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Disabilities FAQs « FAQs

We are teachers and advocates, and as a part of that process we frequently answer questions from our clients — so we started collecting our Frequently Asked Questions. We are collecting and sharing them with you by topic and hope these are helpful to you.

Please feel free to email Patti at if you have a follow up question or comment. We'd also like you to let us know what you think of this new feature of our website.


We have redacted names to protect the innocent! Sometimes they are posed in a give and take format because they were developed through an email exchange.

(Note: questions are not edited for spelling, grammar or content.)

Americans with Disabilities Act:

  • Frequently Asked Questions About Filing an ADA Complaint With the US Dept. of Justice (Dept. of Justice)
    How you can file a complaint and other procedural information.
  • Q&A from the EEOC about discrimination against an employee for "associating" with a person with a disability:

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Title I of the ADA makes it unlawful for any employer with 15 or more employees (including a state or local government employer) to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee because of a disability in any aspect of employment. In addition to protecting qualified applicants and employees with disabilities from employment discrimination, one ADA provision – the "association" provision — protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on their relationship or association with an individual with a disability, whether or not the applicant or employee has a disability. Click here for entire discussion.

  • Question: Are city governments required to provide sign language interpreters at public meetings?

    Answer: City governments often fail to provide qualified interpreters or assistive listening devices for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing at public events or meetings. In addition, city governments often fail to provide materials in alternate formats (Braille, large print, or audio cassettes) to individuals who are blind or have low vision. Title II requires that city governments ensure that communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. Thus, city governments must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities (e.g., qualified interpreters, notetakers, computer-aided transcription services, assistive listening systems, written materials, audio recordings, computer disks, large print, and Brailled materials) to ensure that individuals with disabilities will be able to participate in the range of city services and programs. City governments must give primary consideration to the type of auxiliary aid or service that an individual with a disability requests. The final decision is the government's.
    From The ADA and City Governments: Common Problems (U.S. Dept. of Justice)

Developmental Disabilities:

  • Question: A developmentally disabled individual age 65+/- signed medical and durable powers of attorney approximately 12 years ago naming her sisters as agents. (Her doctor at the time said that she had the capacity to do so.) The individual is receiving SSI and Medicaid and currently is living in some sort of an assisted living facility in western Oakland County. One of the sisters has died and the other is in failing health. The only available relative is a niece who lives out of town and who is reluctant to assume responsibility for her aunt either as attorney-in-fact (assuming that the individual is still competent – apparently there has been no material change in her condition) or as guardian/conservator (assuming incapacity). Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations for a reputable organization or agency that could assume responsibility for supervising the care of the individual either directly or under an agreement with the niece if she is willing to act either as attorney-in-fact or as guardian/conservator?

    Answer: First of all, if they are a person with a developmental disability and they need a guardian, it would be handled via the mental health code, so it would be via a Partial Guardianship of the person, and if needed, Guardian of the Estate. Is there an estate? If there is a rep. payee and no other money to worry about then no guardian of estate will be needed. Is there a third party special needs trust? If so, sometimes family members name others to consider as agents for the person with a disability in this document. I strongly suggest that you secure a copy of the plan of services for this person, and determine if they are getting services from Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority. If they are, there should be enough information in the file to determine (with a personal meeting) if a guardian is even necessary or just an update in appointment of an Agent under the Power of Attorney, or consider Patient Advocate (both with and without mental health powers as well).

    The Arc of Oakland County and the Arc of Macomb County both have wonderful advocate attorneys on staff that may be able to assist you with this. Tom Kendziorski is at the Arc of Oakland County and Lisa Lepine is at the Arc of Macomb County. Tell them I referred you! Check out their websites and that of Arc Michigan, all great resources for those of you that work with folks with developmental disabilities and their families.

    Patricia E. Kefalas Dudek

Fair Housing Act:

  • Question: What types of disabilities are protected by the Fair Housing Act?

    Answer: (from Apartment Anyone with a disability, or who is an advocate of someone with a disability status, may be looking at Fair Housing Act accommodations for those who government considers disabled. Knowing more about these housing laws can help advocates for disabled tenants to find their rights under the law in order to prevent housing hardships that they may encounter because of their disabilities.

    What Is the Fair Housing Act?

    The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is an agency of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This agency is tasked with helping Americans to understand legislation including the Fair Housing Act that is meant to protect the rights of tenants. The Fair Housing Act is a part of the civil rights act of 1968 that was set up to prevent housing discrimination, including disability discrimination. It represents part of a greater body of progressive legislation aimed at making sure that America’s most vulnerable are provided shelter.

    What Is a Disability under the Fair Housing Act?

    Information resources from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development show that the Fair Housing Act creates a fairly wide definition for disabilities, beginning with visual, auditory or mobile impairment, and extending to conditions such as chronic alcoholism or mental illness as well as AIDS and related conditions. According to this definition of disabilities, a disability will generally impair one or more of several major life activities. These include items as diverse as breathing, standing or walking and caring for oneself daily.

    Intentions of the Fair Housing Act

    From the parameters of this anti-discrimination act, it’s clear that one goal of the legislation was to empower those with fundamental impairments. It’s also clear that another goal of this legislation was to prevent hardship in finding housing due to some stigmatized conditions. The language of the law includes statements that landlords should not be able to discriminate against someone with a disability because they are uncomfortable with that disability.

    Other Provisions for People with Disabilities

    Additional provisions in housing law include access for those who are disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act governs access to public buildings, but for residential buildings, the wheelchair-bound and other individuals with impaired mobility count on progressive housing law to provide them with access to a home or rental unit.

    The Fair Housing Act also includes a provision for the disabled to make their own reasonable alterations to a home in order to get appropriate access. This commonly involves adding ramps and support bars, or changing a bathroom area to remove obstacles to access. Another provision of the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to deny a disabled individual access to federal assistance for housing on the basis of their condition.

    The above basic information characterizes part of what is in the Fair Housing Act for those who need to plan for housing in a situation including a disabled family member or other individual. This kind of law shows the federal government’s outlook on this kind of issue.