Random Thoughts by Uncle Dale: When the Intern Pads His Resume by Claiming to Know ASL

I’m just saying…

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Where Do Section 504s Come From?

So the other day three people, a student who is Deaf, a hearing student who knows some ASL and an interpreter came to my office to ask some questions.  In the middle of a great discussion on many topics related to education they, as a group asked:

“What is the difference between the ADA and Section 504?”

That is a good question. The answer is A LOT! For example one is three letters and one is three numbers.  So, can you be more specific?

After a little negotiation to help them frame the actual question (many people would be shocked, I think to realize how often helping students figure out the question is much more important than helping them find the answer) they decided that they wanted to know why a person would choose to use 504 and not the ADA, or the ADA and not 504 or, you know, both at any given time. 

Now that is a question I can answer! It gives me some direction and I can do it… but not in one go.  We are going to be on this topic for a while. 

Ok, you remember how as a kid you had to eat your vegetables first. You wanted dessert but you had to get through the stuff that is good for you first?  

There are answers you want! Now.  You want them right now! You are itching for them, and I could give them to you. But without context the answers I give will be interesting but not helpful. All sugar and no vitamins. 

I am going for helpful. Sorry.  It’s what I do. 

If you want to know the how and when of 504 being useful, you have to start with why.  Why is 504 in the first place.

You have to start with Authority.  So. Here we go.

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution says that Congress can only pass laws on issues or matters that the Constitution specifically gives them the Authority over.  If the Constitution is silent then… no. No Congress can’t.  

If Congress “can’t,” then the authority over THAT (whatever THAT is) is reserved solely to the States (that’s States, Utah, Mississippi, Iowa, Massachusetts…)

So pop quiz hot shot! Where in the Constitution does it give Congress the authority over people who are Deaf? Or over Disabilities?  Go ahead and look for it.  I’ll wait.

Hint? It doesn’t. 

So… how?

Authority is a strange animal.  It lives in various climates and walks on many planes.  That sounded more mystical and shaman like in my head.  Whatever.  

Taxes

Taxes are where Congress gets its authority to pass a law like 504.  Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to collect taxes and to expend money.  If you can do that then you can choose upon which items you will spend the money.  It’s called “Carrot and Stick” policies.  

Here is an example.  Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s America was in the middle of a gas crisis. The Feds (read Congress) wanted everyone to drive 55 mph. But the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to force States to do that–or anything really. 

So, it came down to money.  

If a State set their speed limit at 55 mph they got federal highway funds (carrot) and if the State did not, they got no funds (stick). 

This is the same reason why all States now have laws saying you have to be 21 to buy alcohol,  and 18 to vote. If States adopted those laws they got funds for drunk driving prevention programs and police equipment and new voting machines. Get it?

So that is the authority Congress used to pass 504. But with 504 the authority attaches to everything. If you accept federal money for almost any thing you can’t discriminate against people with disabilities, according to 504.    

Next problem, the whole of Section 504 is about a paragraph long. Seriously that’s it.  So it has no room for explanations of what discriminate means, or who a person with a disability is or even what it means to accept federal funds

So, all the different Executive Agencies made their own Regulations, basically wrote their own definitions of all those things.  

If you want to know what discriminate means for a hospital you must look to the Regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services and not the ones written by the Department of Education… unless it is discussing a student who is hospitalized long term.  How does the term Disability apply in an employment setting? The EEOC has the regulations for that, but not if you are an independent contractor, for that the Department of Justice wrote the Regulations. And so on.  The Regulations often are similar but rarely the same. 

Yes, it’s labor intensive, confusing and… mistakes are made. Grin. 

Next problem, what does mean except federal funds. Also sometimes a little confusing. 

With State agencies and other executive branch government entities you can usually be pretty sure they accept federal funds under 504, particularly after 9/11, because the Department of Homeland Security made it rain!  

Many private businesses also accept federal funds in fact more than you would think. For example hospitals clinics and doctors that accept Medicare and Medicaid are accepting federal funds. Private colleges and universities who accept federally subsidized student loan’s are excepting federal funds (even the local college of massage therapy or the college of hair design if they get federally subsidized student loans). 

There are some weird limitations to whether 504 applies in some stipulations but not as many as the ADA. For the most part “youse takes the money youse follows da rules.”  The weird stuff I will discuss it all later vlog. 

Ok here we are, authority.  This you will find out is the magic key you need to make 504 work.  If you know that the entity accepts federal funds BANG your in… if you know which Regulations apply.  

The ADA is not so straight forward.  We will talk about that later too.

Finally, an interesting problem that has been solved (just to give you hope).  when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed it did not have a great deal of clarity on how it was to be applied (you may argue that is still true). So universities, for example, argued that classrooms didn’t accept federal funds and so they didn’t have to be accessible, only the office of student loans accepted federal funds so only that office had to be accessible. Courts agreed.  No joke.

Congress fixed that problem in the late 1980s by passing a statute called the Civil Rights Restoration Act that said if you except federal money in one area of your entity it covers everything that benefits from the money. So in a practical sense, everything.

There you are, quick and dirty on the authority Congress used to pass Section 504.  Next we’re going to talk about the ADA. The authority for the ADA will take at least three vlogs. Yeah, it’s that complicated.  But we’re done you will understand enough that you can take advantage these laws, know how each is applied and you should have an idea  at least as to when it’s best to use one over another… or both!

Remember! Uncle Dale’s Rules may be informative but it is not a substitute for legal advice. If you want information on any of the topic contained herein please talk to a lawyer in your area.

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Living Wills

Hey everyone!  So last week a former student/current rocking interpreter asked me over Facebook how to interpret the term “Living Will.” This of course set off a firestorm of opinions on leaving it to the lawyer/doctor/other person to explain what is means or the Deaf client to ask what it means.

Totally not getting into that discussion.

But, I will say it never hurts to know what it means yourself, because you are going to have to interpret it (no matter who digs for the deeper meaning), and if you are relying on an attorney to say anything that anyone but another attorney would understand you have not met many of us!  We suck at explaining… bad… way bad!

Anyway, the real problem with the term “Living Will” is that if four people say it there will be seven different meanings intended–“Living Will” is the Aloha of testamentary terminology, people use it to mean everything.

So lets go through what we are talking about: What happens to my stuff after I die and myself while I die.

Trusts.

There are two kinds, Intervivos and Testamentary. Intervivos holds your stuff while you are alive and is usually revocable (you can change it or get rid of it while you are alive) but becomes irrevocable when you die… cuz you’re dead.  Testamentary Trust are set up by another instrument, like a Will, and only are declared after you die.

Both of them hold your stuff as if they were legally a person.  Trusts are usually set up with specific rules like “this is to be used for my kids education” and so living or dead that is what the trust can be used for.  Most are time limited so if anything happens to you the Trust will do its thing until the kids are 22 or 23-years-old (I never advise a client to make the Trust distribute is corpus to a 21-year-old because I knew me when I was 21-years-old).  Lots of people want Intervivos Trusts, fewer people need them.  The tax advantages only kick in north of 5 million dollars.  They are good for multiple marriages and kids from each marriage.  Testamentary Trust established by a Will are good for people with young kids.

A Will.

Like a “Last Will and Testament” Will.  This is good for making sure all your stuff gets to the people who you want it to go to when you die.  These days most stuff passes through an “extra-testamentary” document–as a beneficiary of an insurance policy or joint accounts or joint tenancy in the ownership of a house. A Will catches everything else so there is no dispute as to who gets the stuff.

A Living Will.

When people say Living Will they could mean any number of Advanced Directives (directions you give before something happens).  An ACTUAL Living Will gives instructions of what you want done or not done medically if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to give competent instructions as to your wishes.

A Medical Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy (sometimes called a Living Will) designates a person to relay your wishes is for some reason you cannot do it yourself.  Not their wishes for you but having told them what you want they accept the responsibility to relay your wishes.

Then there is a DNR-Do Not Resuscitate.  Just like it sounds, if certain conditions are present just let me go.

There you go! and remember Uncle Dale’s Rule may be informative but it is not a substitute for legal advice.  If you want information please talk to a lawyer in your area.