#COVID19 Resources from the NIDILRR Grantee Community

Updated August 3, 2020.

Many members of the NIDILRR grantee community have responded to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) by publishing, presenting, or curating resources to support the continued independence and participation of people with disabilities and their families, and the professionals who work with them. We are actively collecting these resources as they are published. This list is growing every week, so check back regularly. New items are posted first; older items are listed alphabetically by project or center, and the date of the most recent update will be posted above.

NEW: Americans with Disabilities Act Participation Action Research Consortium (ADA PARC)

People with Disabilities in COVID-19: Fixing Our Priorities. Published in the American Journal of Bioethics specially issue on COVID-19. From the introduction: “While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked disproportionate havoc in marginalized racial/ethnic communities, little attention has been given to people with disabilities in the press, public health surveillance, and research. A few articles, including this special issue, consider the discriminatory nature of categorical exclusion from and guidelines for the rationing of medical equipment and services. While important, this focus captures only one—late-stage—injustice toward people with disabilities in the pandemic, and leaves untouched other important periods. We focus on these understudied periods. First, we describe the most relevant and unique disadvantages that people with disabilities experience in health care and community living that place them at greater risk for disparate COVID-19 outcomes. Then we highlight the need to ensure accurate data collection in order to better understand COVID-19 disparities and improve prevention and treatment of, and preparedness for, current and future infectious disease pandemics among people with disabilities.”
Keywords: Ethics, disparities, data collection

NEW: Center for Research, Training, and Dissemination of Family Support for People with Disabilities Across the Life Course.

This center conducted a survey of caregivers and non-caregivers to understand the impact of the pandemic. The survey found that family caregivers reported more negative effects from the pandemic than non-caregivers. They were more likely to be experiencing isolation, food insecurity, and financial hardship, among other issues. Family caregivers also reported that the pandemic had increased their caregiving responsibilities, and that providing care was more emotionally, physically, and emotionally difficult. Female caregivers, minority caregivers, caregivers with less education, caregivers with lower income, younger caregivers, caregivers who care for persons with mental health/behavioral issues, and caregivers who live with the care recipient tended to report greater negative impacts. The report is available in an executive summary, a full report, and an infographic.
Keywords: Caregiving, family caregivers, social isolation, financial impact

NEW: National Research Center on Parents with Disabilities and Their Families

NRCPD collected blog entries from parents with disabilities about their experiences during the various phases of the pandemic in their communities.

NEW: Community Life Engagement Guidepost Fidelity Scale Development and Testing

Virtual Community Life Engagement. This publication applies the Four Guideposts to Community Life Engagement to selecting and supporting online engagement opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: https://covid19.communityinclusion.org/pdf/CLE_issue10_V2_D2.pdf This publication was supported in part by a NIDILRR Field Initiated Research Grant (Community Life Engagement Guidepost Fidelity Scale Development and Testing; # 90IFRE0025) Part of https://covid19.communityinclusion.org/
Keywords: Community living, intellectual and developmental disabilities

NEW: Langston University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (LU-RRTC)

The LU-RRTC has released a Policy Research Brief (volume 3, issue 1) titled Forecasting COVID-19 Issues for People of Color with Disabilities While Advancing the Minority-Serving Institution Research Capacity Building Science: A Framework for Federal Agencies. The brief reports on key themes derived from a national listening session titled “Emerging Issues Around COVID-19 and People of Color with Disabilities for Minority-Serving Institution Scientific Workforce Capacity Building”. The report documents potentially useful actionable strategies and proposes a Framework for Advancing the COVID-19 Science Involving People of Color with Disabilities through Minority-Serving Institution Research Capacity Building. 
Keywords: Capacity building

NEW: Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood (Transitions ACR)

The Transitions ACR  Young Adult Blog, Managing My Medical and Mental Health Conditions Amidst COVID-19. The blog post, written by a young adult with mental health conditions, discusses how the pandemic has affected the healthcare system and how this has affected the treatment of their medical and mental health conditions. Plus three tip sheets: How Young Adults Can Manage Loss of Income During the COVID-19 Pandemic covers many topics related to surviving this difficult financial situation and is applicable to everyone. Maintaining Your Emotional Wellness During COVID-19 is also available in ASL. And finally Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Payments: Who Gets It, How, & Impact on Other Benefits.
Keywords: Youth, young adults, wellness, employment, financial management

NEW: The Center for Enhancing Neurocognitive Health, Abilities, Networks, & Community Engagement (ENHANCE)

When Going Digital Becomes a Necessity: Ensuring Older Adults’ Needs for Information, Services, and Social Inclusion During COVID-19, published in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy. Examines information services and social services to connect older adults to community.
Keywords: older adults, social isolation, information technology

NEW: Great Lakes ADA Regional Center

This center aired a webinar in its ADA-Audio series on Face Coverings and the ADA https://www.accessibilityonline.org/ADA-Audio/session/?id=110851
Keywords: ADA, public health, masks, public policies, reasonable accommodations

AbleData

The AbleData team has a blog series called AT for Being at Home published through their Facebook page. Each article highlights different assistive technology (AT) solutions for at-home activities. Topics include gardening, working out, sewing, and gaming, with more topics in the pipeline. https://t.co/QyqYvh9fUp 
Keywords: Assistive technology

ADA National Network of Regional Centers

The ADA National Network and its 10 regional centers help people with disabilities, employers, and public entities to understand their rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The regional centers are operating, though their physical offices may be closed due to stay-at-home orders. Call 800/949-4232 to reach the center for your region. The National Network and the centers host a Twitter chat (4/22) on ADA, Healthcare, and Effective Communication. Some of the centers have published resource pages.
Keywords: ADA, accessibility, healthcare, barriers, civil rights, effective communication, rural health, telehealth, mental health

Boston-Harvard Burn Injury Model System Center (BH-BIMS)

The researchers at the BH-BIMS published a letter to the editor in the journal Burns, COVID-19 pandemic and the burn survivor community: A call for action. The letter to the editor highlights the impact of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on people with burn injury, including reduced access to inpatient and outpatient medical and therapeutic care, loss of peer support leading to increased isolation, and triggers for post-traumatic stress disorder. The authors also suggest resources for support and education for burn survivors and care providers. The article is available free in full text.

The Center for Enhancing Neurocognitive Health, Abilities, Networks, & Community Engagement (ENHANCE).

The goal of the ENHANCE project is to support the ability of older adults with cognitive disabilities to live independently in the community. This center has published an article, When Going Digital Becomes a Necessity: Ensuring Older Adults’ Needs for Information, Services, and Social Inclusion During COVID-19, in the Journal of Aging & Social Policy. The article examines the immediate need for digital literacy for older adults who must suddenly learn to interact with health care providers, social services, and friends and family.

Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living (CHRIL)

CHRIL and its stakeholder partner American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD) collaborated on a series of short videos on COVID-19 and Disability:

  1. COVID-19 & Disability: Who’s at Risk for Complications?
  2. COVID-19 & Disability: Social Distancing
  3. COVID-19 & Disability: Precautions for People in Wheelchairs
  4. COVID-19 & Disability: Keeping Wheelchairs Clean
  5. COVID 19 & Disability: Being a Self-Advocate
  6. COVID-19 & Disability: Knowing Your Legal Rights

Cognitopia

Cognitopia has developed several NIDILRR-funded technology solutions for people with cognitive and processing disorders such as brain injury and autism. Cognitopia added a collection of COVID-19 resources to the Staying Healthy portfolio in My Life. It’s designed to provide cognitively accessible information related to the coronavirus, including reliable links, instructional videos, personal care routines, and collected other info to help folks get through a difficult time. Cognitopia’s MyLife tool can be used remotely by a student and their support team as they transition from school to college or work. See a set-up example using Jon Student and his transition goals and activities.
Keywords: Cognitive disabilities, community participation, personal care

Community Living Policy Center

This center conducts research in policies and practices that promote community living outcomes for individuals with disabilities. In response to pending legislation which could impact services and supports for people with disabilities, the center published two briefs: Understanding the Home and Community-Based Services COVID-19 Response Proposal describes bills to increase funding for states’ home and community-based services, specifically how the increased funding would help ensure care at home, minimize wait lists, increase wages for health workers, and provide for sick leave; An Emergency Direct Care Conservation Corps Proposal proposes ways to strengthen the direct care workforce to reduce the spread of COVID-10 and preventable emergency department visits and hospitalization of vulnerable people.
Keywords: Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), direct support providers, policy, legislation

Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC)

MSKTC works with the Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Burn Injury Model System Centers, developing and curating resources to help people with these injuries, their families and caregivers, and rehabilitation professionals. In this special issue of their monthly newsletter, MSKTC shares resources to help individuals stay healthy during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: Spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, burn injury, health and wellness

Mount Sinai Spinal Cord Injury Model System

This center conducts research and development to help people with spinal cord injury (SCI) recover and return to their communities. Principal Investigator Thomas Bryce, MD, answered Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and SCI for United Spinal. Topics covered included risk of contracting the virus, the impact on respiratory function, and when to consider going to the emergency department.
Keywords: Spinal cord injury, risk factors

National Research Center on Parents with Disabilities and Their Families

This center conducts research and training to support parents with disabilities, help them understand their rights and advocate for services and supports. The Center hosted a Twitter chat Parenting with a Disability During COVID-19:Insights from the #COVIDDisParenting Twitter Chat, where parents with disabilities shared their helpful strategies for staying healthy, active, and engaged; unique concerns and experiences; preparedness and unmet needs; and more. This center also hosts a parenting blog and is accepting articles from parents with disabilities about their COVID-19 experiences (participation closes May 15).
Keywords: Parents with disabilities, parenting

Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System Center (NNJSCIS)

This center conducts research in interventions in rehabilitation and supports for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). In the COVID-19 and Spinal Cord Injury: Minimizing Risks for Complications podcast NNJSICS director Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD and Carolann Murphy discuss some of the risks for people with SCI who may have reduced lung and cough function due to paralysis, and techniques and devices they can use to improve their cough. They also discuss the challenges of limiting social or physical contact when working with a personal care attendant, when a personal care attendant is unavailable, and keeping wheelchair contact surfaces clean and disinfected.
Keywords: Spinal cord injury, risk factors, respiratory health, personal care attendants

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center: Develop and Evaluate Rehabilitation Technology and Methods for Individuals with Low Vision, Blindness, and Multiple Disabilities

This RERC conducts research and development in technology solutions to current barriers to opportunity faced by individuals who are blind, have low vision, and have multiple disabilities. This includes barriers to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The team created an accessible pandemic bulletin, A11y COVID-19, to display data on infection rates that is accessible to screen readers and can be “sonified” on demand. The browser plays a different tone for each level on the graph, rising as the data indicates higher numbers.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (RERC-AAC)

This center conducts research and development in AAC, technology that helps people who cannot communicate verbally because of neuromuscular disorders, autism, and other conditions. A recent article from the RERC highlights the need for effective communication to help these individuals understand what is happening and express their needs, wants, and important care details. The article describes how to prepare in advance for someone with complex communication needs, how to support understanding of COVID-19 for whose who may have difficulty understanding complex communication, ways to support expressive communications for someone who cannot rely on speech, and suggestions for healthcare workers providing care for someone who cannot communicate.
Keywords: Accessibility, communication, augmentative and alternative communication

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Improving the Accessibility, Usability, and Performance of Technology for Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The researchers at this RERC assembled three guides to respond to communication issues that have emerged during this crisis: virtual meetings (now ubiquitous for working while under stay-at-home orders) need to be accessible for employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and hospital staff need to communicate with patients with hearing loss.
Keywords: assistive technology, inclusion, hearing, workplace accommodations, telework, medical facilities

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood (Transitions ACR).

This center focuses on young people with mental health conditions as they transition from school to college and/or the workplace. COVID-19 Resources for Youth and Young Adults features curated content from including news stories from around the country, a Google Spreadsheet with hundreds of resources for youth, young adults, families, college, educators, and supporters; webinars on methods to support college students with mental health conditions who have been affected by disruptions in school; and selections from Transitions ACR publications and products which may be of help to students, administrators, and counselors.
Keywords: Psychiatric disabilities, youth, young adults, transition, college

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Place-Based Solutions for Rural Community Participation, Employment, and Health (RTC: Rural)

This center conducts research and training activities that address the unique needs of people with disabilities living in rural communities. The staff is assembling resources to inform people living in these communities about the virus in general, ways to connect with services, and more.
Keywords: Rural, remote services, vocational rehabilitation, geography, economics

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living and Participation for People with Serious Mental Illness

This center focuses on how people with serious mental illness engage with their community, from family leisure to creating welcoming workplaces and community spaces.
Keywords: Psychiatric disabilities, community participation, social isolation

  • Keeping Connected while Staying Apart includes a running list of resources to stay connected and engaged, the powerpoint from A National Conversation on Community Participation (3/26) and links to ideas for staying engaged (virtual theater, online class communities, art and learning programs).
  • Resources for Remote Community Participation (PDF) includes an extensive list of high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech ways to stay connected.
  • ConnectionsRx, a new program providing one-to-one support for individuals to identify interests AND the opportunity to connect to meaningful activities through a support group on Facebook. 

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of Individuals with Blindness and Other Visual Impairments

Staff from this center led a recent forum discussion on remote training in vocational rehabilitation, through the Older Individuals Who are Blind – Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC). Since most training for people with visual impairment occurs face-to-face, many professionals are searching for new procedures to offer training during quarantines and physical distancing. Sylvia Stinson-Perez and Kendra Farrow, both Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapists, facilitated discussions on working remotely, providing services and training in a remote environment, and identifying helpful resources.
Keywords: Blindness, visual impairments, employment, remote training, vocational rehabilitation

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

This center focuses on the practices and policies that support successful employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The center has set up a collection of videos for families and professionals supporting individuals with ASD. How to: Teaching Handwashing explains how to cover hand hygiene, learning styles and challenges to consider, and examples of teaching strategies. How to: Handwashing for Individuals with ASD demonstrates hand hygiene in simple, straightforward language and images.
Keywords: Intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, videos, personal hygiene

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Policy and Measurement (EP-RRTC)

The EP-RRTC hosts monthly discussions on the state of employment of Americans with Disabilities as reported in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report, along with related disability employment issues. On May 15th, 12pm ET, the EP-RRTC will host National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) Special Report – Implications of COVID-19, where a team of experts will share their latest perspectives, based on data from a population survey released mid-month, on the coronavirus pandemic and its implications on employment, emerging bills and policies, and resources for the days ahead. The discussion will be archived for future viewing.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Family Support

This RRTC is conducting a survey about issues related to COVID-19 and its impact on families supporting members with disabilities. The survey covers impacts on employment, financial well-being, social interactions, health behaviors, physical health, and mental health.  It also asks whether anyone in the household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing related symptoms. If you are providing unpaid care to a loved one because of an illness, disability, or functional problem, you will also be asked detailed questions about how COVID-19 has affected your caregiving duties and ability to provide quality care.  These answers will also be extremely helpful in designing programs to help caregivers during this difficult time.  Your responses will inform professionals and policy makers who are designing programs and interventions to help people cope with this serious public health crisis. 

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Integrated Healthcare and Self-Directed Recovery

This center creates, modifies, and improves self-directed models of medical care and mental health services that promote recovery, health, and employment for people with psychiatric disabilities. Managing Your Wellness During the COVID-19 Outbreak offers a collection of wellness self-management strategies and resources. Learn how to manage stress, cope with anxiety, combat loneliness, or explore virtual distractions with art, music, museum tours, and more. The collection also includes resources for physical health and wellness, supports for behavioral health providers and other support personnel, and resources to help children, teens, and young adults cope during the outbreak. This center has published a Self-Management Education and Support Referral Algorithm, designed to help primary care providers follow guidelines recommended by the Institute of Medicine to choose a self-management program to meet their patients’ needs at different stages of emotional distress. The algorithm identifies what kinds of knowledge patients need, the self-management programs that provide it, and how to locate these programs in their local communities. Modeled on the American Diabetes Association’s patient education algorithm, the algorithm features peer-delivered self-management programs because of their strong evidence-base and successful use in managing mental health conditions.
Keywords: Psychiatric disabilities, health and wellness, telehealth

University of Alabama at Birmingham Spinal Cord Injury Model System Center (UAB-SCIMS)

UAB-SCIMS conducts research that supports people with SCI, their families, and the rehabilitation professionals who support them. The video Tips for People with SCI During COVID-19 offers tips for individuals to maintain their health and daily living from UAB-SCIMS psychologists. Tips include keeping an eye on secondary conditions to avoid the need for hospital visits, maintaining a routine, getting exercise, and maintaining social contact.

UABSCIMS had dedicated the 2020 issue of their Pushin’ On newsletter to COVID-19. This issue features an article on staying healthy to avoid the impact of the virus, as well as articles on technology for independence and opportunities to participate in research.
Keywords: Spinal cord injury, health and wellness, community participation

University of Alabama at Birmingham Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Center (UAB-TBIMS)

UAB-TBIMS conducts research supports people with TBI, their families, and the rehabilitation professionals who support them. The video Tips for People with TBI and their Families During COVID-19 offers suggestions for individuals to maintain their health and daily living from two UAB-TBIMS psychologists. Tips include maintaining a routine, staying informed and following recommended prevention guidelines, asking for help, and doing what you can to maintain your physical and mental health like exercise, learning activities, and keeping medications up to date.
Keywords: Traumatic brain injury, health and wellness, community participation

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Back to School: A Few Resources to Help Answer Your Back to School Questions

It may be hard to believe that Summer is almost over and students are headed back to school. The coronavirus pandemic is causing many administrators, educators, parents, and students to make difficult decisions about what may be best for both education and health. Some school districts are returning to physical classrooms, some to virtual classrooms. Some schools are using a hybrid model combining both online and in-person learning. Some families may opt to home school their children individually or form learning pods – small groups of children who will always study together. College students face similar choices: return to campus, opt for an online university, or take a year off until it is safe to go back full time.

For students with disabilities and their parents, and for educators with disabilities, the choices may be even more difficult. Some individuals with disabilities may be at higher risk for adverse outcomes if they become infected with COVID-19, prompting them to stay out of in-person learning programs. On the other hand, some students may need the kinds of focused attention and support from educators and peers they may only get in a live classroom setting. Finally, the virtual learning environment may present technical difficulties for some students and teachers: learning platforms may have accessibility issues, high-speed Internet may not be available or reliable, and parents or direct support staff may be unable to assist with online learning.

There are no easy answers as we approach the start of the school year. However, we can recommend a few resources from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere to help you chart a path forward.

K-12 Families

The Southwest ADA Regional Center is hosting a session of the ADA Live podcast called Back to School: Access for Students Receiving Special Education, focusing on students receiving special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The session will address questions and concerns about what going to school may look like during COVID-19 and into the future. ADA Live will be broadcasting August 12th at 1pm, and the episode will be archived for on-demand access.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance and decision-making tools for parents and guardians, including special considerations for children with underlying health issues and those living with at-risk family members.

High School Students

If you’re a student with an individualized education plan (IEP), it can be helpful to work with your education team to decide what is right for you as you continue your education or transition to the workforce. Check out You Got This: Taking a Leadership Role in Your IEP Meeting and Teens on IEPs: Making My Transition Services Work for Me from the Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood Research and Training Center (Transitions ACR). Students with cognitive challenges might want to check out Cognitopia, which includes Goal Guide, an effective tool to create and track goals with teachers, parents, or coaches, work on team goals or class goals, and build virtual supports.

Parents, learn about What is a 504 Plan and How Can It Help My Teen?

College Students

The Transitions ACR Team has spent a lot of time since March developing and curating resources to support youth and young adults with mental health conditions during COVID-19. Check out their huge catalog and download these factsheets:

If you’re a student with vision loss considering transitioning to the workforce, even temporarily, visit the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision to learn about preparing for video interviews.

Administrators, Educators, and School Boards

Communities face difficult choices whether or not to open schools for in-person learning. The CDC has guidance for preparing for a safe return to school; effective cleaning, disinfecting, and hand hygiene policies; screening, and more.

More than likely, some or all of your work will take place in a virtual environment. Virtual meeting platforms are in use across the field, from classes to staff meetings to school board sessions. Make sure everyone can log in and watch or listen in. Learn about Accessible Virtual Meeting Platforms in this recorded webinar from the Great Lakes ADA Regional Center.

Many workplaces are developing return-to-work policies related to COVID-19, and many employees and employers have questions about how these policies interact with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These can include policies regarding face coverings. Watch COVID-19 and Return to Work hosted by the Great Lakes ADA Regional Center August 13th at 2pm ET. This webinar will be archived for on-demand viewing.

The ADA National Network can assist with questions about the intersections between COVID-19 policies/practices and the ADA. Find the nearest center online or call 800/949-4ADA (4232) to be connect to the center serving your area. To learn about assistive technology options to support students and educators with disabilities, find your state’s Assistive Technology Project.

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Regreso a la escuela: Algunos recursos para ayudar a responder sus preguntas sobre el regreso a la escuela

Puede ser difícil creer que el verano casi ha terminado y los estudiantes regresan a la escuela. La pandemia de coronavirus está provocando que muchos administradores, educadores, padres, y estudiantes tomen decisiones difíciles sobre lo que puede ser lo mejor para la educación y la salud. Algunos distritos escolares están regresando a las aulas física, algunos a las aulas virtuales. Algunas escuelas están usando un modelo hibrido que combina el aprendizaje en línea y en persona. Algunas familias pueden optar por educar en casa a sus hijos individualmente o formar grupos de aprendizaje – grupos pequeños de niños que siempre estudiarán juntos. Los estudiantes universitarios enfrentan opciones similares: regresar al campus, optar por una universidad en línea, o tomarse un año libre hasta que sea seguro regresar a tiempo completo.

Para los estudiantes con discapacidades y sus padres, y para los educadores con discapacidades, las opciones pueden ser aún más difíciles. Algunas personas con discapacidades pueden tener un mayor riesgo de sufrir resultados adversos si se infectan con COVID-19, lo que las lleva a no participar en los programas de aprendizaje presencial. Por otro lado, algunos estudiantes pueden necesitar los tipos de atención y apoyo enfocados de los educadores y compañeros que solo pueden obtener un salón de clases en vivo. Por último, el entorno de aprendizaje puede presentar dificultades técnicas para algunos estudiantes y profesores: plataformas de aprendizaje pueden tener problemas de accesibilidad, Internet de alta velocidad puede no estar disponible o n ser confiable, y los padres o personal de apoyo directo pueden no ser capaces de ayudar con el aprendizaje en línea.

No hay respuestas fáciles a medida que nos acercamos al inicio del año escolar. Sin embargo, podemos recomendar algunos recursos de la comunidad de NIDILRR y de otros lugares para ayudarle a trazar un camino a seguir.

Familias de estudiantes del kínder hasta el grado 12

El Centro Regional del Suroeste sobre la ADA está organizando una sesión del podcast ADA en Vivo llamado Regreso a la escuela: Acceso para los estudiantes recibiendo educación especial (en inglés), centrándose en los estudiantes que reciben educación especial bajo la Ley de Educación de Personas con Discapacidades. La sesión abordará preguntas e inquietudes sobre cómo se verá ir a la escuela durante COVID-19 y en el futuro. ADA en Vivo se transmitirá el 12 de agosto a la 1 de la tarde y el episodio se archivará para acceso a pedido.

Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades tienen instrumentos de orientación y toma de decisiones para los padres y tutores, incluyendo consideración especial para los niños con problemas de salud subyacentes y aquellos que viven con familiares en riesgo.

Estudiantes en secundaria

Si es un estudiante con un plan de educación personalizada (PEP), puede ser útil trabajar con su equipo de educación para decidir lo qué es correcto para ti mientras continúas tu educación o haces la transición a la fuerza laboral. Vea Lo tiene esto: Asumir una función de liderazgo en su reunión de PEP (en inglés) y Adolescentes en PEP: Hacer que mis servicios de transición funcionen para mí desde el Centro de Investigación y Capacitación sobre el Aprendizaje y Trabajo Durante la Transición a la Edad Adulta (Transiciones ACR). Los estudiantes con desafíos cognitivos pueden querer consultar Cognitopia, que incluye la Guía de Metas, un instrumento eficaz para crear y rastrear metas con maestros, padres, o entrenadores, trabajar en las metas del equipo o de la clase, y desarrollar apoyos virtuales.

Padres, aprendan sobre ¿Qué es un plan 504 y cómo puede ayudar a mi adolescente?.

Estudiantes universitarios

El equipo de Transiciones ACR ha dedicado mucho tiempo desde marzo a desarrollar y seleccionar recursos para apoyar a la juventud y los adultos jóvenes con discapacidades durante COVID-19. Consulte su enorme catálogo (en inglés) y descargue estas hojas informativas:

Si es un estudiante con pérdida de visión y está considerando hacer la transición a la fuerza laboral, aunque sea temporalmente, visite el Centro Nacional de Investigación y Capacitación sobre la Ceguera y Baja Visión para obtener más información sobre cómo prepararse para entrevistas en vídeo (en inglés).

Administradores, educadores, y juntas escolares

Las comunidades enfrentan decisiones difíciles sobre si abrir o no escuelas para el aprendizaje en persona. Los CDC tienen orientación para prepararse para un regreso seguro a la escuela; políticas efectivas de limpieza, desinfección, e higiene de manos; evaluación, y más.

Lo más probable es que parte o todo su trabajo se lleva a cabo en un entorno virtual. Las plataformas de reuniones virtuales se utilizan en todo el campo, desde clases hasta reuniones de personal y sesiones de la junta escolar. Asegúrese de que todos puedan iniciar sesión y mirar o escuchar. Obtenga más información sobre las Plataformas de reuniones virtuales accesibles (en inglés) en este webinar grabado del Centro Regional de los Grandes Lagos sobre la ADA.

Muchos lugares de trabajo están desarrollando políticas de regreso al trabajo relacionadas con COVID-19, y muchos empleados y empresarios tienen preguntas sobre cómo estas políticas interactúan con los derechos y responsabilidades bajo la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades (ADA, por sus siglas en inglés). Pueden incluir políticas sobre cuberturas faciales. Vea COVID-19 y el Regreso al Trabajo (en inglés) organizado por el Centro Regional de los Grandes Lagos sobre la ADA el 13 de agosto a las 2 de la tarde, hora del este. Este webinar será archivado para verlo por pedida.

La Red Nacional sobre la ADA puede ayudar con preguntas sobre las intersecciones entre las políticas/prácticas de COVID-19 y la ADA. Encuentre el centro más cercano en línea (en inglés) o llame al 800/949-4ADA (4232) para conectarse con el centro que atiende su área. Para obtener más información sobre las opciones de tecnología de asistencia (en inglés) para apoyar a los estudiantes y educadores con discapacidades, encuentre el Proyecto de Tecnología de Asistencia de su estado (en inglés)

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The Adecco Foundation and Inclusive Employment

The Adecco Foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1999 by The Adecco Group in Spain, works towards the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and in their communities. The Foundation trains people with disabilities and helps them to find employment; works towards the transformation of society to recognize the dignity and valor of all people; and works with business to design inclusive workplaces and culture. For people with disabilities, the Foundation provides assistance in finding accessible and inclusive employment through an employment portal and training programs. For employers, the Foundation provides information on diversity and inclusion in the workplace of people with disabilities and creates a dialogue to help remove stigma and stereotypes in the workplace. Parents of children with disabilities may, through the Family Plan, help their children begin to develop the skills they need for their autonomy and employment. The Foundation also provides a calendar that discusses each month one of the Foundation’s 12 steps towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities. Finally, those interested in the Foundation and its services may stay informed through the Foundation’s Newsroom.

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La Fundación Adecco y el empleo inclusivo

La Fundación Adecco, una organización sin fines de lucro fundada en 1999 por “The Adecco Group” en España, trabaja hacia la inclusión de personas con discapacidades en la fuerza laboral y en sus comunidades. La Fundación entrena a las personas con discapacidades y los ayuda a encontrar empleo; trabaja hacia la transformación de la sociedad para reconocer la dignidad y el valor de todas las personas; y trabaja con empresas para diseñar los lugares de trabajo y la cultura inclusivos. Para personas con discapacidades, la Fundación brinda asistencia en encontrar el empleo accesible e inclusivo a través de un portal de empleo y programas de capacitación. Para los empresarios, la Fundación brinda información sobre la diversidad e inclusión en el lugar de trabajo de personas con discapacidades y crea un dialogo para ayudar a remover el estigma y estereotipos en el lugar de trabajo. Los padres de niños con discapacidades pueden, a través del Plan de Familias, ayudar a sus hijos a comenzar a desarrollar las habilidades que ellos necesitan para su propia autonomía y el empleo. La Fundación también proporciona un calendario que discute cada mes una de las 12 etapas de la Fundación hacia la plena inclusión de personas con discapacidades. Finalmente, las personas interesadas en la Fundación y sus servicios pueden mantenerse informados a través de la sala de la prensa de la Fundación.

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A Quick Look at the ADA – Titles IV and V

We end our celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by taking a quick look at Title IV – Telecommunications and Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions.

Title IV requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a system of inter- and intrastate relay services which allow people with speech and hearing disabilities to communicate over the phone. It also requires that all federal public service announcements include closed captioning. Emergency telephone services like 911 fall under this title, as well. State and local agencies that provide these emergency services must provide direct access for people who use telecommunication devices for the Deaf (TDDs), or video calling, and cannot use a relay or third-party service to connect these non-voice callers to emergency services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees enforcement of this title.

Since this title was written in the late 1980s and early 1990s, our communications landscape looks and sounds much different. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 updated federal communications laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s, like the ADA, to bring them up to date with modern communication technology like wireless devices.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies takes an active role in monitoring and commenting on policies and regulations affecting the wireless communication industry. Read their policy filings about wireless emergency alerts, video relay and enterprise video phones, and much more.

Title V contains several provisions relating to the law as a whole, including its relationship to other laws; the impact of the law on insurance providers and benefits; the illegal use of drugs; and what conditions are not considered disabilities to be covered under the law. This Title also extends coverage to the US Congress, making it the only branch of the federal government covered under the ADA (other laws such as the Rehabilitation Act apply to the Executive branch).

The Great Lakes ADA Regional Center hosts a regular webinar series called Accessibility Online with the US Access Board. The series covers accessibility issues in the built environment, information and communication technologies, and transportation, all areas where several laws intersect. Registration is free and required for these sessions and all webinars are archived for future viewing. Some sessions offer continuing education credits.

The Mid Atlantic ADA Regional Center covers the basics of the ADA. Click on More on Title V for a breakdown of this Title, including what is NOT considered a disability under the act.

While Title V specifies that illegal drug use is not a covered disability, people with substance and alcohol use disorders do have rights under the law. Learn more about addiction, recovery, and the ADA from the New England ADA Regional Center.

As we’ve highlighted in each of these “Quick Look” posts, the ADA National Network offers a wealth of resources and information on the ADA. The information specialists at these regional centers can help advocates, employers, business and facility owners, and state and local government administrators understand their rights and responsibilities under the ADA and other laws that ensure equal access for people with disabilities. We encourage you to visit adata.org to find factsheets, videos, toolkits, courses, and regularly scheduled online events to learn how these laws protect access to employment, education, civic life, and everyday community living. Find your regional center online or call 800/949-4ADA (4232) to be connected to the center serving your community.

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Una mirada rápida a la ADA – Títulos IV y V

Terminamos nuestra celebración de la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades (ADA, por sus siglas en inglés) echando un vistazo rápido al Título IV – Telecomunicaciones y Título V – Otras disposiciones.

El Título IV (en inglés) requiere que las empresas de teléfono e Internet proporcionen un sistema de servicios de retransmisión entre estados e intra-estatal que permitan a las personas con discapacidades del habla y de audición a comunicarse por teléfono. También requiere que todos los anuncios federales de servicio público incluyan subtítulos. Los servicios telefónicos de emergencia como 911 también se incluyen en este título. Las agencias estatales y locales que brindan estos servicios deben proporcionar acceso directo a las personas que usan dispositivos de telecomunicaciones para sordos (TDD, por sus siglas en inglés) (en inglés), o videollamadas, y no pueden usar un servicio de retransmisión o de terceros para conectar estas personas sin voz que llaman a los servicios de emergencia. La Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones (FCC, por sus siglas en inglés) supervisa la aplicación de este título.

Dado que este título fue escrito a fines de la década de 1980 y a principios de la década de 1990, nuestro panorama de comunicaciones se ve y suena muy diferente. La Ley de Accesibilidad de Comunicaciones y Vídeo del Siglo XXI de 2010 actualizó las leyes federales de comunicaciones promulgadas en las décadas de 1980 y 1990, como la ADA, para actualizarlas con tecnología de comunicación moderna como dispositivos inalámbricos.

El Centro de Investigación de Ingeniería de Rehabilitación para las Tecnologías Inalámbricas Inclusivas (en inglés) toma un rol activo en monitorear y comentar sobre las políticas y regulaciones que afectan a la industria de comunicaciones inalámbricas. Lea sus documentos de políticas (en inglés) sobre alertas de emergencia inalámbricas, retransmisión de vídeo y teléfonos de vídeo empresariales, y mucho más.

El Título V contiene varias disposiciones relacionadas con la ley en su conjunto, incluyendo su relación con otras leyes como la Ley de Rehabilitación y la Ley de Barreras Arquitectónicas; el impacto de la ley en los proveedores de seguro y en los beneficios; el uso ilegal de drogas; y qué condiciones no se consideran discapacidades cubiertas por la ley. Este título también extiende la cobertura al Congreso de los EEUU, por lo que es la única rama del gobierno federal cubierto por la ADA (otras leyes como la Ley de Rehabilitación se aplican a la rama Ejecutiva).

El Centro Regional de los Grandes Lagos sobre la ADA (en inglés) organiza una serie regular de webinar llamada Accesibilidad en Línea (en inglés) con la Junta de Acceso de EEEUU. La serie cubre los problemas de accesibilidad en el entorno creado, tecnologías informáticas y de comunicación, y la transportación, todas áreas donde varias leyes se cruzan. La matrícula es gratuita y necesaria para estas sesiones y todos los webinars son archivados para poder verlos en el futuro. Algunas sesiones ofrecen créditos de educación contínua.

El Centro Regional Medio-Atlántico sobre la ADA (en inglés) cubre lo básico de la ADA (en inglés). Haga clic en Más sobre el Título V para un desglose de este Título, que incluye lo que NO se considera una discapacidad en virtud de la ley.

Si bien este Título específica que el uso ilegal de drogas no es una discapacidad cubierta, las personas con trastornos por abuso de sustancias y alcohol tienen derechos legales. Obtenga más información sobre la adicción, la recuperación, y la ADA (en inglés) del Centro Regional de Nueva Inglaterra sobre la ADA (en inglés).

Como hemos destacado en estas publicaciones de “Mirada rápida”, la Red Nacional sobre la ADA ofrece una gran cantidad de recursos e información sobre la ADA. Los especialistas en información en estos centros regionales pueden ayudar a los abogados, empresarios, dueños de negocios e instalaciones, administradores del gobierno estatal y local a comprender sus derechos y responsabilidades bajo la ADA y otras leyes que aseguran el acceso igual para las personas con discapacidades. Lo alentamos a visitar adata.org para encontrar hojas informativas, vídeos, conjuntos de instrumentos, cursos, y eventos en línea programados regularmente para obtener más información sobre como estas leyes protegen el acceso al empleo, educación, vida cívica, y vida comunitaria cotidiana. Encuentre su centro regional en línea (en inglés) o llame al 800/949-4ADA (4232) para conectarse con el centro que atiende a su comunidad.

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Are face masks policies covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

COVID-19 has changed life as we know in many ways. Safety measures such as social distancing, stay at home orders, and the wearing of face masks or cloth face coverings are now part of our daily lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a face mask or facial covering in public places/retail establishments (i.e., grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) where it is difficult to maintain the six feet of physical distance (social distancing) from others. In addition to the CDC recommendations, many state and local governments have required the use of a face mask or facial covering in indoor and outdoor public spaces.

Are face mask policies covered under the ADA? 

Yes and no.  The ADA has no specific rules addressing the required use of face masks by state and local governments or private businesses; however, government agencies and private businesses are required under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations and/or consider modifications to state or local ordinances or company policies (such as these mask requirements) for individuals with disabilities who may be unable to comply. These ADA protections preclude individuals without disabilities or those who simply do not wish to comply, as they are not protected under the ADA.

Is there a reason a person may be unable to wear a face mask?

Yes, there are various conditions that people with disabilities may experience that may make it difficult or impossible to wear a face mask including: individuals with respiratory illness/disease; mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or claustrophobia; individuals with sensory disabilities (i.e., autism spectrum disorder) who are sensitive to touch and texture that may result in sensory overload, feelings of panic, and extreme anxiety; and individuals with mobility/movement disorders that may make it difficult to put on, adjust, and/or remove a face mask without great difficulty or without assistance.

I’m a person with a disability and cannot wear a face mask, what should I do?

If an individual with disability is unable to wear a face mask, they can request a reasonable modification to existing policies and practices. To request an accommodation, contact the government agency or private business designated contact person who oversees accommodation requests.  When speaking with the agency or business, let them know you are a person with a disability and unable to wear a face mask and ask what options are available to you. The responsibility falls to state and local government agencies and private businesses to provide those reasonable modifications so that individuals with disabilities can participate in or benefit from offered programs, and/or to obtain goods and services.

What types of reasonable modifications/accommodations can businesses or agencies offer?

Businesses, organizations, and agencies may provide any number of reasonable modifications to face masks policies. Some examples include:

  • Allowing individuals to wear a scarf, loose face covering, or a full-face shield instead of a face mask;
  • Allowing individuals to utilize online ordering with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
  • Allowing individuals to order by phone with curb side pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
  • Allowing individuals to wait in their vehicle for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted;
  • Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.

It is important to know what questions you may ask a person with a disability who requests a modification. See the At Your Service link below for more information on customer service.

Are there any situations when an agency or business does not have to provide reasonable modification?

Yes, there are three exceptions under the ADA whereby state or local agencies or private businesses may decline to provide a reasonable modification(s): (1) the requested modification would result in a fundamental alteration/change to the nature of a service, program, activity, goods, services, or facilities; (2) an undue burden where the requested modification would cause significant difficulty or expense; and (3) a requested modification that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

Organizations and agencies who wish to learn more about their responsibilities and examples of reasonable accommodations to mask policies may contact the ADA National Network. Find the nearest regional center online or call 800/949-4232 to be connected to the center serving your area.

Additional Resources:

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¿Están las políticas de máscaras faciales cubiertas por la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades (ADA, por sus siglas en inglés)?

La enfermedad por coronavirus (COVID-19, por sus siglas en inglés) ha cambiado la vida como la conocemos de muchas maneras. Las medidas de seguridad como el distanciamiento social, las órdenes de quedarse en casa, y el uso de máscaras faciales o rendimientos faciales de tela ahora son partes de nuestras vidas cotidianas. Los Centros de Control y Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, por sus siglas en inglés) recomienden usar una máscara facial o rendimiento facial en lugares públicos/establecimientos minoristas (por ejemplo, supermercados, farmacias, etc.) donde es difícil mantener los seis pies de distancia física (distanciamiento social) de otros. Además de las recomendaciones de los CDC, muchos de los gobiernos estatales y locales han exigido el uso de una máscara facial o rendimiento facial en espacios públicos interiores y exteriores.

¿Las políticas de mascarillas están cubiertas por la ADA?

Si y no. La ADA no tiene reglas específicas que abordan el uso de máscaras faciales por los gobiernos estatales y locales o empresas privadas; sin embargo, las agencias gubernamentales y las empresas privadas están obligadas bajo la ADA a proporcionar adaptaciones razonables y/o considerar modificaciones a las ordenanzas estatales o locales o las políticas de la compañía (como estos requisitos de máscara) para personas con discapacidades que no las pueden cumplir. Estas protecciones de la ADA excluyen a las personas sin discapacidades o aquellas que simplemente no desean cumplir, ya que no están protegidas por la ADA.

¿Hay alguna razón por la cual una persona no pueda usar una máscara facial?

Sí, hay varias condiciones que las personas con discapacidades pueden experimentar que pueden dificultar o imposibilitar el uso de una mascarilla, incluyendo: personas con enfermedades respiratorias; condiciones mentales como el trastorno de estrés postraumático (TEPT), ansiedad, o claustrofobia; personas con discapacidades sensoriales (por ejemplo, trastorno del espectro autista) que son sensibles al tacto y a la textura que puede provocar sobrecarga sensorial, sentimientos de pánico,  y ansiedad extrema; y personas con trastornos de movilidad/movimiento que pueden dificultar el uso, ajuste, y/o retiro de una máscara facial sin gran dificultad o sin ayuda.

Soy una persona con discapacidad y no puedo usar una máscara facial, ¿qué debo hacer?

Si una persona con una discapacidad no puede usar una máscara facial, puede solicitar una modificación razonable a las políticas y prácticas existentes. Para solicitar una adaptación, comuníquese con la persona de contacto designada de la agencia gubernamental o empresa privada que supervisa las solicitaciones de acomodaciones. Cuando hable con la agencia o empresa, hágales saber que es una persona con discapacidades y que no puede usar una máscara facial y pregúntele sobre que opciones tiene disponibles. La responsabilidad recae en las agencias gubernamentales estatales y locales y empresas privadas para proporcionar esas modificaciones razonables para que las personas con discapacidades puedan participar o beneficiarse de los programas ofrecidos, y/o obtener bienes y servicios.

¿Qué tipos de modificaciones/adaptaciones razonables pueden ofrecer las empresas o agencias?

Las empresas, organizaciones, y agencias pueden proporcionar cualquier cantidad de modificaciones para las políticas de máscaras faciales. Algunos ejemplos incluyen:

  • Permitir que las personas usen una bufanda, un rendimiento facial suelto o un protector facial completo en lugar de una máscara facial;
  • Permitir a las personas utilizar pedidos en línea con recogida en la acera o sin entrega de contacto de manera oportuna:
  • Permitir a las personas ordenar por teléfono con recogida en la acera o entrega sin contacto de manera oportuna;
  • Permitir a las personas esperar en su vehículo para unca cita y entrar al edificio cuando se les llama o se envía un mensaje de texto;
  • Ofrecer citas por teléfono o videollamadas.

Es importante saber qué preguntas puede hacerle a una persona con discapacidad que solicite una modificación. Consulte al enlace A Su Servicio a continuación para obtener más información sobre el servicio al cliente.

¿Hay alguna situación en la que una agencia o empresa no tiene que proporcionar una modificación razonable?

Si, hay tres excepciones bajo la ADA por las cuales las agencias estatales o locales o empresas privadas pueden negarse a proporcionar una modificación razonable: (1) la modificación solicitada puede resultar en una alteración/cambio fundamental en la naturaleza de un servicio, programa, actividad, bienes, servicios, o instalaciones; (2) una carga indebida donde la modificación solicitada puede causar dificultades o gastos significativos; y (3) una modificación solicitada puede representar una amenaza directa a la salud y la seguridad de los demás.

Las organizaciones y agencias que desean obtener más información sobre sus responsabilidades y ejemplos de adaptaciones razonables a las políticas de mascarillas pueden comunicarse con la Red Nacional sobre la ADA (en inglés). Encuentre el centro regional más cercano en línea (en inglés) o llame al 800/949-4232 para ser conectado con el centro que sirve a su área.

Recursos adicionales:

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30th Anniversary of the ADA: Personal Reflections from Director Mark Odum on Where We Are and Where We Could Be in the Future

Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each year as the calendar turns to July, I notice growing multitudes of ADA related articles and announcements to attend conferences, seminars, and webinars expounding on a plethora of accomplishments originating from this historic civil rights legislation. Many of these publications and commemorative events describe the ADA’s impact and the positive changes made in the daily lives of people with disabilities: accessible office buildings, playgrounds where all children can play, inclusive workplaces, and emerging telecommunications technology built with all users in mind. Physical and programmatic barriers of all sorts have been addressed and mitigated over the years.

From curb cuts to movie theater captions, there are oodles of accomplishments that everyone involved can point to with pride. But still, more is needed.

Even in 2020, I go into new buildings that have barriers or where accessibility seems to be an afterthought and inconveniently designed. Unemployment rates for persons with disabilities are still disproportionately higher than most other demographic groups. Limited access to medical and health related programs continues to add to the disparities in services and care.

Having incurred a spinal cord injury more than 46 years ago, I have come to see that the ADA has made most of its impact on the physical world. After all it is easier to measure the slope of a ramp or whether a screen reader provides true access and make any needed corrections or remedies. But it is much more difficult to address the perception of those without disabilities, to abolish stereotypes and level the playing field. Persons with disabilities are passed over for jobs they are qualified to do just because employers fear the cost of reasonable accommodations or worry what a health risk they might be and drive up insurance rates. How do you legislate against an employer’s unfounded fear that a person with a disability will frequently be late and call out due to health problems and therefore, not a good hire, no matter how qualified? What policy can you put in place to convince a business that I am their customer, as much as someone who can walk into their store?

It comes down to this: how do we change attitudes? Generally, I believe all people are fair-minded and want to do well by their fellow man. Yes, we all have biases and sometimes they cloud our judgment. We need to reduce if not eliminate the thoughtless discrimination.

Over the years there have been plenty of times where someone has seen my power wheelchair before they saw me and come to conclusions that were not based on what I could do but instead what they thought I could not do. I think of this as a disability tax. I am paying an extra price because I have a disability. This tax, although rarely acknowledged, is prevalent. There are examples everywhere. Since televisions were invented people who are Deaf had to pay for volume knobs and speakers they may never use or want. People with severe mobility impairments have to pay the cost of bathrooms in planes, trains, and even buses they ride, even though they may not use them. Just imagine if it was decided that nobody could use those bathrooms until everyone could. People with a lower extremity amputation have to buy shoes in pairs, another tax.

Have you ever noticed that the more personal a problem gets for people, the quicker there seems to be a solution, and the faster we get to fair and equal. Education and familiarity are keys for tearing down the shameful walls of exclusion (Thank you President George H. W. Bush). Since we can’t legislate attitudes, we must do the best we can to open the eyes and ears of the folks less familiar with disability issues. As people gain a better understanding and knowledge of everyone’s abilities and their potential for making big and small contributions in all areas of life, the ADA will be an even bigger catalyst to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Then we can celebrate at an even higher level.

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El 30 aniversario de la ADA: Reflexiones personales del director Mark Odum sobre dónde estamos y dónde podríamos estar en el futuro

Hoy celebramos el 30 aniversario de la firma de la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades (ADA, por sus siglas en inglés). Cada año, cuando el calendario recurre a julio, noto una creciente cantidad de artículos y anuncios relacionados con la ADA para asistir a conferencias, seminarios, y webinars que exponen una gran cantidad de logros derivados de esta histórica legislación. Muchas de estas publicaciones y eventos conmemorativos describen el impacto de la ADA y los cambios positivos hechos en las vidas diarias de personas con discapacidades: edificios de oficina accesibles, parques infantiles donde todos los niños pueden jugar, lugares de trabajo inclusivos, y tecnología emergente de telecomunicaciones desarrollada pensando en todos los usuarios. Las barreras físicas y programáticas de todo tipo se han abordado y mitigado a lo largo de los años.

Desde cortes de aceras hasta subtítulos en salas de cine, hay muchos logros que todos los involucrados pueden señalar con orgullo. Pero aún así, se necesita más.

Incluso en 2020, entro en nuevos edificios que tienen barreras o donde la accesibilidad parece ser una ocurrencia tardía y está diseñada de manera inconveniente. Las tasas de desempleo para las personas con discapacidades siguen siendo desproporcionadamente más altas (en inglés) que para la mayoría de otros grupos demográficos. El acceso limitado a los programas médicos y relacionados con la salud (en inglés) continúa las disparidades en los servicios y la atención.

Después de haber sufrido una lesión de la médula espinal hace más de 46 años, he llegado a ver que la ADA ha tenido la mayor parte de su impacto en el mundo físico. Después de todo, es más fácil medir la pendiente de una rampa o si un lector de pantalla proporciona un acceso verdadero y hacer las correcciones o remedios necesarios. Pero es mucho más difícil abordar la percepción de las personas sin discapacidades, para abolir los estereotipos y nivelar el campo de juego. Las personas con discapacidades son pasadas por alto para trabajos para los que están calificadas para hacer solo porque los empresarios temen el costo de adaptaciones razonables o se preocupan por el riesgo para la salud que pueden tener y aumentarían las tarifas de seguro. ¿Cómo legislar contra el temor infundado de un empresario de que una persona con una discapacidad con frecuencia llegue tarde y llame debido a problemas de salud y, por lo tanto, no sea una buena contratación, sin importar cuán calificado? ¿Qué política puede implementarse para convencer a una empresa de que soy un cliente, tanto como alguien que puede entrar caminando a su tienda?

Todo se reduce a esto: ¿cómo cambiamos las actitudes? En general, creo que todas las personas son imparciales y quieren que a sus semejantes les vaya bien. Sí, todos tenemos prejuicios y, a veces, nublan nuestro juicio. Necesitamos reducir, si no eliminar, la discriminación irreflexiva.

A lo largo de los años, ha habido muchas ocasiones en que alguien ha visto mi silla de ruedas eléctrica antes de verme y llega a conclusiones que no se basaban en lo que podía hacer, sino en lo que pensaban que no podía hacer. Pienso en esto como un impuesto por discapacidad. Estoy pagando un precio adicional porque tengo una discapacidad. Este impuesto, aunque rara vez se reconoce, es frecuente. Hay ejemplos en todas partes. Desde que se inventaron los televisores, las personas sordas tuvieron que pagar por las perillas de volumen y los parlantes que nunca usarán o desearán. Las personas con discapacidades graves de movilidad tienen que pagar el costo de los baños de aviones, trenes, e incluso en los autobuses en los que viajan, aunque no los usen. Imagínese si se decidiera que nadie podría usar esos baños hasta que todos puedan hacerlo. Las personas con amputación de extremidades inferiores tienen que comprar zapatos en pares, otro impuesto.

¿Alguna vez has notado que cuanto más personal es un problema para las personas, más rápido parece haber una solución y más rápido llegamos a ser justos e iguales? La educación y la familiaridad son claves para derribar los vergonzosos muros de exclusión (Gracias, presidente George H.W. Bush). Dado que no podemos legislar actitudes, debemos hacer lo mejor que podamos para abrir los ojos y oídos de las personas menos familiarizadas con los problemas de discapacidad. A medida que las personas adquieran una mejor comprensión y conocimiento de las habilidades de todos y su potencial para hacer contribuciones grandes y pequeñas en todas las áreas de la vida, la ADA será un catalizador aún mayor para garantizar que las personas con discapacidades tengan los mismos derechos y oportunidades que todos los demás.

Entonces podemos celebrar a un nivel aún más alto.

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