People with multiple sclerosis used to be told to avoid exercise. The thinking was that since our strength was limited, we were best off using our bodies as little as possible.
Fortunately, time and observation have shown that not only is that wrong, but exercise can actually help people with MS in a variety of ways. Attached is the latest newsletter from the Providence Multiple Sclerosis Center in Beaverton, Oregon. On page 4 is an article by Doctor Meghan Romba, where she discusses clinical studies showing that regular exercise may improve cognitive function in people with MS.
This is a very significant discovery. Between 40 and 65% of people with MS have some form of cognitive decline during the course of their disease, but no medication has yet been shown to be effective against this. In addition, as with almost everyone else, people with MS may improve their general health and well-being if they embark on an exercise program (after checking with their doctor, of course).
And as more and more people are exercising these days, you may also find that your social life becomes healthier!
You’ve probably been reading about or experiencing the increasing presence of animals on airplanes. They range from the bizarre (an unsuccessful attempt to bring a peacock on board) to tragic (a passenger believing she had to flush her hamster down the toilet, a dog suffocating in a storage bin).
All of this is in reference to the federal law that requires airlines to accommodate passengers with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) defines “disability” in the same way as does the Americans with Disabilities Act: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. That legalese is another way of saying that the limitation must be significant – a temporary illness or even a broken leg are usually not serious enough to fit within the legal definition.
But those lines have become increasingly blurred by press coverage and public discourse, and the prevailing belief now seems to be that ANYONE can have a service or emotional support animal on a plane – just because they can get a doctor to say that they need one.
I and others have written extensively about the damage this does to people with real disabilities who genuinely need those animals to help them while they are on a plane and maneuvering through he rest of life.
Fortunately, as the attached article shows, several airlines are examining their policies on passengers with animals. And there is still time to give your input to the Department of Transportation on this issue.
…if you’ve been on an airplane lately, you may have found yourself sitting next to all manner of creatures – including dogs, hamsters, snakes and birds. Their owners may tell you that they are “emotional support animals” and maybe they do provide a degree of serenity and comfort to those who bring them on board. But in addition, they sometimes pee, poop, snap at and strike other passengers.
This is not what the disability laws intended. Many people with disabilities truly need those animals: seeing-eye dogs, dogs that alert epileptics to oncoming seizures, dogs who pick up things, open doors and help their owners stay on their feet or propel their wheelchairs. But when these dogs are among a menagerie of untrained and and unruly animals, it’s easy to miss the good that they are doing and lash out at ALL people who bring their animals on board.
Under traditional rules, all a potential passenger needs to do is get a doctor to write a note saying that the passenger needs the animal to provide “emotional support” on the flight. That way, the animal gets on the flight and the passenger saves the fee usually charged for transporting animals.
Because of some recent news stories and an increasing number of complaints, at least two airlines have tightened up their policies, and others are considering doing the same. The Department of Transportation has also invited public comments on this issue.
Read the excellent article below by Wes Siler of Outside Magazine for more information.
The AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) is full of unanswered questions. One of them is: Is a website a ”place?”
This question is important because the ADA prohibits disability discrimination in “places” of public accommodation. These include stores, business offices, sports arenas, movie theaters and other places of public congregation. This concept of “place” is why the ADA requires, in many cases, that buildings have ramps, accessible restrooms, doors of a certain width, etc.
One of the complications is that the ADA was passed in 1990, when the internet was in its infancy and lawmakers could not have anticipated how websites would become such an integral part of all our lives. Back then, it was pretty obvious that “place” meant something physical, not something in some conceptual “cloud” somewhere.
But times have obviously changed. Is the law going to change with them?
See tne article below by Aesha N. Khahn for some great insights into this question.
Because of the severe shortage of home health care workers, many young people with disabilities are somewhere they don‘t want and don‘t need to be: in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Yet if they were able to find and hire people to take care of them at home, they could live much more independently and also cost the taxpayers a lot less.
I have been a home health care worker and I know the physical and emotional strain it puts on a person. And since the pay is not that much different from working at a fast food place, I might well have chosen the latter before too long.
In the Olmstead decision (see below), the Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to continue to “warehouse” people with disabilities in institutions, if their health conditions do not warrant it. But with the shortage of people willing to take on this kind of work for the current available wages, this landmark court decision could be rendered relatively meaningless.
It is time for an adjustment in our economy, and for some of our nation’s wealth to “trickle down” to the people that want to be liberated from institutions, and the people who can help them make that a reality.
Since then, there has been an increase in news reports about ill-fated service and/or emotional support animals on flights. This includes a passenger who says she was told to (and did) flush her emotional support hamster down an airline toilet, as well as a puppy who tragically died after being placed in an overhead bin. This and other negative publicity has caused several airlines to re-examine their policies regarding animals on airplanes.
There’s no question that this is a very difficult issue. While airlines are required to allow service and emotional support animals on planes for passengers with disabilites, many passengers are taking advantage of the fact that they don’t have to pay extra for animals they label as “service” or “support” animals. That, along with the natural reluctance to probe into customers’ claims of being “disabled,” has resulted in increasing numbers of untrained and unruly animals on flights. And of course, the people who pay the highest price are people with true disabilities who really need those animals and who have trained them appropriately.
As a result, several airlines are re-examining their policies and trying to impose more structure while still following the law. One example is American Airlines, which has just announced a new policy that will go into effect on July 1. This policy will prohibit amphibians, goats, hedgehogs, insects, nonhousehold birds and animals with tusks, horns or hooves from boarding their airplanes. An exception will be made for miniature horses that have been trained as service animals.
The new policy will also require that customers traveling with support or service animals submit documentation about their animals. They will also have to sign a form indicating that the animals will not be disruptive on the flight. While there’s not much that can be done mid-flight if an animal doesn’t live up to this promise, at least we’re moving in the right direction!
Anyone with mobility problems understands the value of curb cuts. Without them, we are much more vulnerable and unsafe.
We may try to somehow jump our wheelchairs or walkers up onto the curb, or try to use our canes as pole vaults as we “leap” from street to sidewalk. We may try to use the street as an erstwhile sidewalk, or ask a stranger for help. But the most likely thing is that we will simply decide that the danger is not worth the risk and turn back. This is one of the ways that people with disabilities are effectively shut out of events and activities that are routine for most people.
This kind of dilemma is largely why the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) was enacted. One of the ADA’s requirements is that cities build curb cuts into newly-constructed sidewalks or into sidewalks that are being repaired or otherwise altered.
I live in Portland, Oregon, which is famous for being progressive, green and extremely bicycle-friendly. But Portland was recently sued by wheelchair users, who claimed that the city was not installing enough curb cuts nor adequately maintaining the sidewalks.
Portland has just settled this case for $13 million dollars. Part of the agreement is that the city will construct 1500 curb cuts a year.
As explained previously, these “getting real” posts are attempts to shed daylight on some of the wildly mistaken beliefs about disability laws. In today’s piece, I’ll talk about the myths and realities of illegal drugs at work.
Even if an employer has a policy prohibiting the use of drugs in the workplace, that employer cannot terminate an employee if he claims that he is a drug addict. This is because drug addiction is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Actually, current users of illegal drugs are NOT protected under the ADA. Neither are kleptomaniacs, pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers or people with sexual behavior disorders.
This may seem strange, because there is little doubt that these conditions would ordinarily fit the legal definition of “disability.” So why are they excluded? The reason, pure and simple, is politics. The drafters of the ADA knew they would face an even bigger battle if certain stigmatized activities were legally protected, so they simply wrote them out of the law.
This may also help explain why alcoholics are protected under the ADA. Regardless of the damage alcohol can do, it is still legal and hence occupies a higher “status” than other addicting drugs.
BUT, REALITY CHECK!
Even if alcoholism is protected under the ADA, an employer can still discipline and even terminate an employee who is under the influence on the job. (The employer should have a policy stating this, of course.)
There were actually some early cases where terminated employees claimed that the ADA allowed them to be drunk on the job. The courts did not buy that, however, and the usual accommodation is to give the employee time off for treatment.
Finally, please keep in mind that although current drug users are not legally protected, former users are. The idea is that the addict who has gone through treatment and is ready to return to work should be able to do so without being stigmatized.
In the early 20th Century, several U.S. cities had laws that actually forbade people with disabilities from showing themselves in public.
These were the notorious “Ugly Laws.” For example, Chicago’s law forbade anyone who was “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object from being in the public view.”
Those laws are gone now, but there are still people who would prefer not to have to look at those of us with disabilities. And one of them appears to be our president.
Recently, President Trump met with several members of the U.S. Paralympic team, to congratulate them on games well played. But while he was honoring them and calling them “inspirational,” he also said he had only watched “as much as I could” of the games. This was because, “It was a little tough to watch.”
I have attached links below that show President Trump’s remarks, as well as the very eloquent response to him by the U. S. Paralympic organizers. I will let this information speak for itself.
But isn’t he really saying that he would rather not look at us unless he has to, and wasn’t it this kind of thinking that created the Ugly Laws in the first place?
We’re all on information overload these days. So much seems to be coming at us from all sides. Worse yet, it’s very hard to tell if the information we’re absorbing is accurate. And it can be even worse if you have a disability, because you’re more likely to be isolated and not as able to access the people or documents that can help you work towards the truth.
Speaking of disabilities, one of the areas rife with misinformation is the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) and other laws designed to help people with disabilities get as fair a shake as possible in our society. That is why I am writing this series about some of the most common mistaken beliefs about these laws.
Today, I’m going to shed some light on the myth that an employer cannot fire an employee with a disability.
If an employee with a disability cannot do her job, the employer cannot fire her but has to hire someone extra or make other employees do the work.
Like with anyone else, an individual with a disability does not have an automatic right to stay in a job unless she can actually perform it.
But the ADA is different from other discrimination laws in this respect: If an otherwise qualified employee needs reasonable accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of the job, the employer must provide the accommodation unless it would result in an undue hardship to the employer or cause a fundamental alteration in the workplace.
An office receptionist with a spinal deformity cannot sit for more than an hour or so at a time. It would probably be a reasonable accommodation for the employer to let him get up and stretch his legs for a few minutes every hour. This would allow him to do the job, and would result in little or no cost to the employer. But if his condition worsened to the point where he often had to leave his desk in the middle of customer calls, it would likely become an undue hardship for the employer to tolerate this situation.
As previously discussed, the ADA challenges both employers and employees to put fresh eyes on workplace tasks and determine whether they can be done in an effective (and possibly non-traditional) way. The law also requires that employers and employees work together to determine the best way for that to happen.
In this case, one option might be for the employer to purchase a desk that allows the employee to stand up as needed to do the job. Another might be to supply a cot or couch where the employee can answer the phone for part of the day. There are many potential solutions to this problem, and one of the best places to find them is at a government website called the JOB ACCOMODATION NETWORK. https://askjan.org