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What if a disability makes it hard for me to apply or comply with DTA rules?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2023

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires DTA to provide equal access to programs and services to qualified people with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12132; see 106 C.M.R.§§360.250, 701.390.

Under the ADA you are a person with a qualifying disability if you have a disability that substantially impairs a major life activity, such as learning, understanding, walking, working, breathing, or caring for yourself. Disabilities include physical or mental health impairments, and intellectual disabilities. A temporary health problem like a broken leg may not be a disability under the ADA.

You can be disabled under the ADA even if you are not receiving any benefits on the basis of disability and even if DTA has decided you do not qualify for an exemption because of disability.

If a disability makes it hard for you do the things DTA asks you to do to get and keep your benefits, you can ask DTA for a reasonable accommodation. An accommodation may be appropriate if your disability makes it hard for you to:

  • Understand DTA’s notices and form
  • Give DTA the verifications it asks for
  • Communicate with DTA
  • Meet deadlines or a specific rule or requirement

DTA must tailor the accommodation to what you need because of disability. Examples of accommodations can include:

  • Giving you extra help to meet a rule
  • Giving you extra time to meet a deadline
  • Changing a requirement or rule
  • Naming someone to get copies of mail DTA sends you, or talk to DTA on your behalf (See What is an Authorized Representative?)
  • Providing an auxiliary aid (such as an ASL interpreter or large print notices)

Example 1: Because of your learning disability, you need help understanding DTA notices and help completing the paperwork that DTA asks you to complete. DTA should accommodate you by explaining notices to you and by filling out the forms with you instead of requiring you to fill forms out by yourself. 

Example 2: You have a hearing, vision, or other condition that makes it hard for you to communicate.  DTA should ask you what kind of help you prefer to communicate with DTA. This help is usually called an auxiliary aid. DTA should try to provide your preferred auxiliary aid or work with you to find an acceptable alternative.  

Example 3: Because of your disability, you have a hard time communicating with third parties. You need DTA to contact your health care provider to complete the special ABAWD Medical Report.

Troubleshooting

  • When to request: An accommodation can be requested at any time, including after DTA has issued a notice stopping or lowering your benefits
  • Scope of accommodations: DTA cannot require you to accept a specific accommodation (such as requiring a helper or authorized representative to act for the client). Instead, DTA should work with you to find an accommodation that you agree to.
  • Limits to accommodations: DTA is not required to provide an accommodation that fundamentally alters its program rules. For example, DTA cannot waive the federal SNAP law that requires a person with disabilities to receive a disability-based benefit, even if they cannot get SSI, EAEDC, MassHealth as disabled.

DTA Online Guide: See Appendix G for links to the DTA's BEACON 5 Online Guide for this section.

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