Volume 26, Number 1
ADA in Focus is published three times yearly by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.
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.
Welcome Michelle Cook to our Mid-Atlantic ADA Center team! Michelle will be contributing her knowledge of the ADA through virtual and in-person trainings, technical assistance, social media, and many other avenues. Driven by a desire for justice in all aspects of the American experience, she takes pride in providing the necessary support to allow others to achieve their own aspirations for inclusion and equity.
For over 12 years, Michelle has been a noteworthy leader in the accessibility, disability, and inclusion field. You may know her from her role as an Accessibility Specialist at the National Center on Accessibility, or as Accessibility Program Manager at the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands.
Michelle holds a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in Recreation Therapy from Indiana University.
Outside of work, Michelle enjoys camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, bowling, and playing games with her partner, Kathryn, daughter, Mika, and very good dog, Moose Potato.
Individuals who are working to recover from addictions such as alcoholism and substance use disorders are generally considered to be people with disabilities who are protected under the ADA. While the law excludes from protection those who are currently engaged in illegal drug use, those who are not currently engaged in such use should not be discriminated against based on their addictions. People who experience alcoholism are similarly protected, regardless of whether they currently consume alcohol.
Because the consumption of alcohol is not illegal for adults, alcoholics do not need to refrain from drinking to be protected under the ADA. However, they can be held to valid standards of conduct in employment or programs that require sobriety. For example, an employer does not have to allow an employee with alcoholism to drink or to be under the influence of alcohol at work, and the employer can expect compliance with legitimate, consistently applied job performance requirements.
The Illegal use of drugs, which includes using prescription medications in an illegal manner (e.g., taking higher doses than prescribed or taking someone else’s medication), is addressed differently under the ADA. Covered entities may consistently take actions based on illegal drug use. For example, employers can refuse to hire applicants who fail tests for illegal drug use, regardless of whether or not the individual could perform the job. However, care should be taken to distinguish between test results that reveal illegal use of drugs and legal use of medications. Many people appropriately, legally take a variety of medications to treat a broad range of conditions, including addictions.
Recent years have seen a spike in opioid addictions, and a resultant increase in the numbers of individuals working to recover from those addictions. Unfortunately, we have also seen claims that entities covered by the ADA engaged in discrimination based on outmoded opinions about people with addictions and/or uninformed judgments about the appropriateness of using medications to treat their conditions. Federal agencies have filed several lawsuits and entered settlement agreements to enforce provisions of the ADA that seek to ensure people with disabilities, with the advice of their doctors, can choose effective treatment options without experiencing exclusion and denial of opportunities based on stereotypes and bias. Recent examples in our region include:
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said “people with opioid use disorder … are too often subject to discrimination rooted in stereotypes and myths rather than in science” and “deserve access to medications needed to support their recovery and to break the cycles of addiction.”
The U.S. Department of Justice published this new guidance document to highlight its long-standing position that state and local governments (covered by Title II of the ADA) and businesses that serve the public (covered by Title III) are required to make sure people with disabilities can access the information, goods, services, and activities offered or facilitated online. The publication:
The National Council on Disability (NCD), recognizing the ongoing health disparities experienced by people with disabilities, developed this framework in consultation with academics, medical professionals, and disability community leaders. The framework provides a set of core priorities to guide efforts to achieve health equity, as well as a host of related components that would require legislative, regulatory, and enforcement actions.
The four areas that NCD views as foundational include:
Among the recommended action items:
This organization offers guidance, instruction, and resources for individuals, employers, and intermediaries such as industry associations, post-secondary educational institutions, and workforce development organizations.
EARN’s recently redesigned site is easy to navigate and offers a wealth of resources on recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing qualified workers with disabilities.