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FAQ’s About The American Disabilities Act


- Reasonable Accommodation in Work or School
- Narcolepsy is a disorder covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.Americans With Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA)
- Employers may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities who can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations.
- It is unlawful to discriminate in any employment practices such as recruitment, hiring, job assignments, pay, training, promotions, benefits, leave, firing, etc.
- All employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would be an undue hardship for the employer

Employers are required to provide accommodation for qualified persons with known disabilities. It is your responsibility to inform your employer of the fact that you have narcolepsy and explain what it is. You may need to have your health professional help with this documentation. It is also a good idea to come up with suggestions of what accommodations you feel would be reasonable and helpful, e.g. more frequent or longer breaks during the day for which you will make up the extra time; modifying work schedules; asking for a place and permission to take a nap during the day; trading a monotonous task that is not an essential part of your job for a more active task.

For more specific information about the ADA requirements affecting employment contact:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507
(202) 663-4900 (Voice)
(800) 800-3302 (TDD)

Disabilty Protection
Having narcolepsy does NOT mean a person automatically qualifies for disability benefits. Whether or not one qualifies depends upon the severity of symptoms and the limitations that result. People with symptoms that are hard to control, or experience significant medication side effects or disorder complications that interfere with their ability to work may qualify for temporary or long term financial support.

Applying for Social Security Diabiltiy Insurance ( SSDI ) or Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI) often defies logic - experts recommend people not rely on common sense but do follow the rules. It ususally takes 3 tries: Step 1- Inital claim, Step 2 Request reconsideration, and Step 3 - Request for hearing.

Another recommendation is that people obtain a legal advocate who can help them meet the requirements. The Center has the names and phone numbers of 5 attorneys in the Chicago metropolitan area experienced in representing people who are seeking workplace accomodation and submitting a disabiltiy claim (click here for the list of names and other resources). Also, the following organization can help you find attorneys and non-attorneys who represent applicants:

National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR )
6 Prospect St.
Midland Park, NJ 07432
Phone: 201-444-1415, 800-431-2804
FAX: 201-444-1823

A handout entitled "Disability and Employment Protection for People with Narcolepsy" and an audiotape of a presentation at the 1999 Narcolepsy Conference done by Mark Bronstun, a Boston attorney with extensive experience in representing applicants can be obtained from:

Narcolepsy Network, Inc.
10921 Reed Hartmen Hwy, Suite 119
Cincinnati, OH 45242
Tel: (513)891-3522
FAX: (513)891-3836

A selected review of state and federal court cases involving sleep disorders by Robert L. Cloud , an attorney and Executive Director of Narcolepsy Network, can also be obtained through this organization.

Being able to do well on course work but poorly under time pressure, for example during exams, happens frequently to persons who have narcolepsy. In our research at the Center, we have found that most memory problems noted by persons with narcolepsy are largely related to fluctuating levels of alertness and the stress of trying to maintain vigilance without having time for breaks to walk around or even nap. The University of Illinois at Chicago has a policy of allowing persons with narcolepsy (and some other disabilities) to have extra time, break times or alternative testing arrangements on exams. This is an accommodation that would be in line with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is your responsibility to go the Disability Services Office on campus (or the Guidance Counselor in your high school) to document your disability. The people in the Disability Services office will prepare a letter to faculty or teachers stating that you have a disability and specifying the accommodations that you and they feel would be helpful. Besides exam arrangements, other suggestions to make school more manageable include:

Stand up in a class or meeting, or sit right at the front so you do not get too comfortable.

Tape record classes or meetings (but still take notes to keep yourself alert). Then you can use the tape to check your notes, or listen to it while you are outside walking or working out.

Ask your professors if you can sit in on lectures from another section of your course so you can hear the lecture twice.

Try to schedule classes at the time of day when you expect to be most alert.

Take a brisk walk or exercise before you need to study, read or go to class.

Before you need it, find a secure place where you can have a nap on campus or at school if you are very sleepy. If all else fails, try a desk in the library.

You can get your textbooks on tape from a number of sources. Put on your headset and listen to the book while you are taking a brisk walk.

For information about ADA requirements affecting public accommodations and state and local government services contact:

Department of Justice
Office of Americans with Disabilities Act
Civil Rights Division
P.O. Box 66118
Washington, DC 20035-6118
(202) 514-0301 (Voice)
(202) 514-0381 (TDD)
(202) 514-6193 (Electronic Bulletin Board)

At UIC, assistance is provided for students by the Office of Access and Equity , 809 South Marshfield Ave, Rm 717(M/C 602), Chicago 60612-7207. Tel: (312) 996-8670