The JJs List Blog

Americans With Disabilities Act: Help or Hinder?

Posted by on March 26, 2014 - 4 Comments


The Americans With Disabilities Act that was put into effect 20 years ago has both pros and con for people with disabilities.  In a recent article by Joe Entwisle, Senior Policy Analyst for Healthy & Disability Advocates, titled “ No Special Treatment for Workers with Disabilities, Please” he discusses how the ADA can hinder and help workers with disabilities.

He states in the article, “The ADA clearly states that individuals, disability or not, must be able to fulfill the core functions of the job for which they are applying.  The law is crystal clear: Either you have the requisite skills to perform the essential functions or you do not.  There’s no gray area: no special treatment is required.”  I feel like this is so important to remember.  As a person with a disability I know that there are jobs that I cannot do because of my disabilities, and that is something I had to come to terms with.  I want to be able to work in place where I can do a great job and bring something to the table.  People have asked me, “Whose responsibility is it to know what a person with a disability can and can’t do?”  I believe it is the responsibility of the individual with the disability.  Just like everybody else looking for a job, you look for what you are qualified for.

One of the most important things Mr. Entwisle brings up is how important it is for an individual with a disability to have performance reviews and to be held to the same standards as everyone else.  He states he wants to be treated like everyone else and to know what he can do better at his job.

In the article, Mr. Entwisle highlights where the ADA can backfire.  When he worked on a project with Bill Russel, an individual with a disability, he was shocked that Russel’s skills were rusty.  Russel holds two Master’s degrees, however, he has worked in a job for 20 years and still struggles with basic tasks.  Mr. Entwisle states that is because Russel never had a boss to mentor him.  Mr. Entwisle states, Russel didn’t know he was doing a bad job because no one ever told him.

As a person with a disability, I would like people to be straight with me even if it’s hard for me to hear.  When my boss or manager critizes my work I feel like it is a positive thing, which I think, can never be a bad thing.  It means that they believe I can do better and they have high expectations for me.  Even in school, I appreciated the teachers who were hard on me and who pushed me to reach my potential.

I agree with Mr. Entwisle, “The ADA is not just about hiring – though that’s a big part.  The ADA is about consistently nurturing and developing a worker’s abilities and holding their skills and talents to the standards of everyone else, while providing needed accommodations where feasible for the employer.”  Mr. Entwisle wrote the article because he wants to change Corporate America’s mind, to see workers with disabilities as an assets.

I believe Mr. Entwisle advice to businesses are great, “Don’t be nervous about hiring someone with disability.  Lawsuits are few and far between, and the ADA is on your side.  Hold us to your highest standard and we’ll aim to be your best workers.”, where I work,  has the same philosophy. When merged with Search, Inc. and started the NO BOUNDARIES – Train for Work, Train for Life program we decided to focus on teaching people with disabilities work skill readiness skills.  We believe people with disabilities can be in a competitive work environment, and should be held to the same standards. I believe those standards can be met if it is expected.


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About the Author:

Sarah Armour is the Business Assistant at  She enjoys managing the website, bookkeeping, coordinating the Disability-Awareness Trainings and organizing the Hop on the Bus to Independence Program. She graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, IA, in 2008 with a BA in Sociology. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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connor magnuson says:
Mar 27, 2014

Thank you so much for this article! little bugs me more than those who believe they are entitled to special treatment simply for there disposition. It hurts to admit but there are things some people simply are not equipped to handle. Sometimes you find you are more of a liability than an asset. personally I need people around me to help insure i don’t lose touch with reality. Some people

Ellen Garber Bronfeld says:
Mar 27, 2014

Excellent article with a very important message.
I am a person without an I/DD and I have a master’s degree, but no way could I work as a researcher in astrophysics or as an accountant…I not only lack the training but I lack the skill set, even if I had the education.
My son, who has autism has many great attributes and skills but he has limited verbal language…obviously he could not work answering phones, even with some training.
We all have limitations and we all have things we are good at….that’s life!
Ellen and Noah Bronfeld

SACC says:
Mar 28, 2014

Excellent article ! I must relay I have personal insight from both aspects of this. I am an individual that has had both Cognitive and Emotional impairments from birth, however I continued to work hard and understand my life challenges as well as avoid denial of any aspect of life or what it may throw in to play. I eventually got my college education and graduated with honors and now currently work for the public schools. I will say one issue is the fact that ever since the economic downturn began which was originally caused by the Bush Regime and the historically crooked republican party politics, individuals with disabilities have been over-utilized by companies as a strategic tool. As they hire multiple disabled individuals most of whom ever explore a job listing have been so challenged cognitively that they have nowhere close to the educational credentials. All this not to mention received far more statements of how they will never be able to reach a certain educational goal instead of encouraging statement like how learning is not a race and you can learn anything you put your mind to. This continues as companies have identified they save money by denying healthcare qualifying hours as well as future hires will not qualify for hourly wages that high. Even daycares are like this, most of the employees at the local YMCA Children’s Center here in Evanston IL have absolutely no college credit whatsoever. Another problem is society as a whole has a huge problem acknowledging reality when it is not pleasant. I can relay that I have always been a huge believer of the business behind this website and continue to support it to this day, Still I will be completely honest in how I am aware the Founder is a Dreadful Human Being, Terribly Dishonest and Unprofessional and has always done the work for this sight reasons. I do believe any and every Individual is fully capable of eventually continuing their education, but just as there should be no special treatment given once a job is acquired, to even be considered the individual applying should have the exact same as you.

Barry Taylor says:
May 13, 2014

It’s important to remember that “qualified” under the ADA means able to perform the essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation. So, the law recognizes that some people with disabilities may need some assistance in the workplace in order to be qualified. I don’t see this as “special treatment” but a recognition by Congress that having people with disabilities in the workplace is valuable (for many reasons) and to achieve that goal, employers have a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations.

Barry Taylor
Equip for Equality

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