FAQs

Disclaimer: The National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND) does not offer legal advice but NOND does offer resources and information to help you understand your rights, protections, and responsibilities within various Disability Rights Laws. 

 

It is your responsibility to utilize and follow-up on the resources and FAQ information provided on this website.  The resources and FAQ information does not provide information on everything that you may want to know.  Please conduct your own research by clicking on links to other websites, and make telephone calls as appropriate. The knowledge you gain will assist you in becoming your own best self-advocate.

 

Some information included in the FAQ Category is based on the experiences shared by past and current members of the NOND Board of Directors who represent a cross-disability perspective, and where some have experienced barriers in obtaining their education, and at the workplace. 

Yet, they have succeeded! 

 

NOND has communicated with and has learned from students with disabilities who want to enroll in nursing, from students with disabilities who are matriculating through a nursing school, and from other healthcare professionals and nurses who become disabled after receiving their license to practice.  Some lessons learned by NOND are that no situation is exactly the same, and each person is different.

 

Technical Standards Versus Essential Functions:  Developing Disability-Friendly Policies for Nursing Programs

About the author:  Martha Smith is a Charter Member of NOND and at the time NOND was founded in 2003, Martha was a Disability Services Professional.  NOND has learned that even in 2018, there remains confusion about the differences between Technical Standards and the Essential Functions of the Job.

What do technical standards mean for nursing? Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools can in fact have technical standards. Technical Standards are all the non-academic requirements students must have/meet to enter a program. For most health sciences programs, there are usually a list of skills or experiences students must have prior to entry. Technical Standards cannot be written to exclude a class of people, including students with disabilities, and must have the “tag-line” “able to meet these requirements with or without a reasonable accommodation.” Most schools have difficulty writing good technical standards. They often use physical attributes as a skill, e.g., “must be able to talk to patients directly” versus “must be able to communicate effectively.” Also, technical standards should be written as the “what” of a skill, not the “how”, e.g., “must be able to gather vitals using variety of means” versus “must be able to hear a heart murmur through a stethoscope” (actually specifying how the task will be accomplished). Many technical standards are written based on skills that students will actually learn how to do in the program (e.g., “must be able to hear/detect a heart murmur through a stethoscope”). Because students will learn this skill in school, it is not a requirement for entering the program.

From NOND:  The Essentials Functions are not directed to a nursing program but are directed to employment.  The Essential Functions of a Job are included in a job description.  Under the ADA, generally the Essential Functions of the Job must be met with or without accommodations.

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Challenges for Nursing Students with Disabilities that NOND Has Learned Include the Following:

  1. Not knowing how to or if it is necessary to disclose a disability.
  2. Not being educated in secondary education that accommodations can be provided in college.
  3. Limited information about the provision of accommodations.
  4. Some students are uncomfortable asking for accommodations.
  5. Students not aware of disability student (DS) services, about a Student Access Office or if a Disability Services Professional is on staff.
  6. Lack of role models and mentors who share his or her disability status.
  7. Lack of faculty advocates.
  8. Not knowing civil rights and rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (e.g., lack of knowledge as to when and how rights are being violated).
  9. Not realizing that enrollment into a nursing program requires a tremendous amount of energy, emotional stamina, self-determination, and can involve stress and pressure to meet deadlines and performance expectations in the clinical setting.

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Challenges for Nurses Who Acquire a Disability While in Practice Often Relate to the Following:

 

  1. Lack of peer support.
  2. Unfamiliarity with assistive devices or other technologies and software that can be downloaded on to a computer or Smartphone Apps that may be helpful.
  3. Not realizing that learning how to work with assistive technology software programs and using other adaptive devices will take time to learn.
  4. Limited advocacy skills related to requesting accommodations.
  5. Knowledge of what nurses rights and responsibilities are under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  6. Attitudinal barriers may exist within an institution’s culture causing the workplace to not be disability-friendly.

 

Part of the cause of attitudinal barriers may be that some institutions are still rooted in a medical model view of disability, which means that people with disabilities need care, are broken and need to be fixed. These institutions have not embraced a socio-political lens for understanding disability.  If the medical model view of disability moves into the Social-Humanistic view, this enhances the opportunity to identify nurses with disabilities as valued health professionals who bring unique competencies to their practice that would not be present if they are not included.

 

  1. Some nurses are informed by their employers that they can no longer be a nurse due to their disability.
  2. Some nurses have worked for the same institution for many years, have exemplary performance evaluations, and are loyal to their employers. Once disabled, they may be denied accommodations.
  3. Some healthcare institutions that are directed to diversity and inclusion initiatives do provide nurses on staff who become disabled, and newly employed nurses with disabilities accommodations if needed,
  4. Nurses with disabilities are transforming the practice of nursing.

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Helpful Suggestions if You Want to Be a Nurse or Focus Your Career in another Healthcare Field and You Are Disabled:  Where Do You Start?

  • Start researching schools through the Internet that you are interested in attending:
  1. Ask—Does the college or university have a Student Access Office/ Disability Services Professional on site?  This is extremely important if you know you will need reasonable accommodations while in school.
  2. Download the Student Handbook if available, and read about policies that are directed to disability. Learn about the schools’ Appeal Process policies.
  • Decide how far you want to travel from home. Do you want to commute or live in student housing?  The cost of living in a student residence cost is more than if you commute. (There are advantages to both.)
  • Learn about the availability of public transportation and shuttle services at the schools. Is the shuttle service accessible to students that use wheelchairs or have other mobility limitations?
  • Learn if the campus, buildings and classrooms are accessible.
  • If you have significant hearing loss, research what means of communication does the school provide in student housing, on campus, and in classroom buildings.
  • Research what student safety provisions have been made on campus and in student housing.
  • Know your financial resources, and explore other resources that might be available for student loans or grants. Check out eligibility for government grants, for Veterans and children of Veterans, ask if there is a work-study program, and visit the school’s Financial Aid information on the school’s website.
  • Telephone the Financial Aid Office to lean more.
  • Ensure that you are academically qualified before submitting applications.
  • Submit applications to the schools you are most interested.
  • When accepted, and you know you will need accommodations, make an appointment at the Student Access Office in order to speak with a Disability Services staff member.
  • Bring documentation with you to validate your disability.
  • Discuss the accommodations you may need in order to enhance your performance in school, and set up a plan of action so that accommodations are in place by the first day of school.
  • Be proactive and advocate for yourself.

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Are Private Schools Subject to Following the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Yes, Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination in public accommodations. Private schools must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards that deny access to individuals with disabilities and make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny access unless a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program would result. Private schools also must furnish auxiliary aids such as interpreters, notetakers, or readers when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.  It is important to know that some private schools will provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in the classroom but may not provide accommodations in the clinical setting.

If private schools receive funding from the federal government, complaints of alleged discrimination can be submitted to the US Dept. of Education Office of Civil Rights, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html /  If the school receives no funding from the federal government, alleged discrimination complaints are submitted to the US Dept. of Justice, https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm

You may also ask questions by calling the ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (voice) or 1-800-514-0383. ADA Specialists are available to answer questions on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). On Thursday, the Information Line is staffed from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time).

The message for students with disabilities who are seeking information about public or private schools is Do Your Research.  Learn if the school has a Student Access Office/ Disability Services Professional; learn if the school has accepted other students with disabilities into their nursing program; and if possible, meet or speak with a nursing student with a disability that is currently enrolled.  Do your homework before applying to nursing school.  The time you spend in conducting research before you submit an application to the college or university is time well spent.  The better informed you are about the culture of acceptance of nursing students with disabilities, and the school’s policies and admission requirements directed to the nursing program, will enhance your understanding of what commitment you are taking and what joys or despair you might experience.

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Do I Have to be Academically Qualified to Enter a Nursing Program, Even if I am a Person with a Disability?

Yes, you must be academically qualified.  Review the information provided by schools of nursing that you are interested in order to lean what those qualifications include. Nursing requires a solid foundation in the humanities, social sciences, and biological sciences, among others, and you will need to come to your nursing program well-prepared in these areas.  Nursing is considered a STEM career, that is Science—Technology—Engineering—Mathematics.

Interactive Websites for STEM Career information:

Candid Career – Video interviews about different jobs.

The Career Planning Guide – Plan out your future career.

Your STEM Career – resource to help you research and explore career fields in the areas of STEM.

What Do You Like? – Explore different jobs, tells you a job description, how you can prepare for it, how much it pays, and just about everything you could want to know.

MN-STEM – Students can discover firsthand how certain course work can lead directly to an exciting career.
There are also numerous websites that can help you choose your career based on your interests.

Career Decision-Making is a career test that helps you map your career path, explore careers, and make career decisions with lifetime access to your results, and up to date career information and current job openings.

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Can I Be a Nurse if I Have Hearing Loss?

Yes, but you must be academically qualified! The 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act specifies that mitigating measures or devices such as hearing aids cannot be considered in determining whether a person has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (the criterion for protection under the ADA). This means that your hearing aids that help you function well do not disqualify you for protection under the ADA. Your State Vocational Rehabilitation Department (VR) may be able to help financially with hearing aids or other auditory assisted devices but there is no guarantee. Each state varies as to what VR will cover financially.

If you need sign language interpreting in the clinical setting the company Designated Interpreters https://www.designatedinterpreters.com/staff/alicia-booth/ specializes in health sciences. The importance of having interpreters understand medical terminology and vocabulary is essential as it is not generally considered in the education for most interpreters.

There are nurses on the NOND Board of Directors who have hearing loss. Please read the NOND 2017 Annual Report, Sharing Our Stories:  Hear Our Voices where some Directors share their disability and their accomplishments. Go to Who We Are category and click on Annual Report.

For protection, advocacies, and legal assistance, contact the National Disability Rights Network at https://www.ndrn.org. Be sure to click on your state so that you may locate the office so you may receive relevant and timely information and assistance. National Disability Rights Network, NDRN is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). There is a P&A/CAP agency in every state and U.S. territory as well as one serving the Native American population in the four corners region.  Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

National Disability Rights Network

820 1st Street NE, Suite 740
Washington, DC 20002
P: 202-408-9514
F: 202-408-9520
TTY: 202-408-9521

Click on http://www.ndrn.org/en/ndrn-member-agencies.html to learn about NDRN Member Agencies and Also learn about your rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973:

  1. Rehabilitation Services Administration – U.S. Department of Education https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/index.html

 

  1. http://ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/products/employmentguide/lesson-one.html

 

  1. https://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/sec504.htm Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

 

  1. History: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

 

  1. A parent’s guide to Section 504 in public schools

 

  1. enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals.

If you are a student, visit the National Center for College Students with Disabilities.  NCCSD is the only federally-funded national center in the US
for college and graduate students with any type of disability,
chronic health condition, or mental or emotional illness.
http://www.nccsdonline.org

To connect with people with disabilities in your community, contact your local Center for Independent Living, Centers for Independent Living, http://www.virtualcil.net/ a Virtual Directory of Independent Living Centers Map of the United States.  Click on a location that is near where you reside.

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How Can I Find a Good Amplified Stethoscope?

There are many different types of amplified stethoscopes available to students and healthcare professionals. Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the right one.  The best source of information on the various stethoscopes and other devices can be found at Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss AMPHL Stethoscope Information. You will find articles on stethoscopes as well as the various features available. Some stethoscopes work with hearing aids, some with cochlear implants, etc. These websites have additional information:

The Best Amplified Stethoscope for Hard of Hearing Medical Professionals” and Technical Considerations in Using Stethoscopes

AMPHL provides information, promotes advocacy and mentorship, and creates a network for individuals with hearing loss interested in or working in health care fields.

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Can I Be a Nurse If My Vision is Impaired?

Yes, but you must be academically qualified.  You may have been told that you could not be a nurse but NOND has members of the board of directors who have low vision who are successful healthcare professionals.  Please see the NOND 2017 Annual Report, Sharing Our Stories: Hear Our Voices under the heading on this website Who We Are, and click on Annual Report.

You must learn to become your own best self advocate. When you enter college, you will need to begin speaking for yourself. This will be different from when you were in high school.  You are still however eligible for reasonable accommodations if you provide the documentation that validates your disability, and have researched that the school has a Student Access Office with a Disability Services staff member on site.

If you are a student in high school, you have been involved in meetings directed to your Individual Disability Education Act Plan (IDEA) conferences where your teachers, other experts, a parent or a guardian and you have been in discussion about the accommodations you need in order to enhance your academic performance and learning.  When you graduate from high school and are accepted into college, your experience in being part of the IDEA planning meetings will be helpful to you. You may need to negotiate on your own at the college level to communicate with the college or university Student Access/ Disability Services Professional. It is important that you are able to: 1) Disclose your disability to a Disability Services Professional (DSP) at the college, (If you do not disclose your disability, you are likely not eligible for accommodations.)  2) Do not set yourself up to fail.  3) Arrive prepared to provide documentation that validates your visual impairment. 4) Speak up with confidence on what you need in reasonable accommodations which may include extra time to take tests, large print or alternate formatted materials, a reader or note taker, and discuss adaptive devices and assistive technology software that could be downloaded on your laptop or computer as well as Smartphone Apps. Remember that every class you enroll may present different challenges where accommodation requests may change.

  1. Every class may present a new situation and some additional accommodations may be needed.
  2. Advocate for accommodations when you are in the clinical setting.

Some students who are visually impaired may need to request a smaller number of patients in the clinical setting—discuss with your instructor as well.

Communication with the Disability Services Professional (DSP) will need to be ongoing as the DSP will be a partner with you on your journey through school.  The DSP may also act in collaboration with you as an advocate in certain situations.

The 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) specifies that mitigating measures or devices such as special eye wear cannot be considered in determining whether a person has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (the criterion for protection under the ADA). This means that your bioptics (described below) or other special adaptations that help you function well do not disqualify you for protection under the ADA.

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How Can I Master Clinical Skills if I have Low Vision?

Many nursing programs provide accommodations at the clinical setting.  It is the responsibility of your school of nursing to facilitate those accommodations and the student should not be requested to arrange for accommodations independently.  Part of the tension is that schools of nursing must have a signed agreement with each of the clinical sites.  It is required that schools include information that students with disabilities may be assigned to the clinical setting.  NOND is aware of some clinical sites that do not accept students with disabilities. Work with your Disability Services Professional and the school of nursing to potentially be reassigned to a clinical setting that is receptive to students with disabilities.  Sometimes faculty may also act as an advocate as well as the Disability Services Professional.

Please explore our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work. You may already know about national organizations providing assistance for people with impaired vision,

National Federation of the Blind:  http://www.nfb.org,

American Council of the Blind:  https://www.acb.org,

American Foundation for the Blind:  http://www.afb.org.

Utilizing Bioptics or other magnification lenses that help you function well; do not disqualify you for protection under the ADA. Some specific suggestions from members of the NOND Board of Directors about how you might adapt to the clinical setting include:

Helpful Tips:

  1. Make sure you have pockets in whatever you wear as you will need to carry smaller magnification devices with you, particularly in the clinical setting.
  2. It is not wise to randomly order magnification devices from a catalogue if you are not sure these devices will work for you.
  • Consider having a Low Vision Consult with an Optometry specialist.
  • Clip-on magnifier lens to your glasses for hands-free magnification—this may be prescribed by a Low Vision Optometrist.
  • Use hand held magnifiers,
  • Use lenses such as those used by surgeons or a bioptic, which work like binoculars. You can zoom in or out until you can see the object. You must visit a specialist in low vision optometry who can prescribe these special binocular glasses if appropriate for you,
  • Evaluate low vision instruments if available in the learning laboratory with your instructor or Disability Services Professional.  You may need different items for different tasks; make sure if the products have been purchased, the school can return the instruments that do not work for you.
  • Use a headband light. Extra light is extremely important in accomplishing clinical tasks; fluorescent lights are problematic for most people with low vision,
  • Use a talking blood pressure device.  Some of these instruments have a large print read-out that work well for people with hearing loss.
  • For charting on paper.  A hand-held magnification device can be utilized or a Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) can be placed in your unit so you can put the chart under this adaptive device to read the chart and record nursing notes.
  • For computer charting: Screen magnifiers (programs added to the institution’s mainframes where the nurse or student uses a password to access, or a pen drive that can be taken from computer to computer) work wonders for anyone with low vision.
  • For catheterizing: A headband light can help you view the area for catheter insertion. Move closer than other nurses to the patient, while making sure to maintain the sterile field.  Wear a face mask. Extra light, closer proximity and utilizing a clip on magnifier if available are keys to this and other procedures.
  • For IV medication administration: Again, the key is getting close and having adequate light. You can use magnifier glasses to make the very small print larger and a headband light to view the small connections for the tubing.

Other resources include the following:

  • For protection, advocacies, and legal assistance, contact the National Disability Rights Network, https://www.ndrn.org.  Be sure to click on your state so that you get relevant and timely information.
  • For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals.

For connections with other people with disabilities in your community, contact your local Center for Independent Living, https://www.acl.gov/index.php/programs/aging-and-disability-networks/centers-independent-living.

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­­­­­­Screen Magnification and Screen Reader Software

Learn how screen magnification software or separate screen reader software downloaded on a computer can assist individuals that have low vision, are print disabled, or are totally blind. There are a variety of companies that provide software but it may be expensive.  If you are a student enrolled in a healthcare program you may want to discuss the appropriate product with your Disability Services Professional that would meet your needs.

If you are a client with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), you may be able to request the software as you will need the software for future employment. VR or a state Bureau of Blind Services may be willing to purchase the software.

If you are seeking employment and you have a visual impairment, requesting that your employer purchase the software as a reasonable accommodation in order for you to meet the essential functions of a job is also possible.  If you already hold a license for screen magnification/ screen reader products (as generally you may download the software on at least three computers you use), you usually can bring the product to work and download on the company’s computer.  Check first to ensure that the company’s main frame system is compatible.

Some assistive technology software users find the ZoomText product an effective magnification and reading software program helpful to people who are visually impaired, www.zoomtext.com.

Job Access with Speech (JAWS) can be purchased as a screen reader for people that have significant vision loss or are totally blind. JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Professional) – Product, JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Professional) – Product  https://www.afb.org/prodProfile.asp?ProdID=117

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White Paper on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Nursing Educational Programs for the California Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities (CCEPD) 

A White Paper on the Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Nursing Educational Programs is available on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website, AACN website. The paper presents a new model of technical standards inclusive of all students with and without disabilities.

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Can I Be a Nurse if I Have a Mental Health Condition?

Yes, but you must be academically qualified. The 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) specifies that mitigating measures such as medications cannot be considered in determining whether a person has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (the criterion for protection under the ADA). This means that your medications that help you function well do not disqualify you. You may also be protected under the ADA Amendments Act that states that episodic conditions are covered if your condition would substantially limit a major life activity when it is in its active state.

Many people do not realize that depression is a mental health condition, and individuals that have documented depression should be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mental Health conditions may be the least well understood of most disabilities and people who have a mental health diagnosis may be stigmatized due the lack of understanding, acceptance and knowledge about specific mental health conditions.

NOND has interacted with many nursing students and healthcare professionals that do not disclose their mental health condition due to fear of being rejected and being stigmatized.  Disclosure is a choice and protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but to not disclose can be problematic in some situations.

Continue treatment with a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.  You may feel quite well but ongoing support as well as the monitoring of medications is important.

For protection, advocacies, and legal assistance, contact the National Disability Rights Network, https://www.ndrn.orgLearn where the closest Protection and Advocacy organization is located to where you reside.

For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals.

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How Do I Advocate for Myself as a Person with a Disability?

Learning how to be your own best self-advocate is a crucial skill. It is important to know first that you are not your disability. Disability is something you have to manage but not let your disability impact your sense of self-worth, self-esteem or, identity.  You must manage your disability or chronic health condition and learn skills that assist you in moving forward with your life in order to maintain your independence and career.

The more comfortable you are with yourself as a person with a disability, the better you present yourself as your own advocate.  Disability Pride is a final phase to adjustment.  You will be proud of who you are and your accomplishments. This does take time; it is a process where each person travels through their adjustment at their own pace.  To become a strong self-advocate there are several things you need to know:

  • Understand that learning new information provides you with power through the knowledge you gain. You learn how to apply this knowledge to your own circumstances.
  • It is important for you to know your civil rights and rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Network with students, nurses and other healthcare professionals with chronic health conditions and disabilities.
  • It may be the isolation you feel that inhibits you in stepping up to speak for yourself. Keep building your support network and developing new relationships.

NOND Board of Directors welcomes the opportunity to be in contact with you at NOND2003@gmail.com, if you do not find what you need on our website or on other links provided.

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Can I Be a Nurse if I am a Person of Small Stature?

Yes you can be a nurse if you are a person of small stature and may have dwarfism.  NOND has been in contact with a few individuals of short stature who have been told they cannot be a nurse.  It is important to know that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects persons of small stature, or have dwarfism.

Contact Little People of America (LPA). Please visit www.lpaonline.org

to discuss your situation. They might be able to connect you with a mentor/advocate who can assist you. LPA does have members associated with the organization who are in the medical industry.

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Can I Be a Nurses if I Have a History of Chemical Dependency (Alcohol or Drugs)?

If you have had your RN or LPN license revoked by your State Board of Nursing, you must refer to your state where you were licensed, to learn about the guidelines on how to reinstate your license.  Your State Board of Nursing determines the rules and regulations.

If you no longer actively use drugs or alcohol and may have successfully completed rehabilitation, you may qualify as disabled.   The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, https://www.ncsbn.org has included numerous resources and a video on chemical dependency.

Hiring nurses re-entering the workforce after chemical dependence, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283040235_Hiring_nurses_re-entering_the_workforce_after_chemical_dependence, Aug 17, 2015 Administrators’ understandings of chemical dependency.

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Supporting Nurses and Nursing Students with Disabilities: Federal agencies and nursing organizations say it’s high time to put aside preconceptions  

This article was written after the US Dept. of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy and NOND co-sponsored a full day round table event held in Washington, DC in March 2014.  NOND held a formal Alliance with ODEP from 2012 to 2014 and the roundtable was one of NOND’s final deliverables.  Networking that was accomplished by NOND at this event provided numerous opportunities for future interaction with attendees which included representatives from national nursing organizations and with Federal government agencies.

American Journal of Nursing:
Federal agencies and nursing organizations say it’s high time to put aside preconceptions.

Viewpoint Article:  Neal-Boylan, Leslie PhD, RN, APRN, CRRN, FAAN; Marks, Beth PhD, RN; McCulloh, Karen J. RN, BS; AJN, American Journal of Nursing:  October 2015 – Volume 115 – Issue 10 – p 11

Nursing students and nurses with disabilities face discrimination and bias both in schools of nursing and in the workplace. This can be overt or subtle and can take many forms. In March 2014, nurses spoke up on behalf of, and with, nurses with disabilities at a policy roundtable in Washington, DC, cosponsored by the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND) and the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. Representatives from several federal agencies and national nursing organizations attended the meeting, where a plan of action was developed through the collaboration of federal agencies, nursing and disability rights organizations, nurse educators, researchers, clinicians, and nurses with disabilities.

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): 

One of the options that nurses and other healthcare professionals with disabilities have if they believe they have experienced discrimination at the workplace, is to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.  Filing an EEOC complaint can be a rigorous and stressful process, and it may take many months or even a few years to obtain resolution.  It is important that healthcare professionals with disabilities explore

all options that may be available at the workplace to obtain resolution before filing an EEOC complaint. Please see Resources under What We Do category on this website to obtain more information or visit https://www.eeoc.gov

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EEOC Sues Muskegon Family Care for Disability Discrimination

Medical Provider Fired Employee with a Disability, Federal Agency Charges DETROIT – Muskegon Family Care, a medical services provider located in Muskegon, Heights, MI, violated…read more

DETROIT – Muskegon Family Care, a medical services provider located in Muskegon, Heights, MI, violated federal law by firing an employee due to a disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC’s suit, Avis Lane worked for Muskegon Family Care as an outreach enrollment coordinator for over a month when it fired her based on information obtained during her pre-employment physical.

Firing an employee due to a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). EEOC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (EEOC v. M.G.H. Family Health Center d/b/a Muskegon Family Care, Civil Case No.: 1:15-CV-00952) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC’s lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief — including a court order prohibiting Muskegon Family Care from firing disabled employees in the future.

“Firing a qualified employee, who successfully performed the job for over a month, based on information obtained during a physical violates the ADA,” said Laurie Young, regional attorney for EEOC’s Indianapolis District. “Employers cannot use recommendations from a third-party health examiner without determining for itself whether the employee can actually do the job.”
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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AccreditedOnlineColleges.org

AccreditedOnlineColleges.org is a general information website with many resources useful to all people looking to further their education. The site discusses the offline and online educational paths one can follow to obtain a degree from an accredited institution.   This online resource may provide valuable information to anyone interested in pursuing a degree.

 

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How to Find Scholarships?   

Where can I find information about financial resources for a nursing student or a nurse with a disability?

NOND is unable to recommend the following resources but has been contacted by individuals providing the following information:  Some are not directed specifically to students with disabilities or to nursing.

Student Financial Aid Search Engine: Find & Apply for Financial Aid to Pay for College

Scholarships to Help International Students Afford U.S. Colleges

 

“No Essay” College Scholarship

Scholarship America Scholarships

You may want to contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation Dept. in your state.

 

You may also want to contact your local Lions Club or other organizations in the area you reside, as some local organizations do provide smaller scholarships or grants.

Scholarships may be awarded for academic excellence, community service, athletic or artistic talent, for veterans and children of veterans, and even writing poetry. Whatever your special gifts, there is probably a scholarship to match. Scholarships do not have to be repaid, but you do have to apply for them. Each scholarship usually requires a separate application. It’s never too early or too late to look for scholarships.

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Need Help Finding Support Services for People with Cancer and Their Families  

View more than 100 organizations nationwide that provide emotional, practical, and financial support services for people with cancer and their families. Information is provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). You can also get live, online assistance from the NCI’s LiveHelp service.

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Disability.gov Technology Resources

Click on the link above to find national and state resources on technology for people with disabilities.

New to Disability?  Learn More about Disability and Independent Living

Find national and state resources on community living for people with disabilities. Disability.gov is the federal government website for comprehensive information on disability programs and services in communities nationwide. The site has information on topics such as applying for benefits, getting health care, finding a job, paying for housing and protecting the legal rights of people with disabilities. Want to learn more visit Disability.gov and click on the About Us section, or visit http://www.virtualcil.net/ to find a Center for Independent Living in the area you reside.

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How Can I Find a Nursing Job if I Stutter?

Contact your state National Disability Rights Network, https://www.ndrn.org if you believe you have been discriminated against in receiving a job offer because you stutter.

Resources | Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization, https://www.stutteringhelp.org/resources.  Brochures · Free E-Books · Free Videos · Webinars · Blog · Referral Lists · Newsletters · Check Your Library · Books on Stuttering · Product List · Links.

Stuttering – ASHA , https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering.htm  

Resources – American Institute for Stuttering

I Can No Longer Physically Complete the Clinical Portion to a Refresher Course

You may not be aware that you are eligible for accommodations.  What are the accommodations you need that might assist you in completing the course?  Identify your concerns and issues, and discuss with the Refresher Course Instructor and/or Administrator.  If you have not disclosed you have a disability or chronic health condition that is limiting your physical abilities, this is the time to consider disclosing your disability if you want to complete the refresher course.  Think creatively!

Work with your refresher program instructors and the Disability Services staff to look for clinical settings where you could display your skill proficiency, taking into account that you need accommodations.  You might even be able to demonstrate some skills in the lab.

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If I Use a Wheelchair How Can I Care for Patients with Contact Precautions?

If you are a student, is the nursing program willing to accept your theoretical knowledge of the skill and a learning laboratory demonstration of your competence, in lieu of actually carrying out the skill in the clinical setting? For many students, not just those with disabilities, catheterizing a male patient or inserting a nasogastric tube are approached in that way because simulated, theoretical activities still allow the student to meet program objectives when few opportunities exist to complete the skill in the clinical setting.

A second approach is to disinfect the wheels of the chair and spread a bed sheet over the wheelchair (“gown” the chair as well as the nurse) before entering the room. Discard the sheet, along with the other protection, and repeat the disinfectant of the wheelchair wheels when leaving the room. You could leave a facility wheelchair in that room and transfer into it upon entry and out of it when you leave the room if you are able to transfer independently.

Although students who use wheelchairs can safely complete the task, some nurses using wheelchairs, once they graduate from nursing school may choose to work at a job or in a setting where disinfecting the wheelchair wheels is not necessary.

Please see how one nursing student using a wheelchair adapted to situations like this in the film entitled Open the Door, Get ‘Em a Locker now available on YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3WQtR7yUpI&t=2s

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If I Use a Wheelchair, How Can I Complete a Student Rotation in the Operating Suite?

First consider this question, does the nursing program absolutely require an Operating Room rotation, or could you meet learning objectives in another setting that would be less challenging logistically?  If your nursing program is unwilling to let you move to another setting, you, your instructor and OR Manager can address how best you can meet the OR clinical requirements.  NOND has a couple of options to suggest. You can disinfect your chair before entering the suite each day, or you can use a chair kept in suite for other purposes if you are able to transfer from one chair to the other. The chair may not fit you well as you are used to your own wheelchair but it may get you through the few days most programs allocate to this specialty.

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As a Nurse or Nursing Student Using a Wheelchair, How Can I Perform a “Head to Toe” Physical Exam?

You may want to request that your patient sit in a chair or on a non-rolling bench for part of the exam. Lower the table wheelchair height to assemble what you need for the exam. Lower the bed so that you can reach your patient more easily from wheelchair height. Remember that many nurses complete the exam on the patient’s front side first, progressing to the back, which would require you to reposition yourself less frequently.  Most patients will be cooperative with you if possible, to assist you in ensuring that the exam goes well.

  • For protection, advocacy, and legal assistance, contact your state National Disability Rights Network, https://www.ndrn.org. Also check out your rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Please explore our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work. For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals.
  • Connect with people with disabilities in your community; contact your local Center for Independent Living.
  • Information about how to get a job, contact State Vocational Rehabilitation Program or look on the NOND Job Board. ______________________________________________________________________

What If I Need Assistance with My Personal Needs while at School, in the Clinical Setting, or at Work?

Taking care of your personal needs is not your nursing school, clinical setting, or even an employer responsibility.  This would not be considered a reasonable accommodation.  If you have a personal assistant, you should discuss this with your nursing school faculty and instructor ahead of time about having a personal assistant with you to take care of your personal needs.  If you require a personal assistant, some centers for independent living (CILs) have a personal assistant training program and maintain a list of personal assistants.  You may be able to interview an assistant prior to engaging that person in your care. Contact your local Center for Independent Living.  Find a CIL close to where you reside:  http://www.virtualcil.net/cils/query-iandr.php?state=fl. Your center may be able to refer you to who you can contact if the CIL does not have a PA program.

There are other types of assistants:

Mobility Assistant:  Assists individuals in pushing a wheelchair if individuals do not have the upper body strength to move the wheels of the chair.  If the individual has good vision they may move to a power wheelchair to be able to navigate independently.

Mobility Assistant:  Assistant may push a wheelchair if a person has low or no vision in order to assist that individual in navigating to a destination.

NOND does know that some personal assistants are hired by schools of nursing to assist students with significant disabilities.  The students must have the theoretical knowledge and know how a clinical task must be conducted but is unable to perform the task independently.  The student instructs the personal assistant on how to conduct a clinical task step by step, while the instructor is observing.  This type of personal assistant is not present to assist students with personal care needs.

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What Steps Do I Take When I Need Help with Disability Questions?

If you are reading this FAQ, you already know about NOND. You can start by exploring our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work.

Members of the NOND Board of Directors welcome the opportunity to be in contact with you if you do not find what you need on our website or on the links to other resources we have provided.  NOND has 15 years of experience in being in contact with students and healthcare professionals with disabilities.  We have board members that represent a cross-disability population where the majorities are nurses with disabilities.  Contact NOND2003@gmail.com if you are unable to find answer to your questions by conducting your own exploration of resources included on this website.

You also will want to consider contacting these additional resources, according to your specific needs:

  • For protection, advocacy, and legal assistance, contact your state National Disability Rights Network.  NDRN provides a menu on their website where you click on the state you reside so that you may learn where your state organization is located so you may telephone or email and receive relevant and timely information from your regional Protection & Advocacy office.
  • For assistance with the ADA, you may want to contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. There are regional centers located across the United States.  Learning about the 2008 ADA Amendments Act will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens protection for many individuals with disabilities.
  • For connections with people with disabilities in your community, contact your local Center for Independent Living, http://www.virtualcil.net/cils/query-iandr.php?state=fl

!!! Please note that the last FAQ in this category includes a complete list of state Vocational Rehabilitation Departments for all states and territories.

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Disclaimer: The National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND) does not offer legal advice but NOND does offer resources to help you understand your rights, protections, and responsibilities within various Disability Rights Laws.

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How Can I Find Other Nurses or Nursing Students with Disabilities to obtain Information and Support?

One of the greatest challenges for nursing students and nurses with chronic health conditions and disabilities is to connect with one another, and to find mentors in order to develop relationships with individuals that may have the same or similar type of disability.  In addition, knowing that you are not alone, and understanding that nurses do work who have disabilities is very reassuring.

NOND board members welcome the opportunity to be in contact via Email at NOND2003@gmail.com if you do not find what you need on our website or other sites we have provided.  NOND may be able to connect you with a nurse who has a similar

or same disability, or who has a career in a field of nursing you are interested in pursuing. This is particularly helpful to students preparing to enroll in a nursing program, and want to learn some helpful tips on developing strategies for success.

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What Jobs in Nursing Can I Do If I Have Physical Limitations?

First, let us address the concerns of Safe Practice which is the first priority for State Boards of Nursing.  Nurses must explore employment options that they enjoy but also know that they can protect the safety of their patients.  Some nurses who become disabled or develop chronic health conditions after receiving their license may have to adjust their field of nursing in order to remain within the profession.  While considering options or looking for a job:

  • Do not let your license lapse and renew your license on the active status.
  • If you have been absent from the workforce for a period of time, and you are on Inactive Status with your Board of Nursing, you may need to enroll in a refresher course requiring clinical hours.
  • Keep up with your Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) if required by your State Board of Nursing, and if not required, continue anyway.

There may be several areas of nursing that you are interested where you may obtain additional training or information.  Please consider the following:

  • Legal Nurse:  (training is available on-line)
  • Lactation consultant
  • Occupational health
  • Psychiatric or mental health nursing
  • Case management
  • Triage at a home care agency
  • Quality assurance reviews
  • Chart reviews for a nursing home
  • Drug reviews or physical exams for insurance companies
  • On-line teaching for individuals with Masters level or PhD qualifications
  • Protocol reviews for research projects
  • Think about going back to school to obtain an advanced degree.
  • Never rule out telecommuting opportunities.  This means you work from home on your computer and telephone.

For protection, advocacy, and legal assistance, contact your state National Disability Rights Network. Be sure to click on your state so that you get relevant and timely information. For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals.

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Can I Be a Nurse If I Have a Chronic Condition that Affects My Life Activities?

Yes you can.  Chronic health conditions must be managed by the person who has the condition, and in collaboration with their physicians.  It is possible to be employed while also living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your own health needs.  There are nurses who work that have Diabetes, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, and many other conditions. If returning to work, it may be a good idea to start out part time if possible and move into full time employment if that is the goal, and if this can be negotiated with the employer.

The question is what strategies need to be developed by nurses with chronic health conditions that addresses anticipated employment challenges, and how can solutions be implemented by the nurse in order to remain on-the-job, or return-to-work?  If accommodations will be needed while on the job, you must disclose your chronic health condition to your employer, and be prepared to provide documentation that validates your condition that is from your healthcare provider.

If your chronic condition affects a major life activity such as seeing, hearing, walking, sleeping, etc., or a major bodily function such as those of the immune system, normal cell growth, or endocrine system, etc., you are likely covered under the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act  (ADAAA).

Please note:  Latex allergies also come under this portion of the ADAAA.

Please explore our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work. For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers

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Can I Be a Nurse if I Have Intermittent or Remission/ Exacerbation Conditions?

Yes, you can be a nurse if you have a chronic, intermittent health condition. If you have an episodic (intermittent) condition such as epilepsy, migraines, or fibromyalgia, you would likely be considered to have a disability if any of your major life activities are impaired when the condition is in its active state. When seeking ADA protection, remember that there must be a link between the disability or limitations and the task for which you need help.  Please explore our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work. For assistance with the ADA information, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals.

To request accommodations under the ADA, you will need to disclose your condition to your employer, and provide documentation from your health care provider. If your chronic condition affects a major life activity such as seeing, hearing, walking, sleeping, etc., or a major bodily function such as those of the immune system, normal cell growth, or endocrine system, etc., you are likely covered under the ADA.

Conditions such as Lupus or Multiple Sclerosis that tend to go into a remission and may exacerbate periodically, are covered under the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act.  Prior to 2008, it was not clear if individuals with remitting/ exacerbating conditions were protected under the ADA as while individuals are in remission, some individuals function without limitations.

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How Can I Perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR or Basic Life Support (BLS) if I Have Limited Mobility or Significant Disabilities?

Performing CPR or Basic Life Support (BLS) as a health care professional or student nurse, who has limited mobility or missing limbs, may be a challenge for some if they must conduct CPR in the exact way required by the certification organizations.  Some employers require BLS certification for healthcare professionals employed at their institutions.  However, CPR certification may be a topic for discussion with the employer as a request to be exempted as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Some schools of nursing exempt their students with significant disabilities from actually performing CPR but both students and nurses with disabilities must know the theory and be able to instruct another person on how to perform CPR. Currently there is no certification provided by the various organizations that offer BLS courses such as American Red Cross or American Heart Association where nurses have paid for, passed the online BLS course but have been denied the opportunity to share their knowledge on how to instruct another person to conduct CPR and become certified.

Please explore our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work. For assistance with the ADA, contact the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers. Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals. For protection, advocacy, and legal assistance, contact your state National Disability Rights Network, https://www.ndpn.org, Protection & Advocacy agency.

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Can I Be a Nurse if I have Concerns with Manual Dexterity or have One Hand?

Yes! NOND has been in contact with nurses who are in practiced as nurses that have one hand and others who have manual dexterity limitations. Use the resources below and work with your college or university’s Disability Services staff to request accommodations if needed.  Nursing is a whole “new ball game” and even if you did not need accommodations while in high school, you might need accommodations while in nursing school.

  • Be creative when designing accommodations – as long as certain principles are followed in clinical settings, the ways in which tasks are performed may become negotiable.
  • With respect to technical tasks, there may be more than one way to conduct those tasks. For nurses newly disabled, you will need to learn how to do old tasks in new ways.
  • If you need specific suggestions, contact NOND2003@gmail.com to make contact with one of our experts.
  • There are three videos available in Resources and Education/Training on this website under the What We Do category for you to view on how to start IVs, administer I/M or S/Q injections, and withdraw medication from a vial one-handed.

 

Some nursing programs may be more receptive to you than others. If you have the opportunity, talk to current students or to nursing faculty about a selected program’s record of accommodating students with disabilities. Also, meet with the Disability Services or Student Access Office to discuss entrance requirements and your expected access to accommodations.

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Can Employers Require Pre-Employment Physicals?

Yes, employers can require pre-employment physical exams if they require this of every person who has received a job offer, and the physical exam is part of the pre-employment process.  You may be requested to share with the physician conducting the examination to provide information about a chronic health condition or disability that is not evident during the exam as part of your Health History, and you have not previously disclosed.

What would not be appropriate and should be viewed as illegal is if a healthcare professional with a disability is hired for a new position and is requested to have a physical exam when no other new employees are requested to do the same. If this occurs, please contact the National Disability Rights Network, https://ndpn.org or the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers.  

Drug Testing:  Many companies and institutions do require drug testing as they may have a Drug Free Workplace PolicyGenerally, you will be provided with a form and a location where you go to have the laboratory obtain a urine sample for the drug test. Drug testing should be of no cost to you.  If you refuse to be tested for drugs, you are likely not to have a job.

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What Do I Do if I Feel I Have Been Discriminated Against as a Result of the Physical Exam?

Under the ADA, employers can require pre-employment physicals. The extent of the physicals and the reason for them must be consistent with best business practice and job-related. Physicians who conduct the physical exam should be assessing mg function, not diagnosis. i.e, does this candidate have the ability to perform the essential functions of the job for which they are applying? Such physicals must be the same for every applicant for the same position, or employers will have a difficult time showing they were not treating you differently, presumably because of a “perceived” disability.

Employers should not ask, “Do you have a condition that needs accommodation?” but they can ask, “Can you perform the essential functions of this job with or without a reasonable accommodation?” If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you can file an internal grievance with the institution’s Affirmative Action Department, stating that you feel you received disparate treatment as a result of your “perceived” disability. This might result in additional training for the institution around ADA issues.

Another place to submit a formal complaint is the Bureau of Labor and Industries in your state.  Search on the Internet for your specific state and enter for example, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. By filing a complaint with BOL, you are addressing both state and federal employment issues. You also can file a complaint with the EEOC (federal). If you file with EEOC or BOLI it is important to be clear about your goal. You goal may be to secure employment, or to obtain punitive damages, or to require the institution to provide additional training on the ADA.

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What Do I Do if I Have Test Anxiety?

If already enrolled in a nursing program, you must document your anxiety disorder or other disabilities causing test anxiety with your school’s Disability Services/ Student Access Office in order to receive accommodations. You will work with the Disability Services staff to identify helpful accommodations such as additional time to take a test, arrangements for a separate test-taking environment to reduce noise and enhance privacy, and taking more frequent breaks. The Americans with Disabilities Act is designed to support individual variation; every situation is different in the area of accommodations – it is important to learn what works best for you.

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How Can I Understand My Legal Rights as a Person with a Disability?

The first step to understanding your legal rights is to do your homework. You can start by exploring our website for resources in regard to education, advocacy, and work. Information from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, can be found at https://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm.

Learning about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will help you to understand how the ADAAA broadens coverage for many individuals. Other helpful resources include your state National Disability Rights Network and the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Centers.

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Have You Heard of the Soft Skills Curriculum?

Published on May 17, 2012 by US Department of Labor “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success,” is a curriculum developed by” the Office of Disability Employment Policy focused on teaching “soft” or workforce readiness skills to youth, including youth with disabilities. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism.  For more info on the Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success visit: http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/.

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How Can I Access Accommodations as a Person with a Disability?

NOND has a progressive philosophy when it comes to disclosure of disability or chronic health condition at school or at the workplace.  Disclosure is a personal choice and to not disclose is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  However, if you choose not to disclose, you will NOT be eligible for accommodations.  You could be setting yourself up to fail. Even if a disability/ chronic health condition is not apparent, or is in remission, at some point it is possible that you could experience an exacerbation or episode of your condition.  Hiding a disability that could be accommodated while you are a student, or while employed, is extremely stressful. Accommodations if provided can assist in bringing you to a level “playing field” so you can move forward in a nursing program or at the workplace as other non-disabled students and nurses do.

Helpful Tips for Students:

·         Be organized and set timelines in order to be prepared ahead of time for classes and clinical assignments,

·         Once you have met with the DSP, you should maintain ongoing contact,

·         The accommodations provided may not be working well for you; contact the DSP immediately,

·         Try out adaptive devices and technology suggested by a DSP before you agree that this device or technology will work for you.

·         Give yourself time:  Learning how to use adaptive devices, downloaded apps, or assistive technology software takes time.

NOND has seen a major improvement in the education and services provided by Disability Services Professionals (DSP) over the past 15 years.  Still, some colleges and universities have poorly qualified DSPs, and there continues to be lack of knowledge of what students with disabilities rights are under the ADA. Part of the controversy is if the school is public or private. Some nursing programs will provide accommodations while the student is in class but not during their clinical assignment.  Private schools do have responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and complaints of alleged discrimination by students if accommodations are reasonable and denied by a private school is monitored by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ).  Public schools are overseen by the Dept. of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and there are regional offices where complaints of alleged discrimination can be submitted.  Where to file complaints depends upon whether the school receives federal funds.

Why some people do not disclose a disability:

·         Fear of being labeled.

·         Concerns about confidentiality.

·         The impact of disclosure and how this could impact nursing faculty attitudes and future career opportunities at the workplace.

·         The culture of disability-acceptance at your institution may play a role on whether choose to disclose.

Disclosure at the Workplace:

·         You do not have to disclose a disability/ chronic health condition during a first job interview. First interviews should include discussion about what skills you bring to the job. You do not have to “sell your disability,”

·         Your disability may be non-apparent or obvious to the interviewer and the person interviewing can ask specific questions that may not be directed to your apparent disability.  Questions may be directed to the essential functions of the job for example, if you have low vision and use a white cane, the interviewer could ask, “There is a great deal of computer work included in this job, how will you complete this work?”  This would be a good time to share with the interviewer that you use assistive technology software downloaded on a computer that provides you the opportunity to accomplish computer work.

·         Some interviewers may not have had the opportunity to speak with nurses with disabilities and do not know how specific tasks included in the essential functions of the job can be accomplished.  For example, if you use a wheelchair, an interviewer may have no knowledge on how you could meet the essential functions of the job on a medical-surgical unit.

·         When a job offer is made, you should disclose your disability or chronic health condition to the institution’s Human Resource representative or to the person offering the job, if you know you will require accommodations.  Employers cannot rescind a job offer once they learn you have a disability.  ___________________________________________________________________

Developed Disability or Chronic Health Condition After Receiving Your License and While Employed?

·         Some nurses may take a Family Medical and Leave of Absence (FMLA), https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla in order to recuperate from illness, injury or accident.   At some point according to the institution’s policies, you will want to return to work.

·         It is recommended that you disclose your disability to the Human Resource Dept. representative if you will need accommodations to return to work.

·         It is important that you are well informed of what your institution’s Employee Handbook includes.  Know your rights as an employee and what benefits are available to you if you become disabled.  Follow steps if included in the handbook on what you should do in order to keep in ongoing contact with your employer.

·         Some institutions subcontract work to other companies to be in contact with you while you are on FMLA.

NOND has been contacted in 2017-2018 by many nurses in the aging workforce who have requested information.  Below are some issues that NOND has learned from nurses and some suggestions on how to handle the situation.

·         Your employer may tell you that you can no longer work with the disability you have and suggest you retire and apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.

Suggestion:  Do not sign away your job and retire unless you want to do retire, and until you are educated about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Many nurses have retired because they did not realize they could continue working within the nursing profession if they “tweaked” their career.  The employer also should offer to move you to a different position where you can meet the essential functions of the job, with similar compensation if there is a job opening.

·         Even though you may have exemplary performance evaluations, and have worked for and been loyal to one institution for a long time, you could be denied accommodations.

Suggestion:  Follow all steps provided in the Employee Handbook and use the Appeal process if indicated; meet with the company’s Ombudsman if one is on staff; as well as the ADA Officer before you take additional actions.

·         Some nurses have had to file EEOC complaints in order to seek resolution to denial of accommodations.

·         Do not disclose you disability only to the unit Manager who may provide accommodations.  Managers come and go and you could be left without accommodations when a new Manager is employed.  There may be no record of your accommodations.

Suggestion:  Disclose your disability to the institution’s Human Resource Dept. representative and provide documentation that validates your disability or chronic health condition.  This provides a record of your disability.  The employer should begin an interactive process with you as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to discuss your accommodation needs.

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FMLA (Family & Medical Leave of Absence)

From the US Dept. of Labor FMLA Topic

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA principles for determining compensable hours or work.

Time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks of family and medical leave.

A final rule effective on January 16, 2009, updates the FMLA regulations to implement new military family leave entitlements enacted under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008.

Special rules apply to employees of local education agencies. The Department of Labor administers FMLA; however, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers FMLA for most federal employees.

DOL Web Pages on This Topic

Compliance Assistance: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Links to various sources of information about FMLA.

Fact Sheet on FMLA
Covers the major requirements of FMLA and updates to the FMLA regulations.

FMLA Compliance Guide
Summarizes FMLA provisions and regulations and provides answers to the most frequently asked questions.

elaws FMLA Advisor
The FMLA Advisor provides information about employee eligibility under the law; including valid reasons for leave; employee/employer notification responsibilities; and employee rights and benefits.

Laws & Regulations on This Topic

Regulations

29 CFR Part 825 The Family and Medical Leave Act

Employee Leave Entitlements: Reduced or intermittent leave to care for parent, other family member or service member

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White Paper on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Nursing Educational Programs for the California Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (CCEPD)

http://www.aacn.nchev2.edu/educational-resources  

About the authors:  Among many other accomplishments and roles they play as healthcare professionals, Dr. Beth Marks, PhD, RN is the Immediate Past President of NOND, and currently serves as a NOND Advisory Committee member.  Dr. Sarah Ailey, PhD, RN, CDDN, APHN-BC, served as a member of the NOND Board of Directors for several years, and currently serves as a NOND Advisory Committee member.

 

Nurses are challenged to fill the new and expanded roles for a health care system

designed to improve the quality of health car.  Despite the unique perspective and set of skills that students and health professionals with disabilities have to address many of these challenges, people with disabilities are often effectively excluded from the nursing profession.

The purposes of this white paper are to:

  1. Frame the issues that prevent applicants with disabilities from entering nursing education and the nursing profession and;
  1. Propose the changes necessary to engage the potential of people with disabilities to enhance nursing leadership and innovation necessary to transform health care.

Major barriers include the following:

  1. Outmoded admission standards that deter applicants with disabilities;
  2. Misconceptions about the capacity of students with disabilities to function effectively in the clinical components of nursing education;
  3. Lack of a comprehensive understanding of issues related to patient safety.

This paper begins with an historical overview of the journey toward the acceptance of nurses with disabilities, including civil rights legislation, judicial rulings with reference to specific landmark cases, and the development of current technical and educational standards. The paper also presents a new model of technical standards inclusive of all students with and without disabilities, along with recommendations supportive of students with disabilities in admission, matriculation and graduation from nursing programs.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

How Do I Find My State Vocational Rehabilitation Program?

Resource:  Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency that is designed to help individuals with disabilities meet their employment goals. Vocational rehabilitation agencies assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for, obtain, maintain, or regain employment.

The following list includes links to websites and other contact information for vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies in U.S. Territories.

Alabama

Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (334) 293-7500
Toll-Free: (800) 441-7607
Toll-Free Restrictions: AL residents
Fax: (334) 293-7383
Website: http://www.rehab.alabama.gov/

Alaska

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (907) 465-2814
Toll-Free: (800) 478-2815
Fax: (907) 465-2856
Website: http://labor.alaska.gov/dvr/home.htm

Arizona

Rehabilitation Services Administration
Toll-Free: (800) 563-1221
TTY: (602) 340-7771 (Maricopa County)
TTY: (855) 475-8194 (outside Maricopa County)
Website: https://www.azdes.gov/RSA/

Arkansas

Rehabilitation Services Division
Phone: (501) 296-1600
Website: http://ace.arkansas.gov/arRehabServices/Pages/default.aspx

Arkansas Department of Human Services
Division of Services for the Blind
Phone: (501) 682-5463
TTY: (501) 682-0093
Fax: (501) 682-0366
Wesbite; http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dsb/Pages/default.aspx

California

California Department of Rehabilitation
Phone: (916) 324-1313
TTY: (916) 558-5807
Website: http://www.rehab.cahwnet.gov/

Colorado

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (303) 866-4150,
Toll-Free: (866) 870-4595
Fax: (303) 866-4905, (303) 866-4908
TTY: (303) 866-4150
Website: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDHS-SelfSuff/CBON/1251580884712

Connecticut

Bureau of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (860) 424-4844
Toll-Free: (800) 537-2549
Fax: (860) 424-4850
Video Phone: (860) 920-7163
Website: http://www.brs.state.ct.us/

Vocational Rehabilitation Division
State Board of Education and Services for the Blind
Phone: (860) 602-4000
Toll-Free: (800) 842-4510
Fax: (860) 602-4020
TTY: (860) 602-4221
Website: http://www.ct.gov/besb/site/default.asp

Delaware

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (New Castle County)
Phone: (302) 761-8275
TTY: (302) 761-8275
Website: https://dvr.delawareworks.com/

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Delaware)
Division for the Visually Impaired
Phone: (302) 255-9800
Fax: (302) 255-4441
Fax (eye reports only): (302) 255-9921
TTY: (302) 255-9854
Website: http://www.state.de.us/dhss/dvi/index.html

District of Columbia

Department on Disability Services (District of Columbia)
Phone: (202) 730-1700
Fax: (202) 730-1843

TTY: (202) 730-1516
Website: http://dds.dc.gov/

Florida

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (850) 245-3399
Toll-Free: (800) 451-4327
TTY: (850) 245-3399
Fax: (850) 245-3316
Website: http://www.rehabworks.org/

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Division of Blind Services
Phone: (850) 245-0300
Toll-Free: (800) 342-1828
Fax: (850) 245-0363
Website: http://dbs.myflorida.com

Georgia

Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Phone: (866) 489-0001
TTY: (404) 232-1998
Fax: (404) 232-1800
Website: https://gvra.georgia.gov/

HAWAII

Hawaii Vocational and Rehabilitation Agency
Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division
Phone: (808) 586-5275
Fax: (808) 586-9755
TTY: (808) 586-5288
Website: http://www.hawaiivr.org/

IDAHO

Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (208) 334-3390
Website: http://www.vr.idaho.gov/

Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
State Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Phone: (208) 334-3220
Toll-Free: (800) 542-8688
Toll-Free Restrictions: ID residents only
Fax: (208) 334-2963
Website: http://www.icbvi.state.id.us/

ILLNOIS

Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services
Toll-Free: (800) 843-6154
Toll-Free Restrictions: IL residents only
TTY: (800) 447-6404
Website: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29736

INDIANA

Indiana Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services
Toll-Free: (800) 545-7763
Fax: (317) 232-1240
Website: http://www.in.gov/fssa/2328.htm

IOWA

Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (515) 281-4211
Fax: (515) 281-7645
TTY: (515) 281-4211
Website: http://www.ivrs.iowa.gov/

Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
State Department for the Blind
Phone: (515) 281-1333
Toll-Free: (800) 362-2587
Toll-Free Restrictions: IA residents only
Fax: (515) 281-1263
TTY: (515) 281-1355
Website: https://blind.iowa.gov/

KANSAS

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services

Phone: 785-368-7471       Toll-Free: 1-866-213-9079

Fax: 785-368-7467        TTY: 785-368-7478
Website: http://www.srs.ks.gov/services/Pages/Vocational.aspx

Kentucky

Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (502) 564-4440
Toll-Free: (800) 372-7172
Website: http://www.ovr.ky.gov/

Vocational and Rehabilitation Agency
State Office for the Blind
Phone: (502) 564-4754
Toll-Free: (800) 321-6668
Website: http://blind.ky.gov/

Louisiana

Rehabilitation Services State Office
Phone: (225) 219-2225
Toll-Free: (800) 737-2958
Fax: (225) 219-2942,  (225) 219-4993
Website: http://www.laworks.net/WorkforceDev/LRS/LRS_Main.asp

Maine

Bureau of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (207) 623-6799
Toll-Free: (888) 755-0023
Fax: (207) 287-5292
TTY: (888) 755-0023
Website: http://www.maine.gov/rehab/index.shtml

Maryland

Division of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (410) 554-9442
Toll-Free: (888) 554-0334
Fax: (410) 554-9412
TTY: (410) 554-9411
V.P. 443-453-5981
Website: http://www.dors.state.md.us/

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
Phone: (617) 204-3600
Toll-Free: (800) 245-6543
Fax: (617) 727-1354
TTY: (800) 245-6543
Website: http://www.state.ma.us/mrc/

Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
State Commission for the Blind
Phone: (617) 727-5550
Toll-Free: (800) 392-6450
Toll-Free Restrictions: MA residents only
Fax: (617) 626-7685
TTY: (800) 392-6556
Website: http://www.state.ma.us/mcb/

Michigan

Michigan Commission for the Blind
Phone: (517) 373-2062
Toll-Free: (800) 292-4200
Fax: (517) 335-5140
TTY: (888) 864-1212
Website: http://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-61256_28313—,00.html

Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (517) 373-3390
Fax: (517) 335-7277
TTY: (888) 605-6722
Website: http://www.michigan.gov/mdcd/0,1607,7-122-25392—,00.html

Minnesota

State Services for the Blind
Phone: (651) 642-0500
Toll-Free: (800) 652-9000
Fax: (651) 649-5927
TTY: (651) 642-0506
Website: http://www.mnssb.org/

Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Toll-Free: (651) 259-7114
Website: http://www.deed.state.mn.us/rehab/

Mississippi

Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Toll-Free: (800) 443-1000
Website: http://www.mdrs.ms.gov/Pages/default.aspx

Missouri

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (573) 751-3251
Toll-Free: (877) 222-8963
Fax: (573) 751-1441
TTY: (573) 751-0881
Website: http://dese.mo.gov/vr/

Rehabilitation Services for the Blind
Phone: (573) 751-4249
Fax: (573) 751-4984
Toll-Free: 1-800-592-6004
Website: http://dss.mo.gov/fsd/rsb/index.htm

Montana

Montana Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (406) 444-2590
Toll-Free: (877) 296-1197
Fax: (406) 444-3632
TTY: (406) 444-2590
Website: http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/detd/vocrehab/

Nebraska

Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Phone: (402) 471-2891
Toll-Free: (877) 809-2419
Fax: (402) 471-3009
Website: http://www.ncbvi.ne.gov/

Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (402) 471-3644
Toll-Free: (877) 637-3422
Toll-Free Restrictions: NE residents only
Fax: (402) 471-0788
Website: http://vr.nebraska.gov/

Nevada

Rehabilitation Division (Northern Nevada)
Phone: (775) 684-4040
TTY: (775) 684-8400
Website: http://detr.state.nv.us/rehab/reh_vorh.htm

Rehabilitation Division (Southern Nevada)
Phone: (702) 486-5230
TTY: (702) 486-1018
Website: http://detr.state.nv.us/rehab/reh_vorh.htm

New Hampshire

Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (603) 271-3471
Toll-Free: (800) 299-1647
Fax: (603) 271-7095
Website: http://www.education.nh.gov/career/vocational/

New Jersey

Commission for the Blind and the Visually Impaired
Phone: (973) 648-3333
Toll-Free: (877) 685-8878
Website: http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/cbvi/home/

New Mexico

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (505) 954-8500 or (505) 954-8562
Toll-Free: (800) 224-7005
Website: http://www.dvrgetsjobs.com

New York

State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped
Toll-Free: (866) 871-3000
TTY: (866) 871-6000
Website: http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/cbvh/

Adult Career and Continuing Education Services – Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR)
Toll-Free: (800) 222-5627
Website: http://www.vesid.nysed.gov/

North Carolina

Division of Vocational and Rehabilitation Services
Toll-Free: (800) 689-9090
Fax: (919) 733-7968
TTY: 919-855-3579
VP: (919) 324-1500
Website: http://dvr.dhhs.state.nc.us/

North Dakota

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (701) 328-8950
Toll-Free: (800) 755-2745
Fax: (701) 328-8969
Website: http://www.nd.gov/dhs/dvr/index.html

Ohio

Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (614) 438-1200
Website: http://ood.ohio.gov/

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (405) 951-3400
Toll-Free: (800) 845-8476
TTY: (405) 951-3400 or (800) 845-8476
Website: http://www.okrehab.org/

Oregon

Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (503) 945-5880
Toll-Free: (877) 277-0513
Fax: (503) 947-5010
Website: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/vr/

Pennsylvania

Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (717) 787-5244
Toll-Free: (800) 442-6351
TTY: (717) 787-4885 or (866) 830-7327
Website: http://www.dli.pa.gov/Individuals/Disability-Services/ovr/Pages/OVR-Office-Directory.aspx

Blindness and Visual Services
Phone: (717) 787-6176
Toll-Free: (800) 622-2842
TTY: 717-787-4885
TTY (2): 866-830-7327
Website: http://www.dli.pa.gov/Individuals/Disability-Services/bbvs/Pages/default.aspx

Rhode Island

Vocational and Rehabilitation Agency
Phone: (401) 421-7005
TTY: (401) 421-7016
Website: http://www.ors.state.ri.us

South Carolina

South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department Phone: (803) 896-6500 (Columbia area)
Toll-Free: (800) 832-7526
TTY: (803) 896-6553
Website: http://www.scvrd.net/

South Dakota

Division of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (605) 773-3195
Fax: (605) 773-5483
Website: http://dhs.sd.gov/drs/

Tennessee

Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (615) 313-4891
Fax: (615) 741-6508
TTY: (615) 313-5695 or (800) 270-1349
Website: http://www.tennessee.gov/humanserv/rehab/vrs.html

Texas

Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Toll-Free: (800) 628-5115
TTY: (866) 581-9328
Website: http://www.dars.state.tx.us/

Utah

Utah State Office of Rehabilitation
Phone: (801) 538-7530
Toll-Free: (800) 473-7530
Fax: (801) 538-7522
TTY: (801) 538-7530
Website: http://www.usor.utah.gov/

Vermont

Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (802) 241-1455
Toll-Free: (866) 879-6757
TTY: (802) 241-1455
Website: http://vocrehab.vermont.gov/

Virginia

Department of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (804) 662-7000
Toll-Free: (800) 552-5019
Fax: (804) 662-9532
TTY: (800) 464-9950
Website: http://www.vadrs.org/

Washington

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (360) 725-3636
Toll-Free: (800) 637-5627
Fax: (360) 438-8007
TTY: (800) 637-5627 or (360) 725-3636
Website: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/dvr/

West Virginia

Division of Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (304) 356-2060
Toll-Free: (800) 642-8207
Website: http://www.wvdrs.org/

Wisconsin

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (608) 261-0050
Toll-Free: (800) 442-3477
Fax: (608) 266-1133
TTY: (888) 877-5939
Website: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dvr

Wyoming

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (307) 777-8650
Fax: (307) 777-5857
Website: http://www.wyomingworkforce.org/Pages/default.aspx

TERRITORIES

American Samoa

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (684) 699-1371 or (684) 699-4234
Website: http://americansamoa.gov/index.php/2012-04-25-19-44-32/2012-04-28-01-30-33/offices/2012-04-30-18-53-34

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

CNMI Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (670) 322-6537
Fax: (670) 322-6536
TTY: (670) 322-6449
Website: http://www.ovrgov.net

Guam

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Phone: (671) 642-0022
Website: http://www.dol.guam.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=115:department-of-integrated-services-for-individuals-with-disabilities&catid=82:division-of-vocational-rehabilitation&Itemid=182

Puerto Rico

Vocational Rehabilitation Administration
Phone: (787) 729-0160
Fax: (787) 728-8070
TTY: (787) 268-3735
Website: http://www.gobierno.pr/gprportal/inicio

Virgin Islands

Division of Disabilities and Rehabilitation Services
Phone: (340) 774-0930 x4190
Fax: (340) 774-7773
TTY: (340) 776-2043
Website: http://www.dhs.gov.vi/disabilities/index.html

______________________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: The National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND) does not offer legal advice but NOND does offer resources and information to help you understand your rights, protections, and responsibilities within various Disability Rights Laws. 

 

It is your responsibility to utilize and follow-up on the resources and FAQ information provided on this website.  The resources and FAQ information does not provide information on everything that you may want to know.  Please conduct your own research by clicking on links to other websites, and make telephone calls as appropriate. The knowledge you gain will assist you in becoming your own best self-advocate.

 

Some information included in the FAQ Category is based on the experiences shared by past and current members of the NOND Board of Directors who represent a cross-disability perspective, and where some have experienced barriers in obtaining their education, and at the workplace. 

Yet, they have succeeded! 

 

NOND has communicated with and has learned from students with disabilities who want to enroll in nursing, from students with disabilities who are matriculating through a nursing school, and from other healthcare professionals and nurses who become disabled after receiving their license to practice.  Some lessons learned by NOND are that no situation is exactly the same, and each person is different.

 

 

 

 

 

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