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International Zero Discrimination Day – Tips for Self-advocacy and Self-determination

Have you ever noticed just how many national and international celebratory days there are on the calendar? Join the Bridges Helpdesk this month to delight in some of our favorite themed days with us! Topics include:

  • March 1: International Zero Discrimination Day #ZeroDiscriminationDay
  • March 8: National Proofreading Day #NationalProofreadingDay
  • March 15: World Social Work Day #WSWD
  • March 22: National Goof Off Day #NationalGoofOffDay
  • March 29: National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day #MomAndPopBusinessOwnersDay

Today, we will discuss International Zero Discrimination Day and the protective laws that this day celebrates.

**Please note that this post is a brief overview, and there are a variety of other laws which protect people with disabilities on the state and national levels. If you are unsure about your rights, please feel free to reach out to the Bridges Helpdesk, which is always confidential.

Why It Matters

If you attend a public school, then you likely have a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). You might be getting class assignments in different formats than the rest of your peers so that you can access them. Public school students with disabilities are guaranteed by law a free appropriate public education (also called FAPE). High school is a great time to learn what access looks like for you and to develop your own productivity system, but the way you get accessible materials will change once you graduate.

When you leave high school, you will no longer have an IEP, but there are other laws that will protect you against discrimination. Sometimes in life, you will find that you have to be your own advocate or rely upon trusted mentors for guidance so that you can hold people accountable for the access to which you are entitled. In order to do this, it is critical that you understand what discrimination looks like and are aware of the laws that protect you as a person with blindness or low vision.

Federal Laws Prohibiting Disability Discrimination

The protections of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require the individual with a disability to provide proof of the disability and to affirmatively request disability-related accommodations.

These disability-related changes are called “reasonable Accommodations” and are changes you need in order to participate in and/or have access to the activity or service that you cannot access because of your disability.

  • Reasonableness depends on the circumstances. While you are free to request specific accommodations (such as hard copy braille), different accommodations (such as an accessible electronic document) may suffice as a reasonable accommodation. Also, the entity can refuse a requested accommodation if it would cause an “undue hardship” to the entity (this typically refers to cost and difficulty in light of the resources of the entity). Thus, a requested accommodation might be reasonable for a successful chain of restaurants but might be unreasonable for a small, local restaurant (though a different, lower-cost accommodation might be reasonable for that local restaurant).
  • Accommodations refer to what changes are needed. Accommodations cannot result in a “fundamental alteration” of the program or service; you are entitled to access but not to changes in the content.

State Laws

  • In the state of Maryland, disability is a protected class. This means that there are laws protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
  • Maryland White Cane Law (2010 Maryland Code, Title 7, sections 7-704 through 7-708) ensures
    • Right to use a white cane, both indoors and outdoors (Section 7-704)
    • Protections for individuals who use service animals (Section 7-705)
  • Maryland state law prohibits discrimination in employment (including the hiring process), housing, and public accommodations (including businesses open to the public).

To learn more, please contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk or visit the Disability Overview web page of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.

Dig Deeper

The first in a four-part series: Life After IEPs Series.

Please check out the Free Bridges Helpdesk’s Life After IEPs, a four-part series published in May 2021.

Part 1: When Do Things Change, and Why?

Part 2: Changes in Rights to Instructional Services

Part 3: Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

Part 4: Changes in Rights to Accommodations and Modifications

Conclusion

In the post-high school world, you have the responsibilities to (1) request accommodations, (2) provide documentation of your disability, and (3) collaborate about possible alternative accommodations. Some places of higher education or employers may choose to create a document listing your accommodations requests, and you should keep the written or electronic records of all of your correspondences regarding your accommodations.

Any documentation that the organization decides to have on file regarding your accommodations is not the same as an IEP or 504 Plan at school because it does not require regular check-in meetings. It will be your responsibility to raise your voice and advocate if you need accommodations, and this can be intimidating at first. Just remember that these are rights to which you are entitled, and refusals to provide requested accommodations may constitute discrimination under both state and national law. Please remember that the Free Bridges Helpdesk is always here to help you understand advocacy strategies and to support you.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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