ADA in Focus: Spring-Summer 2016

Volume 20, Number 2

ADA In Focus is published three times yearly by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. It is also available by request in large print, Braille, audio CD, and computer disk. To obtain copies in other formats, contact us.

ADA In Focus is intended for use by individuals, state and local governments, businesses, legal entities, and others interested in developments in the Americans with Disabilities Act. This publication is intended solely as an informal guidance and should not be construed as legally binding. ADA In Focus does not serve as determination of the legal rights or responsibilities under the ADA for any individual, business or entity. Learn more about the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.

Spring-Summer 2016, Volume 20, Number 2 (suitable for printing)

Spring-Summer 2016, Volume 20, Number 2, in large print (suitable for printing)

In this issue:

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Director's Corner

Picture of Marian Vessels

by Marian Vessels
Director, Mid-Atlantic ADA Center

There is a dynamic intersection between the ADA, disability, and aging populations.

Many people are staying in the work force longer and longer. Retirement age is increasing for a number of reasons, but many people want to continue working past traditional retirement age.

Organizations such as AARP promote the concept that staying engaged in the workplace and in our communities helps maintain health and vitality. This “young” attitude is much in keeping with the baby boomers who are rapidly joining the ranks of older Americans.

We do know that with age comes an increase in disabilities as outlined in the expanded definition under the 2008 ADA Amendments Act. Older workers who are experiencing changes in their ability to do their jobs may be covered under the ADA and entitled to reasonable accommodations. Changes in how the work is done, flexible scheduling, or assistive devices may allow older worker to continue to contribute.

We need to increase the awareness and knowledge of HR professionals, managers, and supervisors so they consider potential accommodations for older workers who indicate challenges in continuing to do their jobs due to health or aging conditions.

I am personally interested in this topic as an aging worker with a disability! This is an exciting new area of opportunity – accommodating those who acquire age-related disabilities enables them to contribute their extensive skills, knowledge, and experience!!

Ms. Vessels is Director of the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, having served in this role since 1996. Among her primary areas of expertise are training and technical assistance on the ADA as it relates to employment, state and local government issues, and the hospitality industry. She is in considerable demand as a speaker and trainer.

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Focal Point

The ADA and Aging Workers

Research and statistics (not to mention personal experience for many of us) tell us that disability often comes with advancing age, whether it be a mild hearing loss, slight stiffness in the knees, or more substantial limitations. However, such limitations don’t necessarily have to stop us from working productively, contributing to the workforce and the economic well-being of our families and communities.

group gathers around older man in front of laptopMany employers have embraced greater workplace flexibility in recent generations, responding to more women entering the workforce, working parents caring for young children, and middle-aged workers caring for elderly family members. Adaptations ranging from on-site day care centers to allowing employees to work from home have enabled employers to gain a competitive edge in the search for talent.

Accommodating workers with disabilities is another tool in the employer’s toolbox, and when older employees acquire disabilities, creative accommodation can lead to the retention of skilled, experienced workers. And valuable experience is not only about honing technical skills, but also about developing the kinds of qualities that often come with maturity – prudence, discretion, wisdom. As Laura Helmuth says in her series on longevity in Slate magazine, “old people are awesome.”

Old people aren’t merely less bellicose and impulsive than young people. They’re also, as a group, wiser, happier, and more socially adept. They handle negative information better, have stronger relationships, and find better solutions to interpersonal conflicts than younger people do.

~Laura Helmuth, “Long Lives Made Humans Human,” Slate Magazine 2013

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 prohibits discrimination against workers who are 40 years of age or older. The ADEA covers employment agencies, labor organizations, and employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local government agencies. It also covers the federal government.

The ADEA, similar to the ADA, addresses harassment, retaliation, and adverse actions in various aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, job assignments, training opportunities, and benefits. However, the ADEA does allow employers, in certain limited circumstances, to reduce benefits to older workers to balance the costs of providing benefits that become more expensive with advancing age (e.g. life or health insurance), and to “offset” some benefits according to other benefits older workers receive (e.g. Medicare).

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulates and enforces the ADEA as well as the employment provisions of the ADA (Title I), along with several other federal employment laws (including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act).

Individuals often charge employers with discriminating on more than one basis, such as race and national origin, or disability and age. Since age and disability do often go together (though not always), it is not uncommon for older employees to feel they are being discriminated against based on both factors. Discrimination can occur either because an older worker has an actual, known disability, or because an employer assumes an older worker has a disability due to her age. This the type of discrimination may fall under the “regarded as” prong of the ADA’s definition of disability – discrimination based on perception.

Average Life Expectancy is Climbing

The average life expectancy in the United States at the dawn of the 20th century was not even 50 years; just one hundred years later it had climbed to nearly 77.1 Life expectancy is even greater for those who have survived the perils of infancy and youth, and reached adulthood. An individual who is currently 65 years old has a good chance of reaching 85.2

two older men wearing hard hats and carrying tools on a construction siteIf human society is to continue on our trajectory of success as we move into the new millennium, we need the skills and talents of everyone. We cannot afford to sideline valuable, experienced workers because they have reached a certain age or because they have developed disabilities.

There are a number of resources to help both employers and older workers learn about tools and strategies to maximize the potential of mature workers, including the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the U.S. Department of Labor, the Job Accommodation Network, and AARP.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Health, United States, 2015

2Social Security Administration, The 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds

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Zoom in on Training

Registration Open: Mid-Atlantic ADA Update

September 14 - 15, 2016
Pre-Conference Session: ADA Overview, September 13, 2016
Hilton Baltimore 
401 West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

ADA National Network Online Learning

Check out the ADA National Network’s programs, which include the ADA Audio-Conference Series, the ADA Legal Webinar Series, the Accessible Technology Webinar Series, and, in collaboration with the U.S. Access Board, the Accessibility Online Webinar Series. Upcoming sessions:

This is just a sample of the variety of training opportunities coming up on a local, regional, and national level. Visit our Trainings pages for a comprehensive listing!

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Close-Ups: What's New

DOJ: Rebooting Title II Web Accessibility Rulemaking

keyboard; "enter" key labeled "accessibility" and featuring the International Symbol of AccessibilityThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) withdrew the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) it issued in 2010 and issued a new Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) on the accessibility of web-based information and services provided by state and local governments.

Noting that “Web accessibility, the Internet, accessibility tools, and assistive technologies have evolved” since 2010, the Department seeks public input that is “more detailed and focused,” including information on:

  • The potential application of technical accessibility requirements to the Web sites of public entities
  • The appropriateness of setting alternative requirements for small entities
  • The costs and benefits of Web accessibility, including specific data on the costs of Web accessibility and how to measure those costs, as well as specific benefits, including benefits to people with particular types of disabilities, and how to measure those benefits
  • The current level of accessibility of public entities’ Web sites, including the experiences of people with disabilities accessing and using those Web sites

The Department seeks public comments on the SANPRM, which must be submitted by August 8, 2016.

DOJ Launches New Portal on Accessible Technology Issues

The Department of Justice created a new section of their ADA website to serve as a portal to information on regulations in development, enforcement activity, and resources related to websites, electronic book readers, online courses, point-of-sale devices, and other technologies.

EEOC: New Publication on Leave as a Reasonable Accommodation

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new publication, Employer Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act, on the rights of employees with disabilities who request time off as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

The EEOC has identified a “troubling trend” among employers who unnecessarily deny or limit the use of time off which may enable employees to obtain treatments, recuperate after illnesses or injuries, or take other measures that would allow them to return to work.

The document answers common questions, provides examples, and consolidates existing guidance on issues related to leave as a reasonable accommodation, including the interactive process, maximum leave policies, "100 percent healed" policies, reassignment, and undue hardship factors.

EEOC Issues Final Rules on Employer-Provided Wellness Programs

checking blood pressureThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final rules that describe how Title I of the ADA and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply to employer wellness programs that request health information from employees and their spouses. The rules also seek to both explain distinctions and provide some consistency with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act).

The ADA rule allows employers to offer limited financial and other incentives in exchange for an employee answering disability-related questions or taking medical examinations as part of a wellness program, whether or not the program is part of a health plan.

Highlights of the ADA Rule

  • Additionally, if wellness programs require employees to answer disability-related questions or to undergo medical examinations in order to earn a reward or avoid a penalty, the reward or penalty cannot generally exceed 30 percent of the cost of an individual health insurance plan (depending on circumstances, it may be the cost of the plan in which an individual is enrolled, the lowest plan cost the employer offers, or, if the employer does not offer health insurance plans, the cost of a specific plan available through a health care exchange).
  • Information gathered through health questions and exams can only be reported to the employer in an aggregate form that is not likely to reveal the identity of specific individuals.
  • The ADA’s insurance “safe harbor” does not apply to employer wellness programs, since employers are not collecting or using information to determine whether employees with certain health conditions are insurable, or to set insurance premiums.
  • Wellness programs must be "reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease." For example, information gathered from health questions or exams must be used to alert employees to health risks or design programs to address health conditions identified as prevalent in the workforce, not merely to shift costs from the employer to employees based on their health.

Rocky Mountain ADA Center Campaign: Don’t Say the H Word

The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is spearheading a campaign to end the inappropriate use of the “H word” – handicapped. Rachael Stafford, Project Director of the Center, says the goal of the campaign isn’t to shame anyone for using the H word, but to educate and encourage people to choose more inclusive language that puts people first.

Using the word handicapped to describe people with disabilities was never intended to be offensive, and many people still consider it perfectly acceptable, but many others believe it perpetuates outdated attitudes of paternalism and pity. So remember, a disability is something a person has, but it’s not their only (or necessarily defining) characteristic.

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Zoom in on Court Decisions and Settlements

Manufacturer to Pay $180,000 to Settle ADA Lawsuit

P.H. Glatfelter Company, a global paper manufacturer headquartered in York, Pennsylvania, will pay $180,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

EEOC charged that the company required all individuals who applied for or worked in positions involving operation of forklifts or similar equipment to pass a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) physical qualification standard for the operation of commercial motor vehicles, despite the fact that federal law does not require drivers of forklifts or similar equipment to meet such standards. According to the lawsuit, Glatfelter’s policy screened out qualified individuals with disabilities, and the company failed to conduct individualized assessments of applicants' and employees' ability to operate the equipment.

Greyhound Compensation Fund Established: November 10 Deadline to Submit Claims

A consent decree will resolve discrimination claims brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Greyhound Lines Inc., alleging that Greyhound engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of violating the ADA by failing to provide full and equal transportation services to passengers with disabilities. 

The alleged violations include failing to maintain accessible features on its bus fleet, such as lifts and securement devices; failing to provide passengers with disabilities assistance boarding and exiting buses at rest stops; and failing to allow customers traveling in wheelchairs to complete their reservations online.

Greyhound has hired a claims administrator to distribute compensation to people with disabilities who may have experienced a disability-related incident (such as lack of accessible transportation or related services) during travel, or attempt to travel between February 8, 2013, and February 8, 2016.

Find information or submit a claim on the settlement website. Claims must be submitted by November 10, 2016.

Settlement Will Lead to Improvements in Affordable, Accessible Housing in Baltimore County

Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC), together with attorneys from the Public Justice Center, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, ACLU of Maryland, and the national NAACP, announced the settlement of a lawsuit that alleged Baltimore County engaged in systematic efforts to keep African American and low income individuals and families restricted to inadequate housing in segregated, low-opportunity neighborhoods.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also a party to the agreement, which will provide significant results for people with disabilities seeking affordable, accessible housing in Baltimore County.

Key provisions of the agreement:

  • Development of 1,000 affordable rental homes, with 100 units fully accessible for families with disabilities.
  • The 1,000 units are to be integrated into neighborhoods of opportunity with low poverty and well performing schools (identified through specific census tracks).
  • Assistance for and placement of 2,000 families with housing vouchers – 50% of which are families with disabilities – into rentals located in areas of opportunity throughout Baltimore County.
  • Three million dollars committed to an accessibility modification fund for families with vouchers to receive modifications such as grab bars, lowered kitchen counters, and ramps.
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Snapshots: Cool and Useful Websites

Rio 2016 Paralympics

Check out this official site for all the news and information about the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro!

Partnership for Workplace Mental Health

This site offers information and resources to help employers promote and enhance good mental health in the workforce. The site includes an Employer Case Examples database to facilitate sharing of successful employer practices.

Research: New Matrix Highlights Effective Practices for Positive Post-School Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

The Effective Practices and Predictors Matrix identifies practices that promote positive post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. Practices are identified by level of evidence as evidence-based, research-based, or promising, depending on the amount, type, and quality of research conducted.

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