Printer Friendly

Seminar clarifies disabilities act for local governments.

To meet the needs of local officials working to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pennsylvania League of Cities held a seminar on municipal implementation and compliance at the end of last month.

Following are some questions and answers from the session which may clarify issues of concern to municipal officials.

Q. Must a city which currently collects trash only when it is placed at the curbside for collection make a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability who, as a result of his or her disability, is unable to place their trash at the curbside for collection?

A. A municipality is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an individual who is unable to benefit from a municipal trash collection service because he or she has a disability which prevents them from placing their trash at the curbside. [28 CFR 130]

Q. Is cigarette smoking considered a disability in a smoke-free building? Must an employer accommodate employees who smoke by providing them cigarette breaks?

A. For the purposes of the ADA, cigarette smoking is not considered a disability and a municipality may prohibit or impose restrictions on smoking in facilities without any obligation to accommodate employees who smoke. [29 CFR 1630.16(d)]

Q. Is an individual who has been determined to be permanently disabled for the purpose of workmens' compensation considered an individual with a disability?

A. An individual with a disability is any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. [28 CFR 35.104]

Q. Are churches exempt from the ADA regulations?

A. Religious organizations or entities controlled by religious organizations (including places of worship) are exempt from regulations governing public accommodations and services operated by private entities (title III of the ADA). However, religious organizations are specifically subject to the title I nondiscrimination in employment requirements. In that regard, although a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society is permitted to give preference in employment to individuals of a particular religion, a religious entity may not discriminate against a qualified individual who satisfies the permitted religious criteria because of his or her disability.

Q. With respect to existing structures, what is meant by the term "alteration"?

A. The regulations do not define the term "alteration." In the absence of a regulatory definition, municipalities may rely on the ordinary meaning of the term which is commonly understood to be "...any physical change to the building or facility."

Q. What is a non-structural barrier? A. The regulations do not define the term "non-structural barrier." In the absence of a regulatory definition, municipalities may rely on the ordinary meaning of the term which is commonly understood to be " obstacle created by the placement of objects which are not permanently allonged to the building."

Q. What new telecommunication requirements does the ADA impose on municipalities?

A. Where a municipality communicates by telephone with applicants and beneficiaries, telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD's) or equally effective telecommunication systems must be used to communicate with individuals with impaired hearing or speech. [28 CFR 35.161] In the case of telephone emergency services (including 911 services), the municipality must provide direct access to individuals who use TDD's and computer modems. [28 CFR 35.162]

Q. Under the ADA, are municipalities required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an elected official with a disability?

A. Neither the Act nor the regulations specifically address issues which arise with respect to an elected official with a disability. However, it is reasonable to assume that for the purpose of the reasonable accommodation requirement, an individual with a disability who is elected to public office is a qualified individual with a disability and entitled to reasonable accommodation(s) when it is necessary to enable him or her to perform the duties of their office or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges as are enjoyed by other similarly situated elected officials.

Q. May an employment application inquire whether the applicant is an individual with a disability?

A. A municipality may not inquire as to whether an individual has a disability at the pre-offer stage of the selection process. Nor may a municipality inquire at the pre-offer stage about an applicant's workers' compensation history.

A municipality may ask narrowly tailored questions that relate to the applicant's ability to perform job-related functions. However, these questions should not be phrased in terms of disability. For example, a municipality may ask whether the applicant has a driver's license, if driving is a job function, but may not ask whether the applicant has a visual disability. [29 CFR 1630.13(a)]

Q. Under the ADA, may pre-existing conditions continue to be excluded from coverage under the municipal medical benefit plan?

A. A municipal medical benefit plan may exclude pre-existing conditions. However, a municipality may not deny a qualified individual with a disability equal access to insurance or subject a qualified individual with a disability to different terms or conditions of insurance based on disability alone, if the disability does not pose increased risks. [29 CFR 1630.16(f)]

Q. Must municipal swimming pools be made accessible?

A. The regulations require that a municipality operate each service, program, or activity (including swimming pools) so that, when viewed in its entirety, the service, program or activity is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. [28 CFR 35.150]

Q. May a municipality seek an extension of the July 26, 1992 transition plan deadline if it believes the results of the self-evaluation will have a significant impact on the transition plan?

A. At the current time, there is no process or procedure under which a municipality may either seek or receive an extention of any deadline contained in the Act or the regulations.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Americans with Disabilities Act
Author:Herber, Kate
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 10, 1992
Previous Article:Developing policy for NLC is a group effort.
Next Article:NLC Futures Process begins new cycle; local leaders reach toward cities' futures.

Related Articles
Employment and disability: issues and solutions for the 1990s.
Expanding the circle of inclusion for African Americans with disabilities.
Creating an action plan for ADA employment compliance.
The Javits-Wagner-O'Day program.
Law Advances Workforce Opportunities for Disabled.
Employers should address ADA requests on case by case basis. (A Public Service of Davidson Law Firm).
California high court endorses broad definition of 'disability'.
How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters