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COMPLYING WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT: DEFINING DISABILITY IS FIRST STEP

 COMPLYING WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT:
 DEFINING DISABILITY IS FIRST STEP
 LONG GROVE, Ill., July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- When Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) goes into effect this Sunday, July 26, employers of 25 or more people must understand the ADA's definition of a disability and what is required to reasonably accommodate a potential or current employee with an impairment.
 Approximately 43 million people in the United States will be protected by the act, which defines a disability as:
 -- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual.
 -- A record of such an impairment.
 -- Being regarded as having such an impairment.
 "The law applies not only to those in wheelchairs or who are blind or deaf but to other individuals whom unprepared employers may not consider disabled," said Eugene Ziemba, consultant to companies on the ADA and ergominics department manager at Kemper risk Management Services (KRMS). "Individuals with chronic illnesses or injuries, including people with epilepsy or an HIV infection, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts and those with back or heart conditions are covered by the ADA."
 The ADA protects people with a record of a substantially limiting impairment, whether or not they currently have that impairment, such as former cancer patients. This section of the ADA's definition also covers those perceived to have a disability who actually have none, such as someone erroneously classified with a learning disability or a psychiatric disorder. Someone with a cosmetic disfigurement that in no way limits daily physical activity is covered by the act; even if an individual is discriminated against because of a rumored disability, he or she may seek remedy under the ADA.
 In addition, the definitions in the act protect those who may be associated with someone who has a disability, such as a volunteer who works with AIDS patients or an individual the employer assumes will be frequently absent or tardy to take care of a disabled family member.
 According to Ziemba, once employers understand the ADA's definition of disability, they should carefully review their job descriptions. "Functional job descriptions created before the hiring process begins are an excellent way to determine a job's necessary functions, qualifications and requirements," Ziemba said. "Defining a job accurately requires rethinking what needs to be accomplished in a job, not how it should be accomplished. These descriptions will be helpful in making non-discriminatory hiring decisions and serve as evidence of the job's essential components should a hiring decision be challenged later."
 Employers must determine what they can reasonably do to accommodate people with disabilities. "Such measures are not necessarily costly or extensive," Ziemba said. "Accommodation can be as basic as simplifying work methods and providing adequate rest periods for a person with multiple sclerosis, or scheduling breaks for a diabetic who must take medication, for example. Other accommodations might require workstation or equipment changes.ed to be enlarged for someone with a vision problem. A workstation may need to be enlarged for wheelchair accessibility.
 "Once an employer is aware that a job applicant or an employee has a disability, the company must be willing to make reasonable accommodations that allow the individual to do the essential functions of the job," Ziemba continued. "Employers who prepare for the act's July 26 effective date will not only know what is required of them, but will also be able to respond to a disabled person's needs in a way that is beneficial for both the employer and the individual."
 KRMS is a partnership between NATLSCO, Kemper Corp.'s risk management subsidiary, and Kemper National Services, Inc., the medical loss containment subsidiary of Kemper National Insurance Companies. KRMS offers comprehensive, fully integrated risk management services, including loss control, claims management, managed care and risk information and analysis.
 The following fact sheet outlines 10 practical steps employers should take before Title I of the ADA goes into effect Sunday.
 1. Update existing job descriptions and/or develop descriptions that outline essential functions, qualifications and requirements of the job. These job descriptions will be helpful in making nondiscriminatory hiring decisions and serve as evidence of the essential components of the job if a hiring decision is challenged.
 2. Evaluate accessibility of public areas and personnel department.
 3. Educate employees involved in the hiring process about the requirements of the law.
 4. Review all pre-employment programs and eliminate pre-offer medical-related questions or tests.
 5. Determine if "post-offer" medical exams should be required for any jobs. Work with medical personnel to develop a format that will give you the information needed to make a fair placement decision.
 6. Develop policy on reasonable accommodation and inform employees and applicants of their responsibility to let you know they need accommodation.
 7. Decide how to determine and who will determine if an accommodation is reasonable or will cause undue hardship for the company or other employees.
 8. Review return-to-work policies for newly disabled employees to ensure that accommodations are considered.
 9. Document any accommodations made, as well as hiring/firing decisions.
 10. Educate employees about people with disabilities to promote understanding of comfort with and acceptance of co-workers.
 -0- 7/21/92
 /NOTE TO EDITOR: Eugene Ziemba and Kathleen Rickert, ADA compliance experts at Kemper Risk Management Services, are available for interview or background information by calling contacts listed below./
 /CONTACT: John Crane Vita, 708-540-3164, or Janice Kalmer, 708-540-4465, both for Kemper/ CO: Kemper Risk Management Services ST: Illinois IN: SU:


TQ -- NY080 -- 1401 07/21/92 13:45 EDT
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 21, 1992
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