Legal Briefs from Matt Cohen
The following are past questions and answers from Matt Cohen on this topic.
Are there legal resources for individuals with disabilities who run into trouble with the law?
My 18 year old son has recently run into trouble with the law. I am having a hard time getting his attorney to understand that his ADHD and learning disabilities make him vulnerable to "talking without thinking." His issues with concentrating, focusing, and his impulsiveness also make things more difficult. I would like to find someone to work with my son who understands his disability and its impact on the situations he has gotten himself into. Are there legal resources for individuals with disabilities who run into trouble with the law?
Unfortunately, many criminal lawyers are not very familiar with disabilities and their impact on behavior. It would be especially hard to find an attorney with expertise in ADHD and LD. It is also important to know that, while state laws vary, unless a defendant lacks the mental capacity to understand right from wrong or to control their behavior due to insanity or severe cognitive disabilities, disabilities such as ADHD may not be a legal defense for the action but may be relevant as a mitigating factor in determination of the sentence.
To find a knowledgeable criminal lawyer, you may be able to get assistance from the local Bar Association or get referrals from the local public defender's office. If you are already involved with clinicians working with your son that are knowledgeable about ADHD, you might try to arrange for the clinicians to consult with the attorney. The clinicians may also be familiar with attorneys that they have worked with before that are already familiar with ADHD.
If you disclose a learning disability on a job application, does the employer have to provide accommodations?
If you put down on a job application that you have a learning disability or ADHD, is the employer supposed to offer help? I always put this on my applications but have never gotten any kind of help at work. What can I do about this?
Employers are not permitted to ask about disabilities on job applications and you are not required to state that you have a disability.
If you meet the bona fide qualifications for the job and are given a preliminary offer, they may ask further questions that are job-related that may relate to a medical condition. More importantly, if you have a documented disability and require accommodations, you may present evidence of your disability to the employer, as well as documentation of the need for reasonable accommodations.
However, this is typically done after you are hired. The employer is not obligated to provide you with an accommodation simply because you identify that you have a disability. Check the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Web site for information about your rights under the ADA in relation to both the application process and seeking accommodations after you are hired.
How can I help my adult daughter get an accommodation or exemption on her math requirements so she can and become a teacher?
My 23-year-old daughter has a well-documented, severe, and longstanding math disability. She has been told that to earn a degree in early childhood special education and to teach with a certificate in New Jersey she must pass two semesters of college-level algebra.
She is in the process of failing remedial algebra again. Can you suggest any agency or way to try to get an accommodation so that she can graduate college, take the Praxis (required exam for teachers), and teach? She has very strong verbal skills and is capable of all of the academic and practical work required for early childhood education.
It has been my experience that even typically developing preschoolers do not have to learn to do quadratic equations. I am not sure why the teacher must demonstrate that competency to teach preschool math. We appreciate any suggestions you can offer. Thank you.
I suggest that you contact the state agency responsible for teacher certification. They should have a procedure for granting waivers or accommodations for various requirements for certification. They may feel that these courses are fundamental to the preparation for the job, but as you point out, this seems questionable.
They should also have an appeal procedure to address what to do if they refuse to make an exception. In order to assure that you follow the right procedure, you and your daughter should consult with a knowdledgeable ADA/disability rights lawyer in your area for advice. You may get information on possible lawyers from COPAA, from the American Bar Association's Disability Lawyer Search engine, or by contacting the New Jersey Protection and Advocacy agency to get the New Jersey agency.
You may need expert support to make the point that the math skills being tested are not fundamental to the job for which the license is being sought. You may also be able to identify and propose other ways for satisfying the math requirement.
How can I help an employee who exhibits signs of dyslexia but does not have a diagnosis?
One of our employees appears to have dyslexia, which manifests itself in the inability of this employee to correctly alphabetize and therefore file cases where they belong.
She is not approachable about this topic and has not been diagnosed with LD; however, I would like to be able to assist her in filing alphabetically. Any suggestions or tools to achieve this goal would be appreciated.
You should consult court administration regarding any formal action in relation to a perceived disability.
However, there are various strategies that could be suggested to assist the employee with the filing, including providing some form of alphabet grid for her to have available as a reference.
There may also be hand-held computer devices that have the capability to help to organize things in alphabetical order. Although it might involve extra work, you could implement a symbol or number system to correspond to the case names to allow for sorting that isn't dependent on spelling.
She may benefit from formal evaluation for a learning disability. If you are her supervisor, you would need to handle this in an appropriate manner, with help from the human resources staff.
How can an adult with LD get accommodations on the ACT?
I have a daughter with LD. She is 31 years old and is trying to get an associates degree. What is keeping her back from continuing her education is not being able to pass the ACT reading and writing tests. The tests are given online and do not allow you to go back to correct or complete a page.
Is there a way that she can get the paper form of the test? Or is there a different kind of grading for adults with LD? She has 40 credits, so she is able to pass some of the courses but she is at a standstill now because of this test.
I have tried to get in touch with the National Center for Learning Disabilities here in New York to no avail. I would appreciate any help that you can give me concerning this matter.
Thanking you in advance,
If a person has a documented disability that requires accommodation in how testing is administered, he/she should request accommodation to the test agency. The individual will be expected to provide clinical documentation of the existence of the disability, the impact of the disability, the need for the accommodation, and the relationship of the disability to the requested accommodation.
Alternative test formats are often used to accommodate people with various types of disabilities. However, the request for accommodation must be reasonable. If the testing is all done online, some investigation would be needed as to how alternative testing could be done under appropriate, controlled conditions that would still accommodate her needs.
Further, there would need to be clinical documentation of why the particular accommodation in relation to the test format was necessary as a result of her disability.
What rights does a teacher with a disability have?
I am a teacher with ADHD. What, if any, rights do I have? Where should I look for information on handling this successfully in the workplace? There are modifications for students but as far as I know nothing for teachers.
You are seeking information on your right to accommodations as a teacher with ADHD. Assuming you work for a public school, your rights are determined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, state disability laws, and your union contract.
As a general matter, people with ADHD that are otherwise qualified for their job are entitled to receive reasonable accommodations in employment when needed to address the impact of their ADHD on their ability to successfully perform their work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has regulations and explanatory material on the rights of people with disabilities in relation to employment.
I've been denied accommodations for the LSAT. What can I do?
Hi, I recently took the LSAT and they wouldn't give me accommodations. I have been diagnosed with a learning disability since I was in third grade. They told me that I needed more up-to-date testing. I have talked to about 10 psychologists and they all have told me that it is very hard to get accommodations for the LSAT. I just think this is terrible.
Because I read a lot slower than others I only got to about half of the questions. Yet I answered most of the questions I did get to correctly. I am someone who needs extra time to read and process information.
It looks like I will not be able to go to law school because the people at the LSAT will not help me out. I was wondering what you think I should do.
Although many test agencies are being more demanding in relation to documentation, they are allowed to ask for current clinical information in many circumstances, even when there is a long history of disability and accommodation. On the other hand, with current clinical evaluation and the history of problems and accommodations, there should be a basis for arguing for accommodations.
My experience is that many of the test agencies deny many initial requests for evaluation but do agree to some or all of the accommodations if the applicant appeals and provides additional supporting data documenting the existence, severity, and impact of the disability and the need for the specific accommodation.
In addition, because of recent amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the definition of disability has been broadened and will likely make it easier for students with LD, ADHD, and other neurologically-based disabilities to obtain accommodations on these sorts of tests.