By Colleen Scott, Advocacy Specialist
This year, July 26 will be the 32nd birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was the first codified federal legislation to provide comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.
New York State is home to nearly four million adults with disabilities – approximately 25 percent of New Yorkers. While disability is not inevitable, the chances of acquiring a disability increase with age.
Even though many older adults do not identify as having a disability, they qualify for protection under the ADA based on functional impairments.
The ADA defines disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual; or a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such impairment."
The following are examples of areas in which someone may have a disability:
- Mobility: Serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Cognition: Serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Independent living: Serious difficulty doing errands alone, such as visiting a doctor's office
- Hearing: Deafness or serious difficulty hearing
- Vision: Blindness or serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses
- Self-care: Difficulty dressing or bathing
What this Means for Covered Entities?
Covered entities must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy services, programs, or activities (e.g., requiring a driver's license as the only acceptable form of identity).
Covered entities must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to an individual with a disability (e.g., a county building that prohibits animals must generally allow a service dog to assist an individual with a disability).
A surcharge may not be imposed on an individual with a disability for costs of measures necessary to ensure nondiscrimination (e.g., provision of a sign language interpreter).
Here are some ways that ADA requirements may affect service provision:
- Communication: An individual is receiving case management from an AAA. Due to their disability (e.g., deafness), they request that all contact be made in person or in writing. This is an example of a reasonable request for a policy modification of communications to accommodate a need based on disability.
- Transportation: A county-sponsored AAA owns and operates vehicles. The AAA is engaged in transporting older adults to medical appointments and senior centers on a demand-responsive system. When viewed in its entirety, the AAA's system must allow for equal access to older individuals with disabilities (e.g., motorized wheelchair users).
Health disparities exist for individuals with disabilities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "adults with disabilities are more likely to be obese, smoke, have high blood pressure, and be physically inactive. These preventable factors can increase the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers, which are also more common among adults with disabilities."
Through TRAID Centers, you can borrow equipment – everything from smart tablets to commodes – for FREE for individuals to try out, borrow in an emergency, and for short- and long-term loans the same way you borrow a library book.
A regional resource which provides training and technical assistance and by phone: 1-800-949-4232