Section 508, an amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a central piece of civil rights legislation that affects people with disabilities. Signed into law by President Carter, it prohibits discrimination in programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance, in federal employment and employment practices of federal contractors. The act provides much of the basis for the Americans with Disabilities Act; in fact, the standards for determining employment discrimination are the same as Title I of the ADA.
Section 501: prohibits discrimination in employment by the executive branch.
Section 503: prohibits employment discrimination by federal government contractors or subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.
Section 504: "No qualified individual with a disability shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination" by any program or agency that either receives financial assistance or is conducted by any executive agency or the Post Office."
Any agency that receives federal money or is on federal land or rents from the government must provide access to people with disabilities. This can include school systems, Head Start programs, colleges and daycare centers as long as they receive federal funds.
Section 508: Amended in 1998, Section 508 of this law requires all federal information technology, including Web sites, to be universally accessible, unless it would cause undue hardship, by Aug. 7, 2000 (later changed to June 21, 2001). The law also covers any agency or program that receives federal funds. There is a complaint process as well.
The U.S. Access Board sets its guidelines for Internet accessibility, known as Access Standards for Electronic and Information Technology.
Many people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis make the decision to leave the workforce far too quickly. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society believes individuals with MS need up to five years to learn how the disease will actually affect them. It takes time to accept this devastating life change, and even more time to find the appropriate resources and guidance to realistically and carefully plan for the future.
Today, new drugs, new technologies, better symptom management, and new, more progressive public attitudes are helping to enable the employment of those with chronic illness well into the future. In fact, 30% of those diagnosed with MS for 20 or more years are employed full time.
What You Should Do:
Disclosing that you have MS to your employer is a personal choice. You are not required by law to inform a current or potential employer about your illness. If you require accommodations you will need to discuss your limitations, not necessarily your diagnosis. However, since requests for accommodations must come directly from you, you might find disclosure to be inevitable. To buy time, investigate sick leave policies, short-term disability insurance, and even the Family Medical Leave Act, which is leave without pay.
What You Should Know:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to make changes in the workplace or in a job's conditions to help make it possible for a disabled person to perform "essential job functions." The changes must be reasonable. Employers cannot refuse to make "reasonable accommodations" unless they impose an "undue hardship" on the employer.
You, the employee, must start the procedure for arranging the accommodations. After the request has been made, the ADA states that the employer and the employee or job applicant must share the responsibility in actually planning the accommodations. The ADA has established Technical Assistance Centers to provide information about job accommodations for people with disabilities.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has resources available to help you manage employment concerns including educational programs, publications, videos, and local referrals.
• U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
• Job Accommodation Network
• Americans with Disabilities Act
• National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
• National Board for Certified Counselors
• American Occupational Therapy Association
• Computer Electronic Accomodations Program