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Disabilities

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What Are Disabilities?

Disabilities may make it harder to take part in normal daily activities. They may limit what someone can do physically or mentally, or they can affect your senses. Disabled doesn't mean unable, and it isn't a sickness. Most people with disabilities can - and do - work, play, learn, and enjoy full healthy lives.

It is important to remember that having a disability does not mean a person is not healthy or that he or she cannot be healthy. People with disabilities need health care and health programs for the same reasons anyone else does—to stay well, active, and a part of the community. The best thing that all of us can do is have and know how to access the tools and information to make healthy choices and prevent illness.

There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person’s:

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Movement
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Communicating
  • Mental health
  • Social relationships

Some people are born with a disability, some get sick or have an accident that results in a disability, and some people develop disabilities as they age. Almost all of us will have a disability at some point and about one in every five people in the United States has a disability.

Get Educated

What is the prevalence of disability in your home state? Find out below.

Age-adjusted prevalence of disability by state

Take Action

Service/Avodah (Avodah in Hebrew)

  • Volunteer with programs like Best Buddies or KEEN
  • Help run an event or cheer and support athletes for the Special Olympics
  • Tutor at an after school program for children with mental disabilities
  • Accompany people with disabilities to fun plays, concerts, or other community events
  • Always lend, or at least offer, a helping hand to people who may need assistance crossing the street, lifting bags, ascending steps, opening doors, etc.

Search for local programs and resources at www.disability.gov

Philanthropy/Tzedakah (Tzedakah in Hebrew)

  • The American Association of People with Disabilities is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan, cross-disability organization in the United States. They promote equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities. Members include people with disabilities and family, friends, and supporters.
  • The National Organization on Disability is a private, non-profit organization that promotes the full participation of America’s 54 million people with disabilities in all aspects of life with a concentration on increasing employment opportunities for America’s disabled.

Advocacy/Tzedek (Tzedek in Hebrew)

A single piece of legislation can make a huge difference on an issue because of the resources of the federal, state, and local government. Of course, at any given time, the legislation on an issue will change. There are many legislative initiatives aimed at focusing on the ability in disability. Lobby your local representatives and businesses in favor of these policies and equality that can help millions! Remember: good citizens make their voices heard to their elected officials.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions with more than 15 employees and prohibits discrimination in employment against any qualified individual with a disability. A qualified individual with a disability is someone who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

The ADA was amended in 2008 to restore the civil rights of Americans with disabilities and overturn four Supreme Court decisions that had inappropriately narrowed the protections of the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, signed by the President on September 25, 2008, emphasizes that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the ADA and generally shall not require extensive analysis.

REHABILITATION ACT

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in any programs conducted by federal agencies, receiving federal funds, in federal employment and in the employment practices of federal contractors.

Section 501: Requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by federal agencies of the executive branch.

Section 503: Requires affirmative action and prohibits discrimination by federal government contractors and subcontractors of more than $10,000. On December 11, 2011, President Obama proposed a rule to ensure equal employment for people with disabilities for Federal Contractors.

Section 504: Prohibits discrimination based on disability in any programs conducted by federal agencies or receiving federal funds. This includes accessibility requirements and reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Section 508: Requires federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees.

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides the annual authorization for the Department of Defense. The NDAA includes provisions for disability retirement pay for individuals who are disabled from being wounded in action.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) monitors reauthorizations of the Act and promotes benefits for disabled veterans.

Jewish Perspectives

  • Chesed, Rachamim –– compassion, especially for those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable (Zechariah 7:9; Hosea 2:21; Sabbath 151b; Bezah 32b; Sotah 14a).
  • Halbanat Panim –– avoidance of humiliating someone in public – The loss of personal dignity at the hands of others is considered one of the gravest wrongs in Judaism, akin to murder (T.B. Moed Katan 9b; T.B. Baba Mezia 58bff.; Tractate Kallah, Minor Tractates of the Talmud).
  • K’vod Ha-B’riot –– honor for all human beings – A set of values and laws designed to encourage dignity and respect for all human beings (M. Avot 2:10; 4:1; 4:3).