KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS
Laws and regulations provide guidance and clarification about what must be provided and what is not acceptable when providing support services. A number of Federal laws address accessibility and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. These laws cover access to a wide range of facilities and services, including housing, transportation, employment, telecommunications and voting.
If you feel your concerns and those of your support system have gone unheard, you can file a complaint about your treatment to The Office of Civil Rights. Click here find instructions on how to do this.
Knowing one’s rights under the laws, or complying with their requirements, means getting the right information from the proper source. Learn to use these laws as your minimum level of protection.
“Despise not any man/woman and do not deem anything unworthy of consideration, for there is no man/woman that does not have his/her hour and no thing that does not have its place.”
Under the ADA, employers must do the following:
- Make existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities
- Restructure job, modify work schedules and/or reassign to a vacant position when needed
- Acquire or modify equipment or devices, provide accomodations for examinations, adjust training materials or policies and provide qualified translators/interpreters
Individuals with disabilities have an equal right to access high-quality, affordable healthcare that meets the specific needs of the individual and includes mental health services. Check out our section dedicated to health services.
FloridaHATS is a program of Florida Department of Health, Children’s Medical Services. Their mission is to ensure successful transition from pediatric to adult health care for all youth and young adults in Florida, including those with disabilities, chronic health conditions or other special health care needs. Search here for health care programs and providers in your area that serve young adults, including those with disabilities or chronic health conditions.
Mount Sinai’s Adult Autism Clinic dedicated by the Makarov Foundation provides primary and specialty medical care for individuals age 18 and older with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. The staff has been trained by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) to meet the special medical needs of adults on the autism spectrum. Mount Sinai is the only hospital in South Florida that provides medical care in a hospital setting for the adult autism population, ages 18 and over. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (305) 674-2430.
The Mailman Clinic of Child Development offer a team centered approach to health care and intervention for developmental disabilities: Especially helpful in guiding parents/caregivers as they learn about interventions, programs and agencies available within the University of Miami and in the community where the family lives. A Family Navigator will be assigned to the family to explain, guide and connect them with the right resources based on their needs and concerns. The service is free of charge and covers the lifespan.
FIU Embrace is a university-wide initiative that promotes health, wellness, and overall functioning for adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities (ID), and other neurodevelopmental disorders (OND). It seeks to help these persons lead healthy lives and maximize their individual potential across their lifespan. Services include health care, legal services, and secondary education.
The University of Miami’s Autism Spectrum Assessment Clinic (ASAC) offers assessment and a variety of therapeutic programs and services for individuals with ASD or related social-communication difficulties. Therapies at ASAC focus on improving social, emotional and behavioral functioning.
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics located in Hollywood, Florida provides comprehensive services for children experiencing developmental or behavior problems.
JAFCO serves children from birth through age 22 diagnosed with a developmental disability, including autism, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, spina bifida or Prader-Willi. They offer therapeutic services, child enrichment services, family support, respite care, support groups and parent training. They also offer Camp Kehilla, a special needs camp for children ages 3 – 22 with developmental disabilities.
Neuro Network Partners, located at the Neurodevelopment Program at Nicklaus Children’s Dan Marino Outpatient Center, is a group of physicians have specialized expertise in fields including epilepsy, headaches, traumatic brain injury, neurocritical care, neuromuscular disorders, cerebral palsy, movement disorders, autism, developmental disorders, behavioral problems, sleep disturbances, and neuro-immunologic disorders. Dr. Roberto F Tuchman, Chief, Department of Neurology, Director of Autism Program and Neurodevelopment Program at Nicklaus Children’s Dan Marino Outpatient Center in Weston, FL.
The Federal law protects the rights of housing for people with disabilities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. Its coverage includes private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance and State and local government housing. It is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the disability of that individual, an individual associated with the buyer or renter or an individual who intends to live in the residence. Other covered activities may include financing, zoning practices, new construction design and advertising.
The Fair Housing Act requires owners of housing facilities to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities equal housing opportunities. For example, a landlord with a “no pets” policy may be required to grant an exception to this rule and allow an individual who is blind to keep a guide dog in the residence. The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space, as well as to common use spaces. (However, the landlord is not required to pay for these changes.) The Act further requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for persons with disabilities. This includes accessible common use areas, doors that are wide enough for wheelchairs, kitchens and bathrooms that allow a person using a wheelchair to maneuver and other adaptable features within the units.
Disability Rights Florida offers a comprehensive checklist to help you think about the necessary changes.
Turning 18.org offers many services to families with individuals with disabilities as they plan for the future.
ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, were created as a result of the passage of the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 or better known as the ABLE Act. The beneficiary of the account is the account owner, and income earned by the accounts will not be taxed. Contributions to the account, which can be made by any person (the account beneficiary, family, friends Special Needs Trust or Pooled Trust), must be made using post-taxed dollars and will not be tax deductible for purposes of federal taxes; however, some states may allow for state income tax deductions for contributions made to an ABLE account.
Step Up For Students is a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer five scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) and the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) for lower-income families, the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs, the Hope Scholarship for public school students who are bullied or victims of violence and the Reading Scholarship Accounts for public school students in third through fifth grade who struggle with reading.
Agency for Persons with Disabilities serves Floridians with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida, Prader-Willi Syndrome and Phelan-McDermid syndrome. Assists individuals with their application to receive Medicaid Waiver funding. Provides home and community-based services waiver, family and supported living waiver, Consumer Directed Care Plus and living facilities for people with developmental disabilities.
The Florida Department of Children and Families determines eligibility and ongoing case management of food assistance (food stamps), temporary cash assistance and Medicaid for families with children or older adults who are blind or disabled. Here is the link for Florida programs and services for people with disabilities.
The Social Security Administration Manages applications for disabilities (SSI, SSDI). Provides information regarding benefits on a walk-in or appointment basis.
Here is an overview of the application process for disability benefits if you are applying for a child under 18 years of age.
Here is an overview for Disability benefits for people over 18 years of age but who were diagnosed before 22 years of age.
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program that helps people who have physical or mental disabilities get or keep a job. VR mission is to help people with disabilities find meaningful careers. They offer career counseling, financial assistance with tuition and job counseling.
Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service Life Planning Program offers educational seminars, individual consultations, advocacy and emotional support to families who have a family member with any type of disability, including intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illness and TBI. The program assists families with making viable and appropriate future plans for their family members.
Alpert JFS’ Pooled Trust allows disabled individuals and seniors to place income and or assets that are over government benefit limit requirements for Medicaid into the trust, so that they can qualify for much needed government benefits and be instantly eligible.
The Arc of South Florida serves the over 1,000 Miami-Dade County citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc of South Florida provides a variety of programs and services over the life span from therapy, adult day programs, housing, and life planning.
The Hebrew Free Loan Association of South Florida, Inc. (HFLA), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and offers interest-free loans to Jewish individuals and families in need and who may not qualify for normal loan resources. HFLA personal loans of up to $5,000 provide financial assistance for situations such as but not limited to emergencies, medical and dental expenses, car and housing repairs, life-cycle events, early childhood and continuing adult education, divorce, immigration costs, victims of domestic violence, mortgage and rental costs, etc.
Americans with Disabilities Act
American with Disabilities Information
National Fair Housing Alliance