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79. What if a disability makes it hard for me to meet DTA rules or use DTA services?

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires DTA to provide equal access to programs and services to qualified people with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12132; see 106 C.M.R. § 701.390; 106 C.M.R. § 360.250 (SNAP).
See also DTA Online Guide: Cross Programs > Harper/ADA > ADA Overview.

Under the ADA you are a person with a qualifying disability if you have a disability that substantially impairs a major life activity, such as learning, understanding, walking, working, breathing, or caring for yourself. Disabilities include physical or mental health impairments, and intellectual disabilities. A temporary health problem like a broken leg may not a disability under the ADA. You can be disabled under the ADA even if you are not receiving any benefits on the basis of disability. See DTA Online Guide: Cross Programs > Harper/ADA > ADA Definition.

If a disability makes it hard for you to do the things DTA asks you to do to get and keep your benefits, you can ask DTA for a reasonable accommodation. An accommodation may be appropriate if your disability makes it hard for you to:

  • understand DTA’s notices and forms,
  • meet deadlines,
  • give DTA the proofs it asks for,
  • communicate with DTA, or
  • meet a specific rule or requirement.

Accommodations can be something you need only once, or something you need on an ongoing basis. Accommodations can include:

  • giving you extra help to meet a rule,
  • giving you extra time to meet a deadline,
  • changing a requirement or rule,
  • naming someone to talk to DTA for your or get copies of mail DTA send you,
  • providing an auxiliary aid (such as an ASL interpreter)

Example 1:  You have severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You need help getting verifications and you cannot go to the DTA office in person because taking public transportation and being in crowded waiting areas triggers your PTSD symptoms. You can ask DTA to help you get verifications and to waive any requirements for in-person appointments.

Example 2: Because of your learning disability, you need help understanding DTA notices and help completing the paperwork that DTA asks you to complete. DTA should accommodate you by explaining notices to you and by filling out the forms with you instead of requiring you to fill forms out by yourself.

Example 3: You have a hearing, vision, other condition that makes it hard for you to communicate. DTA should ask you what kind of help you prefer to communicate with DTA. This help is usually called an auxiliary aid. DTA should try to provide your preferred auxiliary aid. If that is not possible, DTA should work with you to find an acceptable alternative. See DTA Online Guide: Cross Programs > Harper/ADA > Working with Clients Who Need Auxiliary Aids.

Example 4: Because of your disability, you need help explaining to your health care provider that you need a form filled out to prove to DTA that you are disabled. You have a hard time communicating with third parties because of your disability. You need DTA to contact your health care provider to complete the medical report form to complete your EAEDC application.  

Advocacy Reminders:

  • An accommodation can be requested at any time, including after DTA has issued a notice stopping or lowering your benefits.
  • Each DTA office now has Client Assistance Coordinators (CACs) to help with the accommodation process. See DTA Online Guide: Cross Programs > Harper/ADA > Client Assistance Coordinator Responsibilities.
  • DTA workers can make home visits to take your application or interview you if needed to accommodate your disability. See DTA Transitions FYI, Nov. 2011.
  • DTA cannot require you to accept a specific accommodation (such as requiring a helper or authorized representative to act for the client). Instead, DTA should work with you to find an accommodation that you agree to.
  • DTA is not required to provide an accommodation which is a fundamental alteration of its programs. If that issue comes up, consult an advocate.

DTA Policy Guidance:

DTA Field Operations Memo 2010-30 (July 1, 2010); DTA Operations Memos 2013-25 (May 24, 2013) and 2013-64 (Dec. 19, 2013); DTA Online Guide: Cross Programs > Harper/ADA > ADA Overview. 

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