ANPA Issues Alert on Disabilities Act

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ANPA issues alert on disabilities act

A year ago Congress passed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and the American Newspaper Publishers Association is advising members now about the implications when it takes effect next year.

The act prohibits employment discrimination against the physically and mentally impaired who are capable of performing essential job functions. It also requires that places of public accommodation, including those offered by private organizations, be accessible to disabled persons.

When the act takes effect July 26, 1991, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will handle allegations of employment discrimination and the U.S. Department of Justice will enforce public accommodation provisions. Discrimination provisions apply to employers of 25 or more workers until July 26, 1994, when it will be extended to employers of as few as 15 workers.

ANPA has issued a "Workplace Alert" to familiarize members with the law, its likely application to newspapers, and ways to prepare for its implementation.

The ADA defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities."

ANPA says the law "likely will recognize musculoskeletal disease" as a disability. Such diseases include carpal tunnel syndrome and other cumulative trauma disorders or repetitive strain injuries now complained of by newspaper personnel in various departments.

Disability also extends to those with such ailments as back problems, high blood pressure, communicable diseases and to recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

The alert separately outlines aspects of the act's employment provisions and its public accommodations provisions. The first requires employers to make "reasonable accommodation" for physical or mental limitations of disabled persons who are otherwise qualified and can perform a job's essential functions.

The ADA makes exception for instances of "undue hardship," where reasonably accommodating the disabled employee presents a "significant difficulty or expense."

Reasonable acommodations may include changes to the workplace or work schedule, reassignment and equipment modification. Some of the currently available possibilities include adjustable furniture, braille keyboards, voice-activated computers, signing interpreters, readers and widened aisles.

ANPA noted that "production areas of the future will contain less labor-intensive equipment that conceivably could be operated by wheelchair-bound workers."

The act prohibits discrimination with respect to "hiring, advancement, discipline, discharge, compensation, training or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment," according to the alert. …