The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

How to Help DTA Clients with Disabilities- Harper and Accommodations

Thousands of people with disabilities turn to DTA for help each year.  Often, their disabilities can make it harder to get or keep the benefits they need and qualify for.

  • Do you have clients who have trouble applying for benefits or completing a SNAP recertification because of a disability?
  • Do you have clients who have trouble getting verifications DTA asks for because of a disability?
  • Do you have clients who need specific accommodations from DTA, like an ASL interpreter or home visits?
  • Do you have clients who have been offered an accommodation by DTA that seems not to meet their needs?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, DTA is required to provide access to clients with disabilities to ensure that if they're eligible, their disabilities don't interfere with getting or keeping benefits (SNAP, TAFDC, or EAEDC). Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) settled a major lawsuit in 2013 regarding disability access issues (Harper vs. DTA).  Because of the lawsuit, DTA made many changes to how it works with clients with disabilities.

Your clients may have difficulties based on learning or cognitive impairments, physical limitations (vision, hearing, or physical impairment), or other disabilities. Under the law, your clients have a right to request a reasonable accommodation from DTA if they have a disability that makes it hard to comply with DTA rules or get the documents they need to qualify for or boost their benefits. Accommodations can include things like calling a client to remind them of a deadline or verbally reading DTA notices sent if the recipient has difficulty understanding notices.

GBLS has created materials to help advocates better understand:

  • DTA's obligations to accommodate clients with disabilities
  • Changes made at DTA to improve access for people with disabilities
  • How to protect your client's benefits through accommodations
  • What kinds of accommodations may help your clients & how to get them
  • Who to contact at DTA about these issues
  • How to get help from Greater Boston Legal Services on these issues

A huge thanks to GBLS for their terrific litigation and advocacy on behalf of thousands of clients with disabilities and for preparing materials for advocates. We have posted resources from GBLS, including a toolkit and a powerpoint, on the Harper Mass Legal Services page here.

If you have questions about DTA's obligations under Harper, or individual cases for which you need a consultation, contact Sarah Levy (slevy@gbls.org) or Lizbeth Ginsburg (lginsburg@gbls.org) with questions.


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