How to Keep From Treating People With Disabilities Differently – Disability

Workshop GoalsTo understand the history of American attitudes and legislation regarding people with disabilities;To learn how to properly assist individuals with disabilities in a courteous and respectful manner;To practice providing assistance to people with disabilities, both fellow employees and museum guests.In order to gain the most out of the presentation, please:

Listen with an open mind;

Be respectful of each other;

Challenge your thinking;

Be willing to learn something new that you can use on the job!

Challenge ActivityBean Bags

Place a bean bag on your head

Move to the music!

If your bean bag falls off your head, freeze until another player, without losing his/her beanbag, retrieves the fallen one and replaces it on the frozen person’s head.

If the rescuer loses his/her beanbag, then he/she is also frozen until another person appears to rescue them both.

What is the object of the game?How do you “win”?What is the advantage of picking up a classmate’s beanbag?What is the Definition of a Disability?The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in several key areas including: state and local government services, places of public accommodation, employment, telecommunications and transportation.The individual with a disability is a person who (3 part definition):

Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

Has a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have the impairment; or

Being regarded as having such an impairment.

What is considered a disability?The ADA does not list conditions that are considered disabilities; however it does list those which are not included.Not covered by the ADA are homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestism, transsexualism, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, other sexual behavior disorders.The ADA does not cover individuals who are currently engaging in illegal drug use.A short-term condition is generally is not a disability. The test is whether the impairment markedly limits major life activities when assessing the duration, scope, and impact of the impairment.Small Group ActivityDivide into small to discuss your experiences and examples of instances you have assisted co-workers or museum guests with the following disabilities:



Intellectual or Developmental



Remember that each person’s situation is unique!Physical disabilities: a limitation on a person’s physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina; a short list of examples:

Spinal cord injury


Cerebral palsy

Multiple sclerosis

Spina bifida

Musculoskeletal injuries (eg back injury)


Muscular dystrophy

Sensory impairment: a limitation of one or more of a person’s senses; including:

Hearing Loss


Limited vision/Blindness

Loss of Smell

Spatial awareness

A person could be born with the impairment or could it could develop throughout the lifetime.Intellectual disabilities – significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers social and practical skills. Originates before age 18 years. Affects approximately 3% of the population.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Down’s Syndrome

Fragile X Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)


Mental illness has nothing to do with intelligence.

Mental illness is a condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, and ability to relate to others.

Results in a diminished capacity for dealing with everyday life

Can include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and personality disorder.

The Invisibility of DisabilitiesBe sensitive that disabilities come in a variety of types, and each person is an individualThe impact of a person’s disability may not be easily seen.Person may be perceived as lazy, when in fact, the disability impacts his/her ability to learn, work, and function.Teachers and peers may see only behavior problems or uncooperative behaviors, rather than accommodating the disability.A Brief History of Legislation1964 – Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act1973 – Rehabilitation Act, Section 5041990 – Americans with Disabilities Act – First comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.History, continued2008 – ADA Amendments ActExpanded definition of the term disability to include individuals with amputations, intellectual disabilities, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Muscular Dystrophy, and cancer;Strikes a balance between employee and employer interests;Overturned two key Supreme Court decisions (Sutton vs. United Airlines, Inc. and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. vs. Williams), where lower courts had found individual’s situation did not constitute a disability, therefore the question of discrimination had never been addressed.American Attitudes – FDRFranklin Delano Roosevelt32nd President of the United States from 1933 to 1945.Had suffered paralysis as a result of Polio.Although the his use of a wheelchair was common knowledge, the wheelchair was not shown by the media.Gather Your ThoughtsHow do you feel about the cloaked FDR statue?What do you think is more important: to respect President Roosevelt’s wishes OR to reflect modern views of people with disabilities?How could this spectrum of opinion be reflected in the workplace?As a manager, how do you work to bring understanding and acceptance among your staff, while following current ADAAA guidelines?Let’s examine recent examples of people with disabilities who have achieved celebrity status!Stevie WonderBorn prematurely in 1950 in Michigan. Suffered retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), due to too much oxygen in the hospital’s incubator.Began playing instruments at an early age and signed with Motown Records at age 11. Has had an amazing writing and recording career.Celebrity spotlights can aid in bringing important issues into the spotlight.Jim AbbottBorn in 1967, in Flint, Michigan, without a right handBaseball star for University of MichiganPlayed in the 1988 Summer OlympicsPlayed Major League Baseball, and pitched a no-hitter in 1993 as a NY Yankee.Amy PurdeeBorn in 1979 in Las Vegas, NevadaContracted meningitis at age 19, resulting in double amputation below the knees and kidney transplantParalympic Athlete in Snowboarding – Bronze MedalistTerminology Over TimeCrippled – an invalid and derogatory term that is no longer acceptable to describe people with disabilities;Retarded – a medical term that can be used as a slur; no longer acceptable in everyday language:Handicapped – something that hampers or hinders, such as in a race; no longer used in referring to people;Normal people – avoid using this term when making a comparison, as this implies a person with a disability is not normal. Everyone is unique and has their own identity and abilities;Person with a Disability – “people-first” language that focuses on the individual, not their condition.Using People-First LanguageAmerican Psychological Association Style guide

Person’s name or pronoun first

Description of impairment or disability second

Descriptors should not modify or limit the person


A boy with Down’s Syndrome, not “the Down’s Syndrome boy”;

Sydney has a hearing impairment, not “the deaf girl.”

Discussion: What Do You Do?On the Job Situations You May EncounterA guest arrives at an event with a cat in a stroller. She claims the cat is a service animal. Do you allow her entrance?A group of 60 children is moving from the 1st floor exhibit to the 2nd floor through the only staircase in the wing. One child is on crutches. As the group’s tour guide, how do you handle the transition between floors?What Do You Do?Guidelines to Follow

If the guest claims the cat is with her as a service animal, the cat can be permitted to accompany her into the event. She does not need to produce any paperwork to justify the service animal.

Review the options with the student’s teacher/chaperone. If the child wishes to take the elevator, suggest a small group of students and an adult accompany her, so she does not feel alone or singled out.

Ask the guest if he would like to sit or hold onto in a chair inside the ride.

Employees with Disabilities: What is Reasonable Accommodation?A reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes to a position or workplace that will enable an employee to do his or her job despite having a disability.Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would pose an undue hardshipExamples of Reasonable Accommodations

Providing a chair for a cashier who uses crutches so he or she can sit when not assisting customers.

Reserving a parking space close to the entrance for an employee who has difficulty walking because of loss of a limb.

Providing instructions and information in writing for an employee with hearing loss.

Permitting a staff member to bring a service animal to work.

Allowing an employee with tinnitus to play background music to help block out the ringing in his ears.

Allowing more frequent work breaks or providing back-up coverage when an employee with a disability needs to take a break.

Providing specialized equipment for an employee who has lost a hand or finger, such as a large-key keyboard, a one-handed keyboard, a trackball, a touchpad, or speech recognition software.

Flexibility in scheduling to allow an employee with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to attend counseling sessions or offering a later start time to a staff member with a spinal cord injury who has a lengthy personal care routine.

Decreasing distractions, providing information in writing, breaking down complex assignments into small steps for a person with a traumatic brain injury.

Making sure equipment is within reach for an employee who uses a wheelchair.

Adjusting the height of an office desk for a staff member who uses a wheelchair, and ensuring the space is not obstructed by wastebaskets or other items.

Unacceptable PracticesExamples of A Record or History of DisabilityExamples:

An employer refuses to hire a qualified candidate due to a history of mental illness, even though the person has recovered sufficiently to perform all essential functions of the job.

A dentist refuses to treat a patient because he was diagnosed as having HIV, even though the diagnosis was proven to be incorrect.

A retail outlet fires a woman who is pregnant, because they assume she will not be able to work during the busy holiday season.

Unacceptable PracticesRegarded as Having an ImpairmentExamples:

An employee has controlled high blood pressure, which is not substantially limiting. However, his employer fears that the employee will suffer a heart attack and reassigns the employee to a less strenuous job.

A person with a severe burn or scar does not actually have a disability. He may be regarded as having a disability when he faces discrimination based on people’s attitudes toward him.

An overweight candidate for a bus driver position is not hired because the employer assumes (without conducting tests) that she will not be able to move fast enough in case of an emergency.

CourtesyGum chewing – Do not chew gum when speaking to people with hearing loss. It makes you more difficult to understandStand in front – When speaking to people with hearing loss, stand directly in front, so they can see your lipsPaper and pencil – Have a paper and pencil ready, in case communicating through written word may be more effective than spoken wordSit down – when speaking to a person in a wheelchair, take a seat! Looking upward may hurt their neck, and it is common courtesy to be at eye level.Ask if the person wants help before acting – Do not assume that someone needs help. Have the respect and courtesy to ask how you may help, and then follow directionsBe patient – Do not roll your eyes, cross your arms, or rush a person who needs extra time.Use people-first language – always refer to the person first and do not use their situation as a descriptor.End of Session QuizYou are at the Information Desk and a guest in a wheelchair has a question. What is the most courteous way to approach the interaction?An employee you are managing has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She begins to walk with a cane, and is able to perform her job functions as school group facilitator in the laboratory. Discuss what types of accommodations can be made for her.A child who uses crutches wants to watch the Dive Show at the Kelp Tank. All the seats are filled and many patrons have filled the open viewing area. How do you accommodate the child, so he can see the show?List 3 new pieces of information that you learned, which you can use on the job.1- Information DeskInvite the guest to the side of the counter that is wheelchair accessible.Sit at the chair, so you are eye-level.Answer his questions respectfully.Ask if the guest needs any assistance.Ask if he is familiar with the location of the elevator.2- Employee AccommodationsReview the employee’s job duties and discuss if any accommodations need to be made at this time, such as reassignment, additional time for tasks, use of a chair while working.Make a plan to review her situation as needed, to see if any accommodations or a reassignment needs to be made.For example, an employee who lead the student experiments in the laboratory could be reassigned to the Information Desk to answer the telephone with a headset.3- Viewing the Show

Given that the situation involves a child, consult with the student’s parents or chaperone.

Ask if the child would like to sit by the tank or in the bleachers.

Show the family where the seating area for people with disabilities is located.

If someone is sitting in that area, respectfully work with the guest to find a spot for the child. Posted signs indicate that the are is reserved for people with special needs.

If there is no wiggle room, ask if the child would like a chair to sit, or ask a guest if they would mind moving over to accommodate the child.

Remember that you are responsible for the guests during the dive show. Feel empowered to make the situation pleasant for the guests, in a courteous manner. Call your supervisor if you need additional assistance.

OPM Federal Disability Retirement and the Other Federal Programs – Disability

The concept behind Federal Disability Retirement is a simple one: Given a level of proof, the disability should attach only to the extent of the specific job which a person cannot do; otherwise, the Federal or Postal employee should, upon being approved for Federal OPM Disability Retirement benefits, be allowed to remain productive in some alternate capacity, so that he or she may continue to contribute to the social welfare of the country as a whole.Social Security Disability, in contrast to Federal Disability Retirement benefits submitted and approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, provides that one is essentially considered to be disabled not only from the regular profession or job which you engaged in immediately before being determined to be disabled but, further, you cannot do other kinds of jobs because of your medical condition. Thus, the great distinction between Federal Disability Retirement benefits for the Federal or Postal Worker, and Social Security Disability, is the capacity and ability to work at another, different kind of job other than the one you are found to be disabled from. Of course, Federal and Postal employees who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, who are under the Federal Employees Retirement System, must also file for Social Security Disability benefits, anyway. That is just part of the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, because if you are approved for both Federal Disability Retirement benefits and for Social Security Disability benefits, there is a coordination of benefits between the two programs – an “offset” of 100% for the first year, then a 60% offset every year thereafter.Then, of course, there is always the consideration that must be given to the Office of Workers’ Compensation benefits, administered through the Department of labor, under the aegis of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. This type of benefit is known as the “work-related” injury, where the wide panoply of issues concerning causality, what constitutes an injury or occupational disease as being “caused” by work, or occurring at work, and whether and to what extent such a work-related injury or occupational disease is compensable through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. Often, work-related, compensable injuries are temporary in duration, and the whole point is to try and rehabilitate the injured worker, to compensate as the law allows, and to restore the Federal or Postal employee to one’s former job, work capacity and continuing livelihood.These are the major tripartite compensation programs for all Federal and Postal employees, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under the Federal Employees Retirement System, the Civil Service Retirement System, or the hybrid and odd one, the Civil Service Retirement System – Offset. Are there differences between the three? Certainly. Moreover, such differences should be taken into consideration because of the overlapping features of all three. For, while all three are independently determined, they can also impact each other in significant ways.First, one should clearly understand that the Worker’s Compensation program is not a retirement system. Instead, it is a system meant primarily to return the Federal or Postal worker back to work, and to temporarily compensate the Federal or Postal Worker during the period of recuperation from a disease or injury. Second, a Federal or Postal worker who is receiving temporary total disability through the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program cannot concurrently work at another job (with some exceptions concerning second or part-time jobs which the person had already been working at before becoming injured or disabled). On the other hand, a person who is receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is allowed to go out and get a job in the private sector, while still receiving the disability annuity. The income earned in the private sector should be based upon a different profession or line or work, in significant and distinguishable ways, from the job which the Federal or Postal worker was doing while working for the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service. Additionally, the amount you make cannot exceed 80% of what one’s former position as a Federal employee or U.S. Postal Worker currently pays. Conversely, while some monies can be earned while receiving Social Security Disability, the ceiling is quite low and one needs to be careful not to exceed the low ceiling of allowable earned income.Third, it is important to understand that if a Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker gets both Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management approved, along with Social Security Disability benefits, there is a coordination of benefits, considered as an “offset” feature. This is how it works: in the first year of concurrent benefits received, where Federal Disability Retirement benefits are calculated at 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service, there is a 100% offset between Social Security Disability and Federal Disability Retirement benefits. Since Social Security disability benefits are considered primary, you would therefore receive the full Social Security disability check, and 100% of that would be deducted from the Federal Disability Retirement annuity check. Every year thereafter, where the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is reduced to reflect 40% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service, there is a 60% offset or reduction of benefits.In receiving both Social Security disability benefits and Federal Disability Retirement benefits, you should be extremely careful, because if you are receiving the full annuity from both sources, it means that the Office of Personnel Management is overpaying you. It will also mean that, sometime in the near future, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will demand repayment for any amounts not having been offset between Federal Disability Retirement benefits and Social Security Disability benefits. Pleading ignorance or inability to pay are normally not valid bases upon which to stop repayment actions. As such, if after informing the Office of Personnel Management about the overpayment, no action to reduce the Federal Disability Retirement benefits is taken, you should still set aside the appropriate amount of monies in anticipation of receiving a future demand for repayment.Retirement is a major life-changing event; early, self-induced retirement resulting from the occurrence of an injury, medical condition, disease or occupational occurrence, can further be a traumatic life-changing event, precisely because it was never anticipated, and certainly unplanned. While such life changes are stressful by the very nature of being unanticipated, this does not mean that one should forego obtaining as much knowledge or understanding the complex intricacies of the intersecting impact potentially resulting from the benefits available. Federal and Postal employees have many tools and resources available, but such benefits and compensable programs remain latent and inaccessible if left untapped. While major life events such as unanticipated medical conditions impacting one’s livelihood and the ability to continue in one’s career may provoke sudden changes in plans, such unplanned events need not result in unwise courses of actions; and knowing the benefits available, the interaction between the benefits, and the impact of filing for Federal Disability Retirement annuity, Social Security benefits, and even Federal Workers’ Compensation payments, will provide a greater framework for one’s financial security well into the future.