilities.

Unfortunately, people often judge others by what they see and often conclude a person can or cannot do something by the way they look. This can be equally frustrating for those who may appear unable, but are perfectly capable, as well as those who appear able, but are not.

The bottom line is that everyone with a disAbility is different, with varying challenges and needs, as well as abilities and attributes.  Thus, we all should learn to listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes.

BraunAbility: Final Paratransit Van in October

BraunAbility is scheduled to build their final Paratransit commercial vehicle in October and honor the life of the vehicle line with a celebration on Wednesday. The paratranist line produced mobility-equipped full-size vans for commercial use.

Over 25,000 Paratransit vans were built in Winamac over the course of the vehicle’s life, with 3,000 being delivered to North Carolina alone. Kim Angel of Macon County, North Carolina was present. Her agency represented one of the hundreds of customers that BraunAbility supplied with paratransit vehicles over the past 38 years.

“Ralph Braun began by installing wheelchair lifts on full-size vans like these,” said Nick Gutwein, BraunAbility President. “This product is where it all started. This is Braun.”

BraunAbility began production on the paratransit vehicles in the late 1970s. The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 served as a springboard for increased orders of mobility products by state and federal agencies.

BraunAbility’s paratransit product was built on the Ford Econoline chassis, but Ford has discontinued its Econoline product. BraunAbility made the decision to end production of its Paratransit unit and will focus its efforts on manufacturing wheelchair lifts and wheelchair accessible vehicles for consumer and commercial use.

Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Veterans

In recent years, the percentage of veterans who report having service-connected disabilities (i.e., disabilities that were incurred in, or aggravated during, military service) has risen. About twenty-five percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, as compared to about thirteen percent of all veterans. Common injuries experienced by veterans include missing limbs, spinal cord injuries, burns, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries, and other impairments.

This guide is intended to answer questions you may have about your rights as an injured veteran, now that you have left the service and are returning to a civilian job or seeking a new job. It also explains the kinds of adjustments (called reasonable accommodations) that may help you be successful in the workplace.

1. Are there any laws that protect veterans with disabilities in employment?
Yes. There are several federal laws that provide important protections for veterans with disabilities who are looking for jobs or are already in the workplace. Two of those laws –the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – protect veterans from employment discrimination.

USERRA has requirements for reemploying veterans with and without service-connected disabilities and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Title I of the ADA, which is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), prohibits private and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability.

2. What does USERRA do?
USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) to serve in the uniformed services, including the U.S. Reserve forces and state, District of Columbia, and territory (e.g., Guam) National Guards.

Under USERRA, employers must make “reasonable efforts” to help a veteran who is returning to employment to become qualified to perform the duties of the position he or she would have held but for military service whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability. If the veteran has a disability incurred in, or aggravated during, his or her service, the employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability and return the veteran to the position in which he or she would have been employed if the veteran had not performed military service. If the veteran is not qualified for that position due to the disability, USERRA requires the employer to make reasonable efforts to help qualify the veteran for a job of equivalent seniority, status, and pay, the duties of which the person is qualified to perform or could become qualified to perform. This could include providing training or retraining for the position at no cost to the veteran. See Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 43 – Employment and Reemployment Rights of Members of the Uniformed Services, 38 U.S.C. § 4313; 20 C.F.R. §§ 1002.198, 1002.225 -.226. USERRA applies to all veterans, not just those with service-connected disabilities, and to all employers regardless of size. For more information on the reemployment rights of uniformed service personnel, see DOL’s website at www.dol.gov/vets.

3. What protections does the ADA provide?
Title I of the ADA prohibits an employer from treating an applicant or employee unfavorably in all aspects of employment — including hiring, promotions, job assignments, training, termination, and any other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment — because he has a disability, a history of having a disability, or because the employer regards him as having a disability. That means, for example, that it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a veteran because he has PTSD, because he was previously diagnosed with PTSD, or because the employer assumes he has PTSD. The ADA also limits the medical information employers may obtain and prohibits disability-based harass­ment and retaliation.

Finally, the ADA provides that, absent undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense to the employer), applicants and employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation to apply for jobs, to perform their jobs, and to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment (e.g., access to the parts of an employer’s facility available to all employees and access to employer-sponsored training and social events).

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act applies the same standards of non-discrimination and reasonable accommodation as the ADA to Federal Executive Branch agencies and the United States Postal Service. Documents explaining Title I of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act can be found on EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov.

4. I was injured during active duty but don’t think of myself as “disabled.” How do I know if I am protected by the ADA?
You are protected if you meet the ADA’s definition of disability and are qualified for the job you want or hold. The ADA defines an “individual with a disability” as a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment (i.e. was substantially limited in the past, such as prior to undergoing rehabilitation); or (3) is regarded, or treated by an employer, as having such an impairment, even if no substantial limitation exists. You are considered qualified if you are able to meet an employer’s requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses, and are able to perform the job’s essential or fundamental duties with or without reasonable accommodation.

As a result of changes to the ADA made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, it is now much easier for individuals with a wide range of impairments to establish that they are individuals with disabilities and entitled to the ADA’s protections. For example, the term “major life activities” includes not only activities such as walking, seeing, hearing, and concentrating, but also the operation of major bodily functions, such as functions of the brain and the neurological system.

Additionally, an impairment need not prevent or severely or significantly restrict your performance of a major life activity to be considered substantially limiting; the determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without regard to any mitigating measures (e.g., medications or assistive devices, such as prosthetic limbs) that you may use to lessen your impairment’s effects; and impairments that are episodic or in remission (e.g., epilepsy or PTSD) are considered disabilities if they would be substantially limiting when active. Some service-connected disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, major depressive disorder, and PTSD, will easily be concluded to be disabilities under the ADA.

5. If I have a military disability rating or a disability rating from the VA, does that mean I am also covered by the ADA?
Yes, you are probably covered. Although the ADA uses different standards than the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in determining disability, many more service-connected disabilities will also be considered disabilities under the ADA than prior to the ADA Amendments Act.

6. Under the ADA, is a private employer required to hire me over other applicants because I have a disability?
Though it is not required to do so, a private employer may decide to give a veteran with a disability a preference in hiring. The ADA prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability.” This means that if you are qualified for a job, an employer cannot refuse to hire you because you have a disability or because you may need a reasonable accommodation to perform the job. Even if you are qualified for a job, an employer may choose another applicant without a disability because that individual is better qualified.

Some laws, however, require private employers to give a preference to veterans with disabilities. For example, the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) requires that businesses with a federal contract or subcontract in the amount of $100,000 or more, entered into on or after December 1, 2003, take affirmative action to employ and advance qualified disabled veterans. VEVRAA also requires these businesses to list their employment openings with the appropriate employment service and to give covered veterans priority in referral to such openings.

7. Are there any laws that will give me special consideration if I am looking for a job with the federal government?
Yes. Under the Veterans Preference Act, veterans with and without disabilities are entitled to preference over others in hiring from competitive lists of eligible applicants and may be considered for special noncompetitive appointments for which they are eligible.

Federal agencies also may use specific rules and regulations, called “special hiring authorities,” to hire individuals with disabilities outside the normal competitive hiring process, and sometimes may even be required to give preferential treatment to veterans, including disabled veterans, in making hiring decisions.

Here are some of the special hiring authorities that may apply to you if you are looking for a job with the federal government:

  • The Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) program allows agencies to appoint eligible veterans without competition.
  • The Veterans Employment Opportunity Act (VEOA) can be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions. It allows veterans to apply for jobs that are only open to “status” candidates, which means “current competitive service employees.”
  • The Schedule A Appointing Authority, though not specifically for veterans, allows agencies to appoint eligible applicants who have a severe physical, psychological, or intellectual disability.

8. During a job interview, may an employer ask about my amputation, why I am in a wheelchair, or how I sustained any other injury I may have?
No. Even if your disability is obvious, an employer cannot ask questions about when, where, or how you were injured. However, where it seems likely that you will need a reasonable accommodation to do the job, an employer may ask you if an accommodation is needed and, if so, what type. In addition, an employer may ask you to describe or demonstrate how you would perform the job with or without an accommodation. For example, if the job requires that you lift objects weighing up to 50 pounds, the employer can ask whether you will need assistance or ask you to demonstrate how you will perform this task. Similarly, if you voluntarily reveal that you have an injury or illness and an employer reasonably believes that you will need an accommodation, it may ask what accommodation you need to do the job.

9. Do I have to disclose an injury or illness that is not obvious during an interview or indicate on a job application that I have a disability?
No. The ADA does not require you to disclose that you have any medical condition on a job application or during an interview. However, if you will need a reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process, such as more time to take a test or permis­sion to provide oral instead of written responses, you must request it. Additionally, some veterans with service-connected disabilities may choose to disclose that they have medical conditions, such as PTSD or a traumatic brain injury, because of symptoms they experience or because they will need a reasonable accommodation at work. Once an employer makes a job offer, it may ask you questions about your medical conditions, and perhaps even require you to take a medical examination, as long as it requires everyone else in the same job to answer the same questions and/or take the same medical examination before starting work.

10. Some applications ask me to indicate whether I am a “disabled veteran.” Is this legal?
Yes, if the information is being requested for affirmative action purposes. See EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Preemployment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (1995) at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/preemp.html. An employer may ask applicants to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with disabilities or “disabled veterans” when the employer is: (1) undertaking affirmative action because of a federal, state, or local law (including a veterans’ preference law) that requires affirmative action for individuals with disabilities; or (2) voluntarily using the information to benefit individuals with disabilities, including veterans with service-connected disabilities.

If an employer invites you to voluntarily self-identify as a disabled veteran, it must clearly inform you in writing (or orally, if no written questionnaire is used) that: (1) the information is being requested as part of the employer’s affirmative action program; (2) providing the information is voluntary; (3) failure to provide it will not subject you to any adverse treatment; and (4) the information will be kept confidential and only used in a way that complies with the ADA.

11. What types of reasonable accommodations may I want to request for the application process or on the job?
The following are examples of types of accommodations that you may need for the application process or while on the job:

  • written materials in accessible formats, such as large print, Braille, or on computer disk
  • extra time to complete a test if you have difficulty concentrating or have a learning disability or traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • interviews, tests, and training held in accessible locations
  • modified equipment or devices (e.g., assistive technology that would allow you to use a computer if you are blind or to use a telephone if you are deaf or hard of hearing; a glare guard for a computer monitor if you have a TBI; a one-handed keyboard if you are missing an arm or hand)
  • physical modifications to the workplace (e.g., reconfiguring a workspace, including adjusting the height of a desk or shelves if you use a wheelchair)
  • permission to work from home
  • leave for treatment, recuperation, or training related to your disability
  • a modified or part-time work schedule
  • a job coach who could assist you if you initially have some difficulty learning or remembering job tasks
  • modification of supervisory methods, such as having a supervisor break complex assignments into smaller, separate tasks, provide some additional feedback or guidance on a task, or adjust methods of communication (e.g., give written rather than oral instructions for completing certain tasks)
  • reassignment to a vacant position if your disability prevents you from performing the duties of your current position or where any reasonable accommodation in your current position would result in undue hardship (i.e., significant difficulty or expense)

12. How do I ask for a reasonable accommodation?
You simply have to indicate — orally or in writing — that you need an adjustment or change in the application process or at work for a reason related to a medical condition. For example, if you have a vision loss and cannot read standard print, you would need to inform the employer that you need the application materials in some other format (e.g., large print or on computer disk) or read to you. You do not have to mention the ADA or use the term “reasonable accommodation.” Someone acting on your behalf, such as a family member, rehabilitation counselor, health professional, or other representative, also can make the request.

13. What happens after I request a reasonable accommodation?
A request for reasonable accommodation is the first step in an informal interactive process between you and the employer.

The process will involve determining whether you have a disability as defined by the ADA (where this is not obvious or already known) and identifying accommodation solutions. An employer also may ask if you know what accommodation you need that will help you apply for or do the job. There are extensive public and private resources to help identify reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with particular disabilities. For example, the website for the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides a practical guide for individuals with disabilities on requesting and discussing reasonable accommodations and on finding the right job. See JAN’s website at www.askjan.org.

14. I am not sure whether I will need a reasonable accommodation. If I don’t ask for one before I start working, can I still ask for one later?
Yes. You can request an accommodation at any time during the application process or when you start working even if you did not ask for one when applying for a job or after receiving a job offer. If you are already receiving a reasonable accommodation, you may also request a different or additional accommodation later if your disability and/or the job changes, or if another accommodation becomes available that will help you.

Generally, you should request an accommodation when you know that there is a workplace barrier that is preventing you from competing for or performing a job or having equal access to the benefits of employment. As a practical matter, it is better to request a reasonable accommodation before your job performance suffers.

15. What can I do if I feel that an employer has violated the ADA by not hiring me or providing a reasonable accommodation?
If you believe that your employment rights have been violated on the basis of disability (or for some other discriminatory reason), there are actions you can take:

  • Claims against a private or a state or local government employer:To take formal action, you must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The charge must be filed by mail or in person with the local EEOC office within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation. The 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if a state or local anti-discrimination law also covers the charge.The EEOC will send you and the employer a copy of the charge and may ask for responses and supporting information. Before a formal investigation, the EEOC may select the charge for EEOC’s mediation program. Mediation is free, confidential, and voluntary for both parties. A charge will only be mediated if both parties agree to participate in the process. Mediation may prevent a time-consuming investigation of the charge.If a charge goes to mediation but is unsuccessful or is not selected for mediation, the EEOC investigates the charge to determine if there is “reasonable cause” to believe discrimination has occurred. If reasonable cause is found, the EEOC will then try to resolve the charge with the employer. In some cases, where the charge cannot be resolved, the EEOC will file a court action. If the EEOC finds no discrimination, or if an attempt to resolve the charge fails and the EEOC decides not to file suit, it will issue you a notice of a “right to sue,” which will give you 90 days to file a court action. You also can request a notice of a “right to sue” from the EEOC 180 days after the charge first was filed with the EEOC and may then bring suit within 90 days after receiving the notice.

For a detailed description of the process, visit our website at www.eeoc.gov/charge/overview_charge_filing.html.

  • Claims against a federal government agency: If you are a federal employee or applicant and you believe that a federal agency has discriminated against you, you have a right to file a complaint. Each agency is required to post information about how to contact the agency’s EEO Office. You can contact an EEO Counselor by calling the office responsible for the agency’s EEO complaints program.The first step is to contact an EEO Counselor at the agency where you work or where you applied for a job. Generally, you must contact the EEO Counselor within 45 days from the day the discrimination occurred. In most cases the EEO Counselor will give you the choice of participating either in EEO counseling or in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program, such as a mediation program.If you do not settle the dispute during counseling or through ADR, you can file a formal discrimination complaint against the agency with the agency’s EEO Office. You must file within 15 days from the day you receive notice from your EEO Counselor about how to file. Once you have filed a formal complaint, the agency will review the complaint and, if the complaint is not dismissed for procedural reasons (e.g., because it was filed too late), the agency will conduct an investigation. The agency has 180 days from the day you filed your complaint to finish the investigation. When the investigation is finished, the agency will issue a notice giving you two choices: either request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge or ask the agency to issue a decision as to whether the discrimination occurred.

National Disability Employment Awareness Timeline

National Disability Employment Awareness Month TimelineThis year’s theme is “Because We are EQUAL to the Task.” This theme mirrors the reality that people with disabilities have the talent, education, desire, training, and experience to be successful in the workplace.