A 2010 study by the US Census Bureau reported that there were 56.7 million people in the United states living with a disability. With such a high number, chances are everyone knows at least on person who is considered disabled. When talking to these people, it is important to have sensitivity, and avoid creating an awkward conversation, and remember they want to be considered normal like everyone else. Take this advice on how to communicate with a disabled person to avoid any uncomfortable situations.
You may feel nervous and unsure how to act around someone with a disability. Do your best to stay cool and treat them just like you would anyone else. They are not much different than you and want to be treated the same way. Don’t think of them as their disability, but as the person they truly are underneath it.
Don’t Baby Talk
Disabled people do not like to be considered victims of their disability. Never patronize them like a child or talk down with names like “sweetie” or “honey”. Avoid petting them on their head like an animal, and speak to them with the same respect you would give any other adult. Don’t give touching words of overcoming their situation and strength where you appear to be offering sympathy to them.
Keep a Normal Voice Level
Don’t shout at the person, assuming they have a hearing disability. If even if they do, screaming won’t help, and this adds to the patronizing effect. Never lean over someone in a wheelchair when talking to them as well. This is their personal space and you’re invading it while they are trying to be mobile.
Ask Before Helping
Don’t assume someone with a disability automatically wants assistance in a challenging situation. Helping someone walk, communicate, etc., can strip them of their feeling of independence, as well as throw them off-balance from their normal routine. While the intentions are good, always ask first.
The Obama administration has appointed a new Public Engagement Advisor for the Disability Community. Claudia Gordon will work as a contact between the disabled population and the White House to ensure their rights are being upheld. Gordon is responsible for supporting this community in all areas to see that they are receiving equal treatment, especially in the workforce.
The choice to appoint Gordon has been praised by the National Association for the Deaf and the American Association of People with Disabilities. Gordon herself is deaf, and will bring to the job her own personal experience of being disabled, and the discrimination she faced because of it. After losing her hearing at age 8, she was taken out of school in Jamaica and forced to stay home and do housework.
Gordon’s mother moved them to America, where Claudia decided to become a lawyer to combat the hardships she faced because of her disability. She was the first deaf student to graduate from Washington DC’s American University Washington College of Law in 2000. Following this, Gordon became staff attorney for NAD and helped the deaf community across the US. During Hurricane Katrina, she was instrumental in making sure that disabled victims were given aid, earning a Gold Medal Award and Hurricane Response Award from Homeland Security in 2005.
According to the US Department of Labor, in 2012, the rate of unemployment for those with disabilities was 13.4%, which is higher than non-disabled at 7.9%. The disabled were less likely to hold a full-time job than workers without a disability, with 33% part-time disabled employees, and only 19% part-time with no disability. Gordon has been actively bolstering Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which ensures better opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace.
Yesterday afternoon at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, NY, a hearing was held to determine whether a settlement agreement between the Social Security Administration and a large class of disability applicants would be approved. After a lengthy and litigious battle between lawyers representing the allegedly harmed applicants and The Social Security Administration, both parties appeared to have come to an agreement regarding the 5 Administrative Law Judges who were specifically targeted for bias and judicial misconduct while adjudicating disability claims over the last 6-7 years.
Markhoff & Mittman was at the hearing and it was quite a spectacle. For starters, the hearing room as switched last second to accommodate the influx of attendees – members of the class (disability applicants), attorneys and the general public. The proceeding was moved the ceremonial courtroom and what transpired was quite interesting.The 5 Judges sued were in attendance.
Several people were given an opportunity to speak in support, or against, the settlement agreement, which will effectively keep the 5 Judges on the bench, but every claim they’ve decided since 2008 will be re-reviewed by the Social Security Administration. That’s about 4,000 plus claims. Social Security made it very clear yesterday that they are admitting nothing and their Judges are not to blame, however, they are effectively agreeing that the actions by some of these Judges in court warrant a new hearing at the very least.
A few attorneys spoke in support of the settlement and highlighted some of the problems with these Judges over the years, but the fireworks began when a former disability applicant recalled his experience with former Chief Judge, David Nisnewitz. In great detail, the individual detailed how Judge Nisnewitz displayed hostility, disregard and anger towards him and his attorney inside the hearing. The specifics of this man’s story were horrific. The courtroom erupted with applause after his speech.
Two Judges spoke on behalf of the Queens Judges but were ultimately ignored by the public and the Judge hearing the case. In an effort to question the legality of various issues in the case as well as defend the actual Judges, they were arrogant, clueless and appeared to have no knowledge about the specific instances in which these Judges were accused of bias.
Due a small number of additional class members that need to be notified, the Judge deciding this case did not approve or reject the settlement agreement yesterday. In all likelihood, she will do so in September, which is when the hearing was adjourned until.
If you have any questions about the settlement agreement, or how it can affect you, feel free to contact Markhoff & Mittman at 866-205-2415.
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine released a study published in the July issue that indicated about 42% of American adults with disabilities are obese, and 9% of adults with disabilities are considered “extremely obese”. To compare with the non-disabled population, about 29% of adults without disabilities are obese and only 3.9% of non-disabled adults are classified as “extremely obese”.
Due to the higher obesity rates, individuals with disabilities also have a greater incidence of chronic illnesses, including high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension. They are two times as likely to receive prescriptions for high blood pressure as the non-disabled population.
The results of this research indicate the need for physicians and care takers to address obesity-prevention efforts with individuals with disabilities.
Adults currently receiving health benefits through their state Medicaid programs may not receive preventative health care services such as heart disease screenings, mammograms, colonoscopies, obesity screenings, cholesterol screenings and other preventative health care services under the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act treats newly eligible individuals and existing Medicaid beneficiaries differently, so while The Affordable Care Act expands health care law to include preventative health care services for newly eligible individuals receiving health care, adults who are already using state Medicaid programs are not likely to receive the same preventative health care services as it is not mandated under the law.
An analysis of state Medicaid programs and The Affordable Care Act by The George Washington University published a report that indicates 15% of Medicaid beneficiaries around the country are people with Disabilities. Since preventative health care can save lives by early detection of diseases, why should a portion of Medicaid beneficiaries be denied this coverage while others receive it?
A newly announced government program will provide up to $10 million of funding per year to states chosen to create demonstration projects aimed at coordinating and improving services for children who receive Supplemental Security Income. The PROMISE program stands for “Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplement Security Income.” It seeks to improve both educational and employment opportunities and outcomes for children who get SSI.
SSI is available for low-income children with disabilities. Often, the combination of these two issues – special needs and financial difficulties – means that kids on SSI do not get all the services they need to successfully complete school and enter the workforce with a job they are qualified to perform. The goal of the PROMISE program is to help state and local programs coordinate the educational, vocational and health-related needs of youth who receive SSI so that they have better outcomes as they finish school and enter the workforce.
Each state that receives a grant will be able to design its own programs, which should coordinate and ideally expand the types of services available to young SSI recipients and their families. These children and their parents often need help finding appropriate educational programs, job training, health care and other services. In many communities, there is no coordination between public school districts, special education districts, vocational programs for high schools and the Social Security Administration.
PROMISE seeks to change that. For the estimated one million children who currently receive SSI, the PROMISE program represents a strong opportunity for them to get the services they need to successfully finish high school, possibly go on to receive higher education, obtain job training and eventually enter the workforce. Coordination will eliminate both overlap and gaps in programs and services, making it easier and make it easier for SSI recipients and their families to navigate the entire process.
Prominent Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is making the employment of disabled youth a priority for his next term in office. He recently announced plans to bring the Workforce Investment Act up for reauthorization and wants to improve and expand the law’s requirements aimed at helping disabled students transition to the workforce.
The Workforce Investment Act enables local and state agencies to provide job training and “vocational rehabilitation” services to a wide variety of people, including the disabled. While all states have some sort of vocational agency and programs to help the unemployed, those in transition and disabled adults, special needs students often find themselves adrift when their school-sponsored educational programs end.
Employment programs and services for disabled youth can be inconsistent from area-to-area, and Harkin seeks to change that. He notes that a key to increasing the number of disabled individuals in the workforce is to help disabled youths successfully transition from school-sponsored programs to real work opportunities.
As part of his plan to increase the number of disabled youth in the workforce, Harkin wants the Workforce Investment Act to require all state employment rehabilitation agencies to set aside a portion of their funding to focus on disabled youth and the type of help they need before getting their first job. The money could be used for programs such as job training, apprenticeships, employment outreach services and access to summer jobs. These types of pre-employment programs would help disabled students and young people transition more successfully into the workforce when they complete their schooling.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released guidelines for employers regarding the hiring and employment of people with intellectual disabilities. The EEOC hopes that the guidance will make it easier for employers to hire people with intellectual disabilities. Currently, this population suffers from higher percentages of unemployment and under-employment than the general population, despite a strong desire to work.
The EEOC’s new guidelines stem from the 2008 amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which clarified and expanded the definition of disability as it relates to employment and other aspects of life. Intellectual disabilities were formally designated “mental retardation” by the EEOC and are characterized by such factors as an IQ below 70-75, diminished intellectual functioning and significant limitations in the ability to perform basic life skills because of decreased mental functions.
In its guidance, the EEOC uses a question and answer format to advise employers about their rights and duties with respect to individuals who have or may have an intellectual disability. It is important for employers to remember that in most cases, the rules for employing an individual with an intellectual disability are the same as for employment of someone with a physical disability.
For example, the guidance explains that as with all disabilities, employers are prohibited from asking job candidates if they have an intellectual disability. It is permissible to ask a job applicant if he or she can perform the skills necessary to hold the job at issue, such as reading, alphabetizing and following simple directions.
A person with an intellectual disability is entitled to a reasonable accommodation to allow him or her to perform the essential functions of the job. The guidance helps employers understand what they may and may not ask employees about their medical condition and any accommodation they need.
If the ordinary challenges facing the disabled were not enough, experts note that disabled people often suffer from an unrelated mental health issue as well. Even if the secondary condition is not totally disabling on its own, it may create additional limitations that make it more difficult for the individual to hold down a job or undertake ordinary life activities. And in some cases, the mental health issue is severe enough that it could qualify as a disability by itself.
Conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, social disorders or trouble engaging are the types of mental illnesses often seen in people with other disabilities and may occur as a direct or indirect result of the main disability. Some experts believe that the isolation many disabled individuals feel by not being able to participate fully in society promotes the development of mental illness and it is made worse if the person does not receive treatment for the condition.
In one study of 2,000 people, some disabled and some not, nearly 87 percent of the disabled respondents reported that they also had a secondary mental illness. The non-disabled population reported any sort of mental health issue only 30 percent of the time.
Adding to the problem for disabled individuals is the need to find aid and services for two or more conditions – their underlying disability and also their mental health concerns. The disabled population is already underserved when it comes to receiving health care. Add in a second condition that affects mental functions or the ability to cope with stress, and the result is that many of these “double disabled” don’t receive any services at all.