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ADA Celebration Includes Guidance on Laws Protections

August 1, 2014
Source: The Gainesville Sun, FL

When Marion Debusk applied for a job as a receptionist, the employer was hesitant. Debusk is blind, and the employer worried about how she would handle certain situations. For instance, Debusk was asked how she would know to press an alarm button if a gunman came in. She didnt know how to answer the question, and she didnt get the job.

One reason Debusk came Thursday to the Americans with Disabilities Act Celebration 2014 was to learn more about the legislation that offers protection to disabled persons in employment, access to businesses and several other benefits.

The event at the Sidney Lanier Center marked the 24th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Gainesville and Alachua County Equal Opportunity Offices, the Center for Independent Living and Alachua County Public Schools sponsored the celebration.

It was organized to get information about the ADA to the public as well as showcase vendors who offer services and products to the disabled, said Linda Butler, program director with the Center for Independent Living.

Jack Hamburg, director of housing development and Americans with Disabilities Act services with Boley Centers, started the gathering with a presentation on what the ADA does and does not cover.

“For almost a quarter of a century, we [have] had a civil rights law that provides protection for people with disabilities,” he said.

The act prevents discrimination in employment practices against disabled persons. It obligates businesses to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled. It makes sure government entities are adequately equipped to handle the needs of disabled citizens.

Hamburg went into detail about when the ADA applied and when other legislation for disabled people applied. For instance, churches are exempt from the act, as well as businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

He also dispelled common myths associated with the act. For example, he pointed out that there is no grandfather clause exempting a business from making reasonable accommodations.

Hamburg took questions from the audience who wanted to know more about their rights under the legislation.

Debusk shared her experience applying for the receptionist job, asking whether the employer violated the ADA. Employers are allowed to ask questions about how disabled employees would handle specific situations, so it was likely not a violation, Hamburg said.

After Hamburgs presentation, there was a roundtable discussion about employment for the disabled and the barriers they face.

The Center for Independent Livings Butler spoke about why employing the disabled is good for business. “Its good to have that diversity in your business,” she said.

Disabled employees are also hard workers, she added.

“Our employers will tell us time and time again that people that they have hired that have disabilities worker harder,” she said.

Christie King, with the Alachua County Citizens Disability Advisory Committee, talked about how disabled employees tend to stay with their companies longer. “They know how hard it is to find a job,” she said. “Once they find one, they stick with it.”

After the roundtable, various organizations set up exhibits in the gymnasium of the Sidney Lanier Center to present the products and services they offer for the handicapped, as well as to spread information.

The Alachua County Council of the Blind shared information about Floridas White Cane Law, which requires vehicles to come to a full stop when a person with a white cane is crossing the street.

The Alachua County Tax Collector had information on changes to the process of renewing handicapped parking tags.

The Disability Access Awareness Foundation showcased their smartphone app that maps out Gainesville based on how accessible various locations are to the mobility impaired.

“It caters to handicapped individuals needs and provides them information so that they dont have to experience the obstacles in everyday life,” said Jason Monsorno, director of technology for foundation.

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