There are approximately 40 million Americans living with a disability today. That’s over 12 percent of the American population!
There are a number of different ways in which a disability can impact a person’s life, but many people find themselves needing assistance doing basic tasks such as going to the grocery store or even executing their job responsibilities. This need for assistance has influenced the development of disability rights laws throughout the country.
Not sure what these laws are? Need help finding someone who can advocate for your rights? Read on to find out how!
Disability Rights in the Workplace
When most people think about someone with a disability, they may not consider that many disabled people live fulfilling lives that include a career. That doesn’t mean that all workspaces are perfectly suited for disabled persons. As a result, federal and state laws have been created to make sure that disabled people can access their workspaces.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990 and is the primary law that is applied when a person with a disability applies for a job or seeks an accommodation at their current place of employment. The ADA applies to private employers as well as government entities, labor unions, and employment agencies and it prohibits them from discriminating against an applicant or qualified employee because they are disabled.
How do you decide who is disabled? The ADA defines it as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits their life activities. The person must have records of their disability and be regarded by a medical professional as having a disability.
Who is a qualified employee? A qualified employee is someone who can perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation.
What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is pretty straightforward. It is a change to everything from the hiring process to the workspace that allows a qualified employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
This can include different work schedules, adding a ramp to areas with stairs, or changing a desk to fit a wheelchair. An accommodation is reasonable if it doesn’t place an undue hardship upon the employer.
Disability Rights in Public Spaces
The ADA extends to many different aspects of a disabled person’s life, including their access to public spaces such as the grocery store or public schools. In fact, all spaces and places that are open to the public must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
In practice, this means that these places and spaces must have things like ramps and braille on signs so disabled persons can access them.
Public transportation must also ensure that it is accessible to all riders. You’ll see things like elevators to platforms and kneeling buses so riders can get to their destination. That doesn’t mean that all stops must be accessible, but it should be easy for riders to determine where and how they can access transit.
Since the ADA was not passed until the 1990s, older buildings may not be entirely accessible to persons with a disability. The ADA is retroactive in scope in that owners of older buildings were required to make alterations to their buildings to make them more accessible as long as those alterations were not cost-prohibitive. Buildings constructed after the ADA went into effect must be in compliance.
Disability Rights in Housing
The ADA also applies to access to housing. It works hand-in-hand with the Fair Housing Act to make sure that disabled persons have homes that they can comfortably occupy and access.
What does this mean for disabled renters?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on disability when someone applies to rent a house or apartment. It also means that a landlord cannot evict or terminate the lease of a tenant who is disabled and asks for reasonable modification of the apartment at their expense.
Many landlords that own multiple units maintain one or more units that are modified for disabled renters. Landlords are not compelled to ensure that all of their units are accessible, however. The only spaces that must be accessible are the exterior grounds of the complex.
Social Security Disability Rights
What do you do if your disability leaves you unable to work and generate income?
If you are unable to work, you may be eligible to begin drawing Social Security benefits before you reach the age of retirement. The Social Security Act (SSA) limits accessibility to disability payments to people who fit within their narrow definition of disabled. A person is considered disabled if they are unable to work because of a severe medical condition that has or will last at least one year or will result in death.
Further, that condition must extend to other forms of employment. For example, if you were once a construction worker and become disabled, you cannot draw benefits unless that injury also leaves you unable to work other jobs that have less rigorous physical duties.
Since the Social Security Act has a narrow definition of “disabled,” so it’s important for you to retain legal counsel to assist you when you apply for your benefits.
How Do I Find a Disability Rights Advocate?
There are a number of different disability rights advocates available to help you, but if you feel like your rights have been violated, then it’s important to hire an attorney to help you.
One of the most effective ways to find a good attorney to assist you is through recommendations from friends, family, or local agencies. You can also utilize online reviews to determine which attorney would be a good fit. Contact the attorneys that are recommended and see what they can offer you.
Do You Need Assistance Enforcing Your Rights?
Having a disability might mean that you move through this world in a different way, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to equitable access to things like housing and work. As a result, there are a number of federal and state laws designed to provide people with disabilities reason accommodations to access certain spaces. If you feel like your rights have been violated, don’t hesitate to reach out to a disability rights advocate to fight for you.
Are you looking for an attorney who can help you fight for your rights? Sweet Lawyers is here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help you!