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ACCESS-ABILITY Q&A

ADA does not overrule license penalties

DEAR ANNETTE: Since alcoholism is a disability protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, could you please say something in support of pending legislation that would allow someone whose license is suspended to drive to work? Isnít it discrimination if they do not pass this legislation?
L.S.
DEAR L.S.: I have to admit that this question threw me off-guard. Iíve heard people use the Americans with Disabilities Act for inappropriate things before, but this one wins the prize.
First of all, there are many medical conditions and disabilities that impair a personís ability to drive. Consider the person who is blind or visually impaired. There are other disabilities as well as conditions that require medications that render a person incapable of driving. I would never recommend that people with these conditions drive. So, why would I recommend that someone whose ďdisabilityĒ has caused his or her judgment to be so impaired that he drove while impaired?
So, no, I cannot support such legislation. If your license is suspended or revoked because of driving under the influence, you will have to find another way to get to work. If walking, biking or the bus does not work for you, consider carpooling. Thatís what people with other disabilities would have to do.
If you are genuinely concerned about your drinking being a disability, please consider a treatment program. There are a number of them out there. If one doesnít work for you, try another.
I wish you well. I just donít want you to drive and endanger others.
DEAR ANNETTE: I have recently taken a middle management position with a small company and I supervise 15 people. One of these people has a plan for job accommodations for a disability. This plan was put together with a previous supervisor. I have watched this woman work and I believe this plan is not working. I have some ideas for changes that I think will help her perform better. How do I approach her about this? I believe she can be a much better employee and possibly even be promoted with a different approach to accommodating her disability. This would involve a change in the technology she uses. Is it OK for me to talk with her about this?
E.M.
DEAR E.M.: Yes, it is OK, provided you are focused on job performance for this employee.
Employers are not required to accept sub-par performance from individuals with disabilities. Job accommodations are intended as tools to assist a person with a disability who is qualified to do the job to perform at the expected level. When it becomes clear that an employee ó and the employer ó will benefit from accommodations, there should be an open discussion between the employee and the employer. Vocational counselors, job coaches and rehabilitation engineers may also be of assistance in this process.
In the end, though, it is the employer who makes the final decision as to which accommodation is made, as long as it provides the appropriate accommodation. For example, if someone needs a screen reader for his computer, the employer can choose which screen reader. However, the employer cannot choose a magnification program if a screen reader is needed.
Technology changes every day. If you are aware of new technology that is better than what is currently in place, by all means, talk with the employee. She will be happy to perform at her best.
Because you specifically referred to a technology solution, I have answered in those terms, but the same principle applies when another type of accommodation is involved.
Please let me know how this works out.
Annette Bourbonniere of Newport is a member of the Newport Accessibility Advisory Committee and is involved in statewide advocacy groups for people with disabilities. Send her email at .
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