Disability Resource Center
||If you or a loved one is disabled because of a physical condition or
mental illness, you can learn about your rights under the Americans with
Disabilities Act. In addition, the Disability Center provides access to
information about Social Security Benefits and organizations that may
be able to provide assistance.
|AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
|The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
is commonly believed to be a law about the rights of people with physical
disabilities. However, the law is also for people with psychiatric disabilities.
It forbids discrimination against people with both physical and mental
disabilities in employment, transportation, public facilities, and public
The employment requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act
are especially important for people with psychiatric disabilities.
This is because many employers share society's fear, prejudices, and
lack of information about mental illness.
According to the ADA, an "individual with a disability"
is a person who:
- has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits
one or more of his/her major life activities;
- has a record of such an impairment; or
- is regarded as having such an impairment.
|To be protected under the ADA, an individual must prove that
he or she passes this three-pronged test. When a disability severely
affects an individual's physical abilities (for example, paralysis
or a severe vision or hearing impairment), this may not be difficult.
The task is harder for people with "hidden" disabilities
(such as psychiatric disabilities) that are not so easy to identify.
To be protected by the ADA's employment requirements, it is not enough
to be an individual with a disability. Rather, the ADA prohibits employment
discrimination against "qualified individuals with disabilities".
A qualified individual with a disability is an individual
with a disability who meets the skill, experience, education, and
other job-related requirements of a position held or desired, and
who, with or without reasonable accommodations, can perform the essential
functions of a job.
What is meant by "reasonable accommodations"? Accommodations
are changes to the work environment or the way things are usually
done that allow an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment
There are many reasonable accommodations that may be useful to people
with psychiatric disabilities. Examples are restructuring job tasks,
providing self-paced workloads and flexible hours, furnishing written
job instructions, and allowing time off for professional counseling.
An accommodation is not considered reasonable if it creates an "undue
hardship" for the employer. Undue hardship refers not only to
financial hardship, but also to accommodations that are overly extensive
or disruptive, or that would change the nature or operation of a business.
The ADA is a legal tool to fight discrimination. Any person who believes
he or she has experienced employment discrimination based on a psychiatric
disability has a right to file an administrative "charge"
or "complaint" with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) or a state or local anti-discrimination agency.
more about the EEOC and disability discrimination.
The U.S. Department of Justice also maintains a website (ADA Home
Page) that provides a wide range of information about the Americans
with Disabilities Act. The site provides assistance for people with
disabilities and for employers.
For general information about the ADA, answers to specific technical
questions, free ADA materials, or information about filing a complaint,
the federal government also provides the following ADA Information
|SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FOR PEOPLE WITH
|The Social Security and Supplemental Security
Income disability programs are the largest of several federal government
programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While
these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered
by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have
a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under
||Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits
to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured"
meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.
This section explains the benefits available, how you can qualify,
and who can receive benefits. It also explains how to apply for
the benefits and what happens when your application is approved.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays
benefits based on financial need. SSI is designed to help aged,
blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and
to provide cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and
When you apply for either program, the Social Security Administration
collects medical and other information from you and makes a
decision about whether or not you meet Social Security's
definition of disability.
|The definition of disability under Social Security is
different than other federal government programs. Social
Security pays only for total disability. No benefits
are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
Disability under Social Security is based on your inability
to work. You are considered disabled under Social Security rules
if you cannot do work that you did before and Social Security
decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your
medical condition(s). Your disability must also last or be expected
to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security
program rules assume that working families have access to other
resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities,
including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.
Use the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool
to find out which programs may be able to pay you benefits.
The Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) is a tool that
you can use to find out if you could be eligible for benefits
from any of the programs Social Security administers. This tool
gives you eligibility information based on answers you give
to the questions.
This listing provides you with Internet sites
that are sponsored by government agencies or are well-known and credible
national organizations. For additional resources use the section of
this site called Support Organizations A to Z.
|Surfing the Internet
When looking at Internet sites, remember that the information
can be sponsored by anyone. Take into account the sponsoring
group or individual when gathering information or help. Be especially
careful about giving out personal or financial information.
Learn more about surfing the web:
Last modified on: 2 January 2008
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