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Archive for June, 2014

U.S. Access Board Newsletter for May/June 2014

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Board Holds Town Hall Meeting in New York City

New York City town hall meetingThe Access Board travelled to New York City to hold a town hall meeting on May 15 that included briefings on its work, panel discussions on accessibility, and question and answer sessions. At the event, Board representatives conducted presentations on new guidelines for emergency transportable housing the Board recently issued and guidelines for outdoor developed areas on federal sites released last fall. The agenda also included panel discussions on taxicab accessibility in New York City, enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and rebuilding efforts after Super Storm Sandy.

The panel discussion on taxicab accessibility focused on a recent New York City directive that will require half of city cabs to be wheelchair accessible by 2020. This agreement, which the city entered into in response to a class action suit by advocacy groups, will be implemented through rules to be issued by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Panelists also addressed a New York City requirement for induction loops in all new taxicabs to improve access for people with hearing impairments and initiatives to promote taxicabs fueled by natural gas. Panelists included Jim Weisman of United Spinal Association, Janice Schacter Lintz who chairs the Hearing Access Program, Jean Ryan of Disabled in Action, and Marc Klein of Airports Nationwide, Clean Energy.

David Kennedy, Chief of the Civil Rights Unit for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, provided a briefing on U.S. Department of Justice enforcement actions under the ADA as well as the Fair Housing Act. He reviewed litigation and investigations by the Department involving landmark facilities such as Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, Radio City Music Hall, and the Apollo Theater. He also outlined efforts to improve wheelchair seating in historic theaters in Times Square, as well as ADA cases involving New York City hotels, restaurants, and polling places, and complaints concerning apartments filed under the Fair Housing Act.

Another panel led a discussion on emergency preparedness and response and rebuilding efforts after Super Storm Sandy. Panelists included Marcie Roth, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Edith Prentiss, Disability Advocate, Rosemary Lamb, Director of the Division of Advocacy at the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, and Susan Dooha, Executive Director for the Center for Independence of the Disabled. This discussion focused on efforts made by Federal, state, and local emergency management agencies to further integrate accessibility into emergency response and management operations. Panelists also noted areas where accessibility problems with emergency response and evacuation remain, including incidents identified during the response to Super Storm Sandy.

Board Issues Guidelines for Emergency Transportable Housing

emergency transportable housing unitOn May 7, the Board issued guidelines that address access to temporary housing provided by the government in emergencies and natural disasters. The new requirements supplement the Board’s accessibility guidelines for facilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) by adding provisions and exceptions specific to emergency transportable housing units. While the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines address residential dwelling units, it was determined in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that further detail was needed on addressing access to emergency transportable housing units. Such units are used to provide temporary housing for those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by a disaster until permanent housing is found. Sized for transport over roadways, they have a smaller footprint than other types of housing and pose unique accessibility challenges and considerations.

The supplemental rule covers access for people who use mobility aids as well as communication access for people with hearing loss. When grouped on sites, at least 5% of units must be accessible for people with mobility disabilities and a minimum of 10% of unit pads must be designed to accommodate accessible units. When units are located on the property of homeowners, commercial sites leased by the government, or military installations, access must be provided according to a needs assessment. The required number of units with accessible communication features is also based on a needs assessment regardless of the type of site.

The guidelines require certain elements and clearances to address usability within the confined living space typical of units. These include requirements for kitchen water spray units, shower seats, floor surfaces, and bedroom clearances. Certain exceptions in the guidelines for residential facilities are not permitted for emergency transportable units. Examples include exceptions that allow later installation of grab bars and shower seats in dwelling units where walls are properly reinforced, or that permit removable base cabinetry below sinks and lavatories. Weather alert systems also must be accessible and include visual output in those units required to have accessible communication features. In addition, smoke alarms must have integrated visual notification devices with a secondary power source in communication accessible units.

The supplementary guidelines are based on recommendations from a Board advisory panel, the Emergency Transportable Housing Advisory Committee, which included representation from disability groups, industry and code groups, and government agencies. The Board released a proposed version of the guidelines for public comment in 2012.

The Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines serve as the basis for enforceable standards issued by other agencies. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains standards for residential facilities covered by the ABA, which applies to federally funded facilities. The provisions for emergency transportable units will become mandatory under the ABA when adopted by HUD in the pending update of its ABA Standards. The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains standards under the ADA which apply to state and local government facilities, places of public accommodation, and commercial facilities.

Board General Counsel James Raggio to Retire

James J. Raggio, the Board’s General Counsel for the past 25 years, will retire on June 27. Raggio began working at the Board in April 1989, a year before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was signed into law. Throughout his tenure, he played a key role in Board’s development of accessibility guidelines and standards. He was active in the Board’s issuance of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) for buildings and facilities and for transportation vehicles. He also was instrumental in rulemaking that led to the Section 508 Standards for Electronic and Information Technologies, the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines, the joint update of the ADA and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Guidelines, and various supplements to the ADA or ABA guidelines, including, most recently, guidelines for outdoor sites and emergency transportable housing. In addition, he was involved in rulemaking currently underway on public rights-of-way, passenger vessels, and updates to the vehicle guidelines. Raggio also spearheaded the Board’s effort to collect information and to promote collaborative action on access for people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).

Prior to joining the Board, Raggio served as Assistant Attorney General in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office where he served as counsel to agencies in the state’s Department of Education. Before that, he was employed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and was instrumental in spurring the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations addressing access to public transportation, including standards for low floor buses. He also developed an advocacy training program on implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for disability organizations that served as a national model. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and earned a law degree from New York University.

The Board commends Raggio for his dedicated service to the agency and for his career-long commitment to accessibility and equality for people with disabilities.

Upcoming Board Webinars

The next webinar in the Board’s free monthly series will take place July 10 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will feature an in-depth review of requirements for toilet and bathing facilities in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards. Presenters will focus on more advanced topics and issues on achieving access to toilet and bathing facilities. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the webinar. An earlier webinar providing a basic overview of these requirements is available in the webinar archives. Participants are encouraged to review this archived webinar in advance of the upcoming session.

For more information, including registration instructions, visit An archive of all previous Board webinars is also available on this site.

Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series

The Board, in partnership with the Accessibility Committee of the CIO Council, also conducts the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series. These webinars provide helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to electronic and information technology in the federal sector. The next webinar in this series will be held July 29 from 1:00 – 2:30 (ET). For further information, visit

Online Guide to the ADA and ABA Standards Available

Technical guides and animations on the ADA and ABA StandardsIn April, the Board released the first installment of a series of online guides to the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards. The Guide to the ADA Standards covers design requirements that apply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities subject to the ADA in new construction, alterations, and additions. The Guide to the ABA Standards addresses similar standards that apply under the ABA to facilities that are designed, constructed, altered, or leased with federal funds.

The released guides cover the first three chapters of the standards, including application and use of the standards (Chapter 1), scoping in new construction, alterations, and additions (Chapter 2), and basic “building block” technical provisions (Chapter 3). In addition, there is a a series of animations that address wheelchair maneuvering, doors and entrances, and accessible toilet and bathing facilities. Future installments to the guides will be published as they become available. Users can sign-up to receive email updates on the release of new technical guides in the series.

Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.

Service Animals: Understanding Their Importance to Persons with Disabilities (June 24, 2014)

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

The following U.S. Department of Justice update provides an example of the importance of service animals to a variety of individuals with disabilities.

New Jersey School District to Adopt Service Animal Policies and Pay Fine to Resolve Justice Department Investigation

The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with the Delran Township School District in New Jersey under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement resolves allegations that the school district violated the ADA by refusing to allow a student with autism and encephalopathy to have his service dog in school or at school-related activities. The service dog alerts to the student’s seizures, provides mobility and body support and mitigates the symptoms of his autism.

The department found that the student’s mother spent six months responding to burdensome requests for information and documentation, and still the school district refused to allow the student to be accompanied by his service dog. Despite her efforts, the student was even prevented from bringing his service dog with him on the bus for his school’s end of the year field trip. Instead, his mother followed the school bus with the service dog in her car.

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public schools. Under the ADA, public schools must generally modify policies, practices or procedures to permit the use of a service dog by a student with a disability at school and school-related activities. Because service dogs must be under the control of a handler, students often act as the handler of their own service dog; when that is not possible, the family may provide an independent handler, as the family offered to do here.

The school district worked cooperatively with the department throughout the investigation. Under the agreement, the school district will pay $10,000 to the family to compensate them for the harm they endured as a result of the school district’s actions. In addition, the school district will adopt an ADA-compliant service animal policy and provide training to designated staff on the school district’s obligations under Title II of the ADA, including requirements related to service dogs.

“ The old view of service animals working only as guide dogs for individuals who are blind has given way to a new generation of service animals trained to perform tasks that further autonomy and independence for individuals with a myriad of disabilities , ” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the ADA to ensure that students who use service animals have a full and equal opportunity to participate in all school activities with their peers.”

Enforcing the ADA is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or the obligations of public entities schools under the ADA may call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website . ADA complaints may be filed by email to .

The Civil Rights Division would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for their assistance in this matter.

What You Should Know About the EEOC and Arrest and Conviction Records

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Background: On April 25, 2012, the Commission, in a 4-1 bi-partisan vote, issued its Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. The Guidance updates, consolidates, and supersedes the Commission’s 1987 and 1990 policy statements on this issue, as well as the relevant discussion in the EEOC’s Race and Color Discrimination Compliance Manual Chapter. The Guidance is designed to be a resource for employers, employment agencies, and unions covered by Title VII; for applicants and employees; and for EEOC enforcement staff.

1) Does this Guidance prohibit employers from obtaining and using criminal background reports about job applicants or employees?

No. The EEOC does not have the authority to prohibit employers from obtaining or using arrest or conviction records. The EEOC simply seeks to ensure that such information is not used in a discriminatory way.

2) How could an employer use this information in a discriminatory way?

There are two ways in which an employer’s use of criminal history information may be discriminatory. First, the relevant law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employers from treating job applicants or employees with the same criminal records differently because of their race, national origin, or another protected characteristic (disparate treatment discrimination).

Second, the law also prohibits disparate impact discrimination. This means that, if criminal record exclusions operate to disproportionately exclude people of a particular race or national origin, the employer has to show that the exclusions are “job related and consistent with business necessity” under Title VII to avoid liability.

3) How would an employer prove “job related and consistent with business necessity”? Is it burdensome?

Proving that an exclusion is “job related and consistent with business necessity” is not burdensome. The employer can make this showing if, in screening applicants for criminal conduct, it (1) considers at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed since the criminal conduct occurred, and the nature of the specific job in question, and (2) gives an applicant who is excluded by the screen the opportunity to show why he should not be excluded.

4) Is the Guidance a new Commission policy?

No. The Guidance follows the text of the law about disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination. Since at least 1969, the Commission has received, investigated, and resolved discrimination charges involving criminal records exclusions, and federal courts have analyzed the civil rights law as applied to criminal record exclusions since the 1970s. In addition, in 1987 and 1990, the EEOC issued three policy statements on this issue, and it also referenced the topic in its 2006 Race and Color Discrimination Compliance Manual Chapter. Finally, in 2008, the EEOC’s E-RACE (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment) Initiative identified criminal record exclusions as one of the employment barriers that are linked to race and color discrimination in the workplace. Thus, applying Title VII to the use of criminal history information in employment decisions is well-established.

5) Why update this policy now?

In the twenty years since the Commission issued its three policy statements, there have been important legal and social changes. In 1991, Congress amended the Civil Rights Act to add Title VII disparate impact analysis, among other things. Since the 1990s, technology has made criminal history information much more accessible to employers. The number of working-aged individuals with criminal records in the population significantly increased during this period, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities.

The Commission also began to re-evaluate its three policy statements after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted in its 2007 El v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority decision that the Commission should provide more in-depth legal analysis and updated research on this issue. Therefore, in updating the Guidance, the Commission incorporated social science and criminological research, court decisions, and information about various state and federal laws to help employers better assess the impact of using criminal records in employment decisions.

6) Did the Commission receive input from advocates, the business community and the public on this topic?

Yes. Representatives of employers, individuals with criminal records, and other federal agencies testified at public EEOC meetings in November 2008 and July 2011. The Commission also received and reviewed approximately 300 written comments from members of the general public and stakeholder groups that responded to topics discussed during the July 2011 meeting. The stakeholders that provided statements to express their interests and concerns include prominent organizations such as the NAACP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Insurance Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, and the D.C. Prisoners’ Project, among others.

Additionally, throughout the process of drafting the Guidance, individual Commissioners and staff met with representatives from various stakeholder groups to obtain more focused feedback on discrete and complex issues such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, SHRM, HR Policy Association, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the National Employment Law Project, and the Equal Employment Advisory Council.

U.S. Department of Education: Expectations to Better Outcomes for Children with Disabilities (June 27, 2014)

Friday, June 27th, 2014

President Obama has said that we are stronger when America fields a full team. Unfortunately, too many of the 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities in this country leave high school without the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a 21st century, global economy. While the vast majority of students in special education do not have significant cognitive impairments that prohibit them from learning rigorous academic content, fewer than 10 percent of eighth graders with disabilities are proficient in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Too often, students’ educational opportunities are limited by low expectations. We must do better.

That’s why the Department is changing the way it holds states accountable for the education of students with disabilities. For many years, the Department primarily focused on whether states were meeting the procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Generally, we have seen significant improvement in compliance.

But if kids are leaving high school without the ability to read or do math at a high-school level, compliance is simply not enough. This year, we also focused on improving results when we made determinations as to whether states are effective in meeting the requirements and purposes of IDEA.

With this year’s IDEA determinations, we looked at multiple outcome measures of student performance, including the participation of students with disabilities in state assessments, proficiency gaps in reading and math between students with disabilities and all students, and performance in reading and math on NAEP.

I believe this change in accountability represents a significant and long-overdue raising of the bar for special education. Last year, when we only considered compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements.

This year, however, when we include data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.

In enacting IDEA, Congress recognized that improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. We must do everything we can to support states, school districts, and educators to improve results for students with disabilities. We must have higher expectations for our children, and hold ourselves as a nation accountable for their success.

Michael Yudin is Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information, go to

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (June 27, 2014)

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Employment First: A Key Component in Community Inclusion – Assistant Secretary Martinez’s Blog

In her June 25 post on the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog site, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez marked the 15th anniversary of the Olmstead v. L.C. Supreme Court decision. “This decision set the stage for one of the most revolutionary chapters in our nation’s civil rights movement,” said Martinez. “With that case, our nation’s highest court affirmed what disability rights advocates already knew — that people with significant disabilities, like all people, have the right to fully participate in their communities.” In the blog, Martinez discussed Employment First, a systems-change approach to make community-based, integrated employment the first option for employment for youth and adults with significant disabilities. “While progress has been made since Olmstead, much work remains to be done and we won’t stop until the Employment First philosophy is adopted nationwide,” asserted Martinez.

U.S. Department of Labor Announces $1.85M Cooperative Agreement for the National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center on the Employment of People with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has announced the availability of $1,850,000 to fund a cooperative agreement to manage and operate the National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center on the Employment of People with Disabilities. The center will increase the commitment and capacity of employers to recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities by: 1) analyzing employer research, policies and practices related to disability employment; 2) researching effective employer engagement strategies; and 3) developing and providing outreach and technical assistance to targeted employers, such as federal agencies, federal contractors, small businesses and state governments. The full announcement for this cooperative agreement opportunity (SCA-14-06), including eligibility requirements for applicants, can be found at Applications will be accepted until Monday, Aug. 11, 2014.

U.S. Department of Labor Announces $2M in Funding for Pathways to Careers: Community Colleges for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities Demonstration Project

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has announced the availability of $2,083,300 for two cooperative agreements to improve postsecondary education and employment opportunities for youth with disabilities through the Pathways to Careers: Community Colleges for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities Demonstration Project. Each cooperative agreement may receive up to $1,041,650 to fund a pilot project that will build the capacity of community colleges to meet the educational and career development needs of youth with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities. The pilots will provide for researching, developing, testing and evaluating innovative systems to deliver inclusive integrated education and career development services. The grant-funded programs must serve youth and young adults with disabilities between the ages of 14 and 24. The full announcement for this cooperative agreement opportunity (SCA-14-03), including eligibility requirements for applicants, can be found at Applications will be accepted until Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. All grants will be awarded by Sept. 30, 2014.

Group Discovery Training: Making Connections – LEAD Center Guest Blog

Janet Steveley, a senior consultant with Griffin-Hammis Associates and a LEAD Center subject matter expert, contributed a guest post on the LEAD Center’s recent group discovery efforts in Kansas for its Customized Employment Initiative.

Opening Doors for Students with Disabilities – AAPD Blog

TaKeisha Bobbitt, Managing Director with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), authored a guest blog post for Disability.Blog, the official blog of, titled “Opening Doors for Students with Disabilities.” Bobbitt discussed AAPD’s internship program, explaining the scope of the program and noting the importance of internships to all students and recent graduates, including those with disabilities. “The growth and learning provided by the internship program is not solely reserved for interns, however,” said Bobbitt. “Everyone involved with the program, from AAPD staff to employers, are bound to discover something new through the experience.”

Communicating With and About People with Disabilities (June 23, 2014)

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

The Americans with Disabilities Act, other laws and the efforts of many disability organizations have made strides in improving accessibility in buildings, increasing access to education, opening employment opportunities and developing realistic portrayals of persons with disabilities in television programming and motion pictures. Where progress is still needed is in communication and interaction with people with disabilities. Individuals are sometimes concerned that they will say the wrong thing, so they say nothing at all—thus further segregating people with disabilities. Listed here are some suggestions on how to relate to and communicate with and about people with disabilities.


Positive language empowers. When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important to put the person first. Group designations such as “the blind,” “the retarded” or “the disabled” are inappropriate because they do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities. Further, words like “normal person” imply that the person with a disability isn’t normal, whereas “person without a disability” is descriptive but not negative. The accompanying chart shows examples of positive and negative phrases.

Affirmative Phrase
person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability
Negative Phrases
retarded; mentally defective

Affirmative Phrases
person who is blind, person who is visually impaired
Negative Phrase
the blind

Affirmative Phrase
person with a disability
Negative Phrases
the disabled; handicapped

Affirmative Phrase
person who is deaf
Negative Phrases
the deaf; deaf and dumb

Affirmative Phrase
person who is hard of hearing
Negative Phrase
suffers a hearing loss

Affirmative Phrase
person who has multiple sclerosis
Negative Phrase
afflicted by MS

Affirmative Phrase
person with cerebral palsy
Negative Phrase
CP victim

Affirmative Phrases
person with epilepsy, person with seizure disorder
Negative Phrase

Affirmative Phrase
person who uses a wheelchair
Negative Phrase
confined or restricted to a wheelchair

Affirmative Phrase
person who has muscular dystrophy
Negative Phrase
stricken by MD

Affirmative Phrases
person with a physical disability, physically disabled
Negative Phrase
crippled; lame; deformed

Affirmative Phrase
unable to speak, uses synthetic speech
Negative Phrase
dumb; mute

Affirmative Phrase
person with psychiatric disability
Negative Phrases
crazy; nuts

Affirmative Phrases
person who is successful, productive
Negative Phrases
has overcome his/her disability; is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)


Etiquette considered appropriate when interacting with people with disabilities is based primarily on respect and courtesy. Outlined below are tips to help you in communicating with persons with disabilities.

General Tips for Communicating with People with Disabilities

When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking hands with the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)

If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask for instructions.

Treat adults as adults. Address people who have disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others.

Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as “See you later,” or “Did you hear about that?” that seem to relate to a person’s disability.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of what to do.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Speak to the individual when you approach him or her.

State clearly who you are; speak in a normal tone of voice.

When conversing in a group, remember to identify yourself and the person to whom you are speaking.

Never touch or distract a service dog without first asking the owner.

Tell the individual when you are leaving.

Do not attempt to lead the individual without first asking; allow the person to hold your arm and control her or his own movements.

Be descriptive when giving directions; verbally give the person information that is visually obvious to individuals who can see. For example, if you are approaching steps, mention how many steps.

If you are offering a seat, gently place the individual’s hand on the back or arm of the chair so that the person can locate the seat.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Gain the person’s attention before starting a conversation (i.e., tap the person gently on the shoulder or arm).

Look directly at the individual, face the light, speak clearly, in a normal tone of voice, and keep your hands away from your face. Use short, simple sentences. Avoid smoking or chewing gum.

If the individual uses a sign language interpreter, speak directly to the person, not the interpreter.

If you telephone an individual who is hard of hearing, let the phone ring longer than usual. Speak clearly and be prepared to repeat the reason for the call and who you are.

If you do not have a Text Telephone (TTY), dial 711 to reach the national telecommunications relay service, which facilitates the call between you and an individual who uses a TTY.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Mobility Impairments

If possible, put yourself at the wheelchair user’s eye level.

Do not lean on a wheelchair or any other assistive device.

Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.

Do not assume the individual wants to be pushed —ask first.

Offer assistance if the individual appears to be having difficulty opening a door.

If you telephone the individual, allow the phone to ring longer than usual to allow extra time for the person to reach the telephone.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Speech Impairments

If you do not understand something the individual says, do not pretend that you do. Ask the individual to repeat what he or she said and then repeat it back.

Be patient. Take as much time as necessary.

Try to ask questions which require only short answers or a nod of the head.

Concentrate on what the individual is saying.

Do not speak for the individual or attempt to finish her or his sentences.

If you are having difficulty understanding the individual, consider writing as an alternative means of communicating, but first ask the individual if this is acceptable.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities

If you are in a public area with many distractions, consider moving to a quiet or private location.

Be prepared to repeat what you say, orally or in writing.

Offer assistance completing forms or understanding written instructions and provide extra time for decision-making. Wait for the individual to accept the offer of assistance; do not “over-assist” or be patronizing.

Be patient, flexible and supportive. Take time to understand the individual and make sure the individual understands you.



Treat the individual with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Listen to the individual.

Offer assistance but do not insist or be offended if your offer is not accepted.

Information for this fact sheet came from the Office of Disability Employment Policy; the Media Project, Research and Training Center on Independent Living, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS; and the National Center for Access Unlimited, Chicago, IL.

Effective Workplace Communication: Courtesy and Respect for ALL Employees (June 23, 2014)

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

These days, there’s an awareness-building month for everything, and June is no exception. Did you know we’re in the midst of Effective Communication Month? For businesses large and small, it’s a fitting time to remind employees about the fundamentals of clear, compelling communication, which is a crucial professional skill.

The benefits of effective communication apply not only in meetings and public speaking settings, but also in one-on-one exchanges between employees. And when some of those employees have disabilities, questions about communication and so-called disability “etiquette” are often raised. Often, people want to show respect to their colleagues with disabilities, but don’t know how. Or, more accurately, they think they don’t know how, when in fact they do — because the norms for being courteous and respectful to people with disabilities, including co-workers, are generally the same as those for being courteous and respectful of all people.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has a variety of resources that outline basic principles for communicating with and about people with disabilities, especially in the workplace context. These include a fact sheet with guidance on “people-first” language and tips for interacting with people with different types of disabilities, as well as several resources from the ODEP-funded Job Accommodation Network, the leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and other disability employment issues.

So whether it’s Effective Communication Month or any time of year, it’s always a perfect time for you and your colleagues to brush up on your disability communication skills. Doing so will help employees feel more confident interacting with not just people with disabilities, but all people.

For more information, go to

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (June 20, 2014)

Friday, June 20th, 2014

For more information, go to

Assistant Secretary Martinez Speaks at National Braille Press Meeting

Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez spoke to the trustees, members and customers of the National Braille Press, a non-profit braille publisher, at their annual meeting in Boston on June 17. Martinez’s remarks focused on the power of braille literacy in supporting employment opportunities as well as the importance of accessibility in the workplace. “I can say without hesitation that I could not do my job today without braille, and that my braille literacy helped me get where I am today,” Martinez said.

“Same Struggle, Different Difference” — Opportunities for Togetherness — Pride Month Blog

June is Pride Month, and in his June 19 post on the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog site, Dylan Orr, Chief of Staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy, draws parallels between the LGBTQ+ and disability communities in terms of struggle and support. Recounting his own story, Orr talks about his discovery of the multiple intersections between the two groups. “These intersections have influenced me along my academic and professional path, and the disability community has become my community,” says Orr.

LEAD Center and ODEP to Present Olmstead Anniversary Webinar — July 16, 3:00-4:30 PM EDT

One of the most historic legal decisions affecting the civil rights of people with disabilities will celebrate its 15th anniversary this month. On June 22, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered the landmark decision in the Olmstead v. L.C. case, requiring states to eliminate the segregation of people with disabilities and ensure people with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. On July 16, 3:00-4:30 PM EDT, the LEAD Center, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), will host an Olmstead Anniversary webinar to discuss the history and impact of this landmark decision.

OFCCP Posts New Section 503 and VEVRAA FAQs

As part of its on-going effort to provide guidance to the contractor community, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has posted additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) responding to inquiries received from contractors. The FAQs address requirements of the revised regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503) and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). These new FAQs have been added to the many FAQs already published on the OFCCP website.

New CMS Regulation on HCBS Settings — Implications for Employment Services — LEAD Center Webinar — June 25, 3:00-4:30 PM EDT

In the aftermath of the recent regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) defining acceptable and unacceptable settings for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), states and stakeholders are now considering how to transition their service-provision systems into compliance with the new CMS requirements for greater integration. This new regulation may have a profound impact on employment services. This webinar, to be presented June 25, 3:00-4:30 PM EDT, will explore the potential impact and offer ways to influence implementation relevant to employment.

Wage and Hour Division Issues Guidance on Joint Employment in Domestic Employment under the FLSA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has received questions from stakeholders regarding how the Final Rule, Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to Domestic Service, 78 FR 60454, regarding joint employment in domestic service employment under the FLSA, may impact consumer-directed, Medicaid-funded programs. The Final Rule modified the “third party employment” regulation to prohibit third party employers of domestic service employees — i.e., employers other than the individuals receiving services or their families or households — from claiming the companionship services exemption from minimum wage and overtime or the live-in domestic service employee exemption from overtime. This regulatory change will require each public entity or private agency that administers or participates in a consumer-directed, Medicaid-funded home care program to evaluate whether it may be a joint employer under the FLSA. In response, WHD has created a new Administrator’s Interpretation and an updated fact sheet to help potential joint employers determine their obligations under the FLSA. The guidance also includes seven detailed hypothetical examples with analyses, based on actual consumer-directed programs.

Build the Pipeline: Outreach and Recruitment via an Employee Resource Group — FDWC News Hour Webinar — July 16, 2:00-3:00 PM EDT

In the 2012 report, Federal Agency Employment Strategies: A Framework for Disability Inclusion (Federal Framework), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy outlined federal best practices for recruiting, hiring, and advancing people with disabilities. The “Build the Pipeline” recommendation from the Federal Framework described effective practices to attract and recruit qualified individuals with disabilities. Engaging Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in recruitment processes is one such practice. This webinar, to be presented July 16, 2:00-3:00 PM EDT, will feature speakers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District, who will share their agency’s philosophy, process, and experiences regarding forming and developing effective ERGs. The session will include Q&A time. Registration is open to individuals with a federal government issued email address.

Justice Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Reach $169 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of Credit Card Lending Discrimination by GE Capital Retail Bank

Friday, June 20th, 2014

The Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today announced a settlement to resolve allegations that GE Capital Retail Bank, known as of this month as Synchrony Bank, engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination by excluding Hispanic borrowers from two of its credit card debt-repayment programs. The settlement resolves claims by the department and the CFPB that GE Capital violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) by excluding borrowers who indicated that they preferred communications to be in Spanish or had a mailing address in Puerto Rico from two credit card debt-repayment programs. The agreement is a joint fair lending enforcement action by the department and the CFPB and is the federal government’s largest credit card discrimination settlement in history.

The settlement provides $169 million in relief to approximately 108,000 borrowers in the form of monetary payments and the reduction, or complete waiver, of borrowers’ credit card balances. GE Capital itself identified and reported the discrimination to the CFPB, was proactive in taking steps toward providing relief to affected borrowers, and has worked closely with the department and the CFPB to further identify and compensate victims of the discrimination. Specifically, GE Capital has already provided the benefits of the offers or their equivalent value to approximately 84,000 borrowers, totaling $131.8 million in relief. Following the settlement, the bank will provide the remaining $37 million in payments, reductions and waivers to affected borrowers.

“The blatant discrimination that occurred here is unlawful and will not be tolerated,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “Borrowers have the right to credit card terms that do not differ based on their national origin, and the settlement today sends the message that the Justice Department can and will vigorously enforce the law against lenders who violate that right.”

Department of Justice Reaches Settlement with Clay County, Alabama School District to Ensure Equal Opportunities for English Language Learner Students

Friday, June 20th, 2014

The Justice Department announced today a settlement agreement with the Clay County School District in Alabama. With the district’s cooperation the department conducted a compliance review of the district’s English Language Learner (ELL) program to determine whether the district’s ELL students were receiving services required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA).

The three-year settlement agreement will ensure that this rural district takes appropriate action to serve its small but growing population of ELL students, including: increasing services for ELL students, obtaining additional English as a Second Language-certified instructors, conducting significant professional development for teachers, providing adequate materials and classroom supports for ELL students, monitoring the academic performance of current and former ELL students and improving language-accessible communication with limited English proficient parents.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all English language learners are provided the services they need to succeed, including in a small rural district like the Clay County School District,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the Clay County School District’s decision to enter into this important agreement and look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the district to address the diverse needs of its English language learners.”

The enforcement of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the EEOA. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at .