6. Expectations for Working with People with Disabilities
A simple accident can make any of us a person with a disability even temporarily. With approximately 20% of Maine residents reporting as “disabled” on the 2010 census, our civil rights expectations should include this population when planning our programs. The census figures are derived counting the number of people who receive SSI benefits.
According to the US Department of Social Security Administration, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits also are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities that meet the financial limits:
A person age 18 or older is considered “disabled” if they have a physical or mental condition (or combination of conditions) that keeps the person from working and the condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
A person under age 18 is considered “disabled” if the child has a physical or mental condition (or combination of conditions) that results in “marked and severe functional limitations” and the condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
A person is considered “blind” if he or she has vision no better than 20/200 or a limited visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better eye with the use of eyeglasses. A person whose sight is not poor enough to be considered blind may still qualify as disabled.
In fact, the 20% proportion of disabled Maine residents is most likely much higher because many disabled people are able work and many are temporarily disabled.
In Extension, it is our responsibility to make a reasonable effort to accommodate everyone, despite whether they meet the definitions above. Some issues are:
- Sometimes a disability is not visible.
- Some disabled people are able to express their needs, but some find it may be a challenge to verbalize their problem or they do not want to draw attention to their need.
- Only share information about a disability when there is a need to know.
- We need to document what we do to make accommodations. Even simple ones are effective, like putting a chair under someone’s leg that is in a cast.
- Simple or more complex accommodations (like hiring an interpreter) are documentable for our own records.
All program staff members are expected to know the size of the disabled population from their county census to help them analyze how to make their program inclusive and be prepared to make an accommodation as people come forward. Staff should take next steps to provide meaningful access in consultation with the Assistant Director.