Friday, May 16, 2014

ADA ACCOMMODATIONS FROM DSS - FROM NSLA

This is from the Nassau Suffolk Law Services May 2014 LAW SERVICES NEWS: "How to Obtain ADA Accommodations from DSS for Clients by Ellen Krakow, Staff Attorney Many individuals who go to the Department of Social Services (DSS) for assistance have disabilities. Sometimes their disabilities prevent the client from doing things DSS requires of them. This can cause application to be denied or essential benefits to be reduced or even terminated. The American with Disabilities Act (the ADA) offers im-portant protections for individuals with disabilities that are designed to prevent such harmful outcomes. What does the ADA protect? The ADA protects people with physical, mental or cognitive impairments. These impairments may be the result of a wide array of conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, brain injuries, MS, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism, past use of illicit drugs, as well as many others. The disability must “substantially limit a major life activity.” Major life activities are walking, standing, bending, speaking, manual tasks, seeing, breathing, eating, sleeping, learning, reading, thinking, and concentrating. A person does not need to be receiving SSI or SSD to be covered by the ADA. What must DSS do for clients with a disability? If a DSS caseworker knows or suspects the client has a disability that will make it difficult to comply with a DSS rule or request, the caseworker must (1) note the disability in the client’s file so that others at DSS (and DOL in Suffolk County) are similarly aware of the disability, (2) offer the client a reasonable accommodation, even if the client has not requested it or even disclosed their disability, (3) grant a reasonable accommodation request if the cli-ent expressly asked for it, and (4) note in the file the specific accommodation given (or offered the client but not ac-cepted.) 06-ADM– 05 What are some examples of DSS reasonable accommodations? The exact type of reasonable accommodation DSS must provide depends upon the client’s particular limita-tions and needs. Here are some examples: •extra time to complete forms, or assistance from DSS in obtaining documents •having all notices sent to a designated person and/or having designee come to DSS in client’s place •phone-call reminders of upcoming appointments, •combining DSS and DOL appointments, •meetings by phone rather than at the DSS center, •home visits by a DSS caseworker if the client is homebound or if they care for someone who is, •supports at a work activity or pre-work assignment training, •placement at an emergency housing facility with handicapped accessibility, or a facility close to the client’s treatment provider •sign-language interpreters or other communication services for the hearing impaired, •written material in large font or Braille. Whenever possible, the client should submit written documentation of the disability when requesting the accommo-dation. This is especially true if the disability is not apparent, such as a mental health condition. Most helpful are letters from treating physician stating the client’s diagnosis and particular limitations. What can be done if DSS denies the reasonable accommodation request? Should DSS reject the ADA request, the client (or advocate) should submit a written grievance to the DSS ADA Compliance Officer, who will do an investigation, issue findings, and correct the caseworker’s action if he/she concludes the request should have been granted. In Suffolk County, grievances should be sent to John Nieves, ADA Compliance Officer, Suffolk County DSS - Commissioner’s Office, 3085 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Ronkonkoma, NY 11779, (631) 854-9983, fax # (631) 854-9996. In Nassau County, grievances should be sent to Ellen Abber-bock, ADA Compliance Officer, Nassau County DSS, 60 Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Uniondale, NY 11553, (516) 227-7779. If the grievance is not resolved in the client’s favor or is not resolved timely, advocates should im-mediately contact our Legal Support Center for Advocates at (631) 232-2400. Examples of advocate letters requesting reasonable accommodations are on our website, www.nslawservices.org, under the Self-Help and Legal Info tab."

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