A project of the Institute for Human Centered Design
September 2021 Newsletter
ADA Question of the Month
Question: I manage a small manufacturing department of a local company. One of my employees has had a noticeable change in their behavior. I’ve found the employee sleeping in the locker room and nodding off in the break room. Their speech was slurred when I asked why they were sleepy. They revealed that they had been using heroin and need treatment. The department head said we could not fire them because they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Is that true?

The answer is at the end of the newsletter.
National Recovery Month
September is National Recovery Month
Logos of the New England ADA Center and a project of the Institute for Human Centered Design
The month of September has been dedicated to observe, promote, and support people in recovery and to understand substance use disorders. This yearly observance is meant to show that through recovery and mental health services people caught in addiction can recover to live healthy lives. The New England ADA Center developed resources to help people in recovery to understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Webinar: Hampshire HOPE - The ADA, Addiction, and Recovery
Hampshire HOPE, Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education
On October 18th at 2:00 p.m. to 3:30p.m. the Hampshire HOPE will host a webinar with the New England ADA Center. Find out how the ADA addresses alcohol and substance use disorders differently. These differences will be illustrated with scenarios about alcohol, opioids, cocaine and marijuana. People with addiction are people with disabilities, too. Learn about civil rights and obligations.

Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community
National Recovery Month 2021
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes National Recovery Month. It is a national observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible. SAMHSA provides materials for organizations to promote National Recovery Month.

Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR) and Friends 31st Recovery Month Celebration Day
Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (purple lettering with a purple butterfly)
MOAR invites you to join them and their friends to use your voice for recovery and to get involved. The MOAR Recovery Month has an event set for Tuesday, September 28th (or Wednesday, September 29th - rain date) 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at their Boston location (pending COVID status). This meeting will replace MOAR Boston and MOAR North Shore Meetings until October 2021.

Many ERs Fail People Who Struggle With Addiction - These New Approaches Might Help
A stethoscope sits atop of medical forms next to a pen.
Patients with opioid addiction who show up in a hospital's ER face many barriers to recovery, and so do the doctors trying to help them. A recent report from the Legal Action Center and the Bloomberg American Health Initiative found that despite widespread consensus on the importance of addiction treatment in the ER and an unprecedented rise in overdose deaths, many hospitals fail to screen for substance use, offer medications to treat opioid use disorder or connect patients to follow-up care. 

Image source: file photo.
Fact Sheet: The Americans With Disabilities Act, Addiction, and Recovery for Private Businesses and Nonprofits
ADA National Network
The ADA National Network has released the fourth factsheet in our ‘ADA, Addiction, and Recovery’ series! Learn more about how the ADA applies to private businesses, nonprofits and businesses that are open to the public and whose operations affect commerce for people with addiction to alcohol and people in recovery from opioids and other drugs. Examples include healthcare and nursing homes.

The ADA, Addiction and Recovery Frequently Asked Questions
frequently asked questions
These frequently asked questions (FAQ) came from attendees of our ADA, Addiction and Recovery trainings. These attendees were: people in recovery, their family members, and addiction professionals. The questions cover the following topics: employment, state and local government programs, shelters, housing, recovery homes, healthcare, businesses and non-profits.

COVID-19 Updates
Long-term COVID and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Jasmine Harris, professor from Pennsylvania University, white woman smiling, brown hair and brown eyes.
On the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Biden announced that people experiencing long-term COVID symptoms could be protected under the ADA. The Departments of Justice and of Health and Human Services issued joint guidance that long-term COVID illness may be considered a disability under federal anti-discrimination laws. Jasmine Harris of the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law, an expert in disability and anti-discrimination law, spoke about the significance of Biden’s proclamation, the history of the law, and what challenges might lay ahead for COVID long haulers.

Image source: image courtesy of Penn Today.
New England ADA Center's ADA and COVID-19 Webpage
New England ADA Center IHCD Combined Graphic
People with disabilities have a right of participation in society even during a pandemic. We have collected resources to help people understand their ADA rights during the pandemic. Read more about how the ADA relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regional News
Settlement Agreement Establishes City of Boston's Accessible Voting System
City of Boston Seal
The City of Boston and the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL), Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB), and five Boston voters, represented by the Disability Law Center (DLC), entered into a Settlement Agreement to establish an Accessible Remote Voting System that allows voters with disabilities to participate in the absentee voting and vote by mail programs privately and independently.
The voting system must be available for the 2021 elections and for every election through December 31, 2025. Key components of this System provides an accessible electronic ballot that can be marked and officially cast electronically through a web-based platform or other accessible mechanism compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1, Level AA).

NH Governor's Commission on Disability (GCD) and the New England ADA Center - Standing Tall Together
In years past, the GCD and the New England ADA Center often shared space at conference gatherings. To show their affiliation and build stronger relationships with the public they displayed ADA information and met with attendees. In these shifting times, the co-exhibit has taken on a new model - we've collaborated in our virtual space. Resources, ranging from the ADA Action Guide to the Center's Data in States, Cities and Sub-groups in New England, are now available to all on the front page of the GCD’s website.

Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) Offers Municipal ADA Improvement Grant Program for FY22
Massachusetts Office on Disability
The Municipal ADA Improvement Grant Program is administered by MOD and is a competitive grant program that seeks to improve access to services, programs, and activities in municipalities across the Commonwealth. The program funds two types of grants. The first is a Planning Grant that helps fund the development or update of a municipality’s ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan. The second is a Project Grant that assists municipalities with the removal of architectural or communication barriers that have been identified within their Self-Evaluation and Transition Plans. MOD currently has $2 million available to fund such projects for FY22 and will begin accepting applications for the FY22 cycle in August 2021.

Maine's Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts to Launch by End of the Year
State of Maine Offficial Seal
ABLE accounts, based on the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) run by individual states, created a new option for qualified individuals living with disabilities and their families to save for the future, while protecting eligibility for public benefits. Maine Treasurer, Henry Beck, announced that Maine’s program, which is expected to launch by year end. Beck added that "a transactional, FDIC-insured, checking account would best serve the needs of both young and adult Mainers with disabilities, and their families."

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Night at Fenway Park
Dirt infield and grassy outfield are bordered by the giant green wall of the outfield called the "Green Monster" at Fenway Park.
On September 19th Fenway Park will host Deaf and Hard of Hearing Night. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket will benefit Deaf, Inc. & Our Deaf Survivors Center, Inc. The Red Sox will host the Baltimore Orioles that night.
After the game, the Park will offer ‘Run the Bases’ Day. Kids will be allowed on the field with their parents/guardians to run on first, second, third bases and home plate.

Image source: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Vermont Loosens Motel Housing Eligibility Rules for People with Disabilities
Second floor view looking down the exterior walk way of a motel (rooms on the left and a mountain in the distance on the right).
Vermont Legal Aid and the state Agency of Human Services have settled a lawsuit over emergency housing assistance eligibility requirements, leading to new rules that should make it easier for homeless, disabled Vermonters to obtain state-funded vouchers to temporarily stay in motels. Representatives of the state and Vermont Legal Aid said that, although they are pleased with the settlement deal, many questions remain. The new rules outlined in the settlement are slated to take effect by Sept. 3 and expire at the end of June 2022.

Image source: image courtesy of VTDigger by Mike Dougherty.
New England ADA Center is Open and Provides Webinars on the Americans with Disabilities Act
New England ADA Center IHCD Combined Graphic
During this pandemic, compliance with the ADA is even more critical whether you are a municipality, non-profit organization, state agency or business. We are open for business and here to take your ADA questions. Let us help you ensure that everyone can participate in your services. The New England ADA Center provides webinars on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Contact us at 800-949-4232 or ADAinfo@ihcdesign.org with your questions or to request a training.

National News
Research Brief: Digital Access for Students in Higher Education and the ADA
Cartoon image of child in front of computer attending school in a virtual classroom.
The ADA Network Knowledge Translation Center has published a new research brief. The brief describes how the ADA and other disability rights laws affect digital access for students with disabilities in higher education. The brief discusses research on digital access in higher education, barriers to digital access, potential benefits of online learning for students with disabilities, accommodations in digital environments, and how to improve digital access.

Image source: image courtesy of Pixabay.
The Era of Easier Voting for Disabled People Is Over
White envelope going into blue mailbox against a red background.
It’s long been difficult for Americans with disabilities to vote. Last year, something different happened: As states passed pandemic-driven reforms to make voting easier for everyone, they inadvertently made voting a lot easier for most people with disabilities. Thanks to absentee ballots, drop-off boxes, and curbside voting, people with disabilities turned out in record numbers in the 2020 election. That is likely to change.

Image source: file photo.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Provides a Statement of Interest on Hotel Bed Heights
Two white beds in the foreground of a hotel room.
The DOJ has taken interest in the allegations that Aimbridge Hospitality, has violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying equal access to its hotel rooms. The defendant alleges that many of Aimbridge’s hotel rooms have beds that are too high for guests with disabilities to transfer onto from a wheelchair.  They went on to explain that it can be virtually impossible for a wheelchair user to independently transfer from a wheelchair onto the bed surface because of the difference in height of a typical wheelchair (18-20 inches) and that of increasingly high hotel bed surfaces (25-30 inches or higher). The DOJ may clarify the ADA’s general nondiscrimination requirements, which may apply in the absence of ADA Standards on hotel bed heights.

Image source: image courtesy of Alpha One.
Webinar: Best Practices for Ensuring Students with Food Allergies Have the Same Opportunities in Higher Education
Great Lakes ADA Center
On September 21st from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. the Great Lakes ADA Regional Center will host a webinar, Best Practices for Ensuring Students with Food Allergies Have the same Opportunities in Higher Education. Presenters will discuss challenges and solutions for universities and colleges accommodating and supporting students with food allergies and celiac disease, which may qualify as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Presenters will cover dining halls, temporary events, communication, and the roles of both students and staff. Registration is free and required by September 20th

Watch: The Practical Employer Video Series
mid Atlantic ADA Center
In an effort to educate employment best practices and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center has developed The Practical Employer Video Series. Their latest video offers practical tips for conducting job recruitment activities that are accessible and effective in attracting qualified candidates with disabilities. The video is titled: "Inclusive Recruitment: How to Make Sure Your Outreach and Application Process Is Accessible"

Judy Heumann's 'Adventures in Accessibility' Podcast
Judith Heumann
Judy is an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. She served in the Clinton and Obama Administrations and was a Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation. She has played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation including the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disability Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Judy shares her past and her thoughts of the future with the Rocky Mountain ADA Center's podcast "Adventures in Accessibility."

Image source: file photo.
Answer to the ADA Question of the Month
Answer: It’s complicated. The ADA protects a person with a substance use disorder who is in recovery, and is no longer engaging in the current illegal use of drugs. In recovery means the person has as ceased engaging in the illegal use of drugs; is either participating in a supervised rehabilitation program; or has been successfully rehabilitated. In this case, the employee’s poor performance and conduct are due to their current illegal use of drugs. If a person’s illegal use occurred recently enough to justify a reasonable belief that a person’s drug use is a real and ongoing problem, then the employee is not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, the employer has no legal obligation to provide a leave of absence and may take disciplinary actions are deemed appropriate.

Also, nothing in the ADA would limit the employer’s ability to offer leave or other assistance that would allow the employee to receive treatment. There is a clause in the ADA called “The Last Chance Agreement.” This is typically an agreement between the employer and employee in which the employee agrees to receive treatment, returns to their job, and does not cause any further problems.

Due to the opioid epidemic and the pandemic, today’s employers are adopting last chance agreements and in addition, recovery ready workplace policies. These policies may go beyond the ADA to help employers retain valuable employees who have relapsed. 
To learn more, visit our Addiction and Recovery webpage and read the ADA, Addiction, Recovery and Employment fact sheet.
Stay Connected:
We strive to ensure the Newsletter and the content we share is accessible. Unfortunately we have limited control of external websites. Please email us at adainfo@newenglandada.org if you encounter any issues accessing the newsletter or related content.

Access New England features topics related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), originating from the ADA Center, our state affiliates, the ADA National Network, and national sources.

The New England ADA Center is a member of the ADA National Network funded by the Administration for Community Living through National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Grant  90DP0087.