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Frequently Asked Questions About Obtaining Assistive Technology And Services from the DRC

Questions

Answers

The DRC is happy to accept requests from any DOT employee or job applicant. You may telephone, email, fax or stop by the center and complete an accommodation request form that includes some preliminary questions about what you are seeking, where you work, and how we can contact you. If you need assistance, the DRC staff is available to help you complete the form.
 
The DRC was created to provide reasonable accommodations for DOT employees and job applicants with disabilities. The first step will be your manager determining whether or not you have a disability as it is defined by the law. An individual with a disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The DRC can provide resources that will assist your manager with making this determination.
 
The definition contains some key words and phrases - impairment, substantially limiting, and major life activities. Each one is needed to meet the definition--there must be an underlying condition (or impairment), the condition must limit one or more major life activities (like walking, seeing or hearing, learning, breathing, for example) and the limitations must be substantial.
 
Usually, it is pretty straightforward. Often a disability is obvious, and determining whether an individual meets the criteria is easy. Many conditions are hidden, however, but can nevertheless substantially limit some important life activities. Others may be inconvenient or uncomfortable, but not substantially limit a major life activity.
 
If a condition isn't obvious, your manager might ask you for documentation from a medical professional about the nature and duration of your disability and how it limits your activities. Everything the manager requests in this regard is confidential and may not be mixed in with other records about your employment. If it makes sense to do so, the manager will ask for a medical release from you to go directly to your medical professional for specific information or you can make the contact yourself. The manager shall only ask what is necessary to make an appropriate determination.
 
The DRC's mission is to help you and your supervisor identify and secure reasonable accommodations that will enable you to perform the essential functions of your job. Our next step will be to look at your job to determine what those "essential functions" are. We will talk with you and your supervisor about your duties. We may also look at your job description. We'll also talk about how your disability affects specific aspects of your job, so we can best identify appropriate assistive technology or services. In certain circumstances where the impact of your condition isn't clear, we might ask to see your medical information or to communicate with your provider to clarify specific issues.
 
We will probably be talking about accommodations all along the way, but after we get the information about your job and the impact of your disability on performing it, we are really ready to roll. We will look at a variety of options and may arrange a "test drive" of some choices. If you need a computer accommodation, we will want to bring in your Help Desk, to be sure the accommodation is compatible with the systems your organization is using. If something is needed to amplify your phone, we will want to be sure we have the correct information about that phone.
 
Our goal is to work with you and your supervisor to find accommodations that are effective for you in your work environment. Employee preferences are an important consideration in this process and any item you have seen or believe might be appropriate should be brought to our attention. The DRC analysts make every effort to be familiar with the latest technology, and, as a result, may be able to identify more options that you may want to explore. We'll also help ensure that the item you have identified is compatible with your existing equipment. It's important to note that we can't always provide the exact item you've identified, but we will always provide the items or services that best meet your needs in performing your job.
 
The DRC analyst will prepare an Action Plan report summarizing the findings of our "team effort" and forward it to you and your manager for review and signature. In more complex situations, we may also prepare an interim Action Plan, documenting our efforts and any temporary "accommodations" measures that were put in place as we searched for a more accurate and permanent solution. When both of you have signed the plan, we are ready to proceed with the procurement. We may purchase items and services with a credit card, contract or via our inter-agency agreement with DOD/CAP so the procurement process itself should be relatively simple in most circumstances. We will coordinate with you to get the item delivered and will work with your supervisor and the Help Desk, Facilities, etc. (if necessary) to assist with installation issues.
 
Training in using the accommodation or assistive technology you receive is all part of the service. We will procure the training to be scheduled at your convenience and follow up to make sure that you are comfortable using the accommodation after the training is over.
 
Since the accommodation is job related, it belongs to the organization that employs you and, if appropriate, goes into their property inventory. Should you move on to another job in DOT where the accommodation would continue to meet your needs, you can generally take the accommodation with you unless it is built into the infrastructure of the building. Likewise, if you move to another Federal job where the accommodation would work for you, the property may be transferred to your new agency.
 
The DRC is centrally funded by contributions from the operating administrations based on their total civilian employment, not by the number of people with disabilities that they employ. No individual manager needs to worry about paying for most accommodations for new hires or current employees from their office budget. However, each operating administration is responsible for maintaining the equipment provided to you and a budget for maintenance, upgrades and possible accommodations that are needed but not provided by the DRC.
 
Our goal is to respond to all requests as quickly as possible. However, every situation is unique. For people with obvious disabilities and straightforward accommodation needs, the process may be handled promptly. For complicated situations involving collection of information, testing of options and multiple accommodations, more time is involved but every effort is made to expedite the process. We know that until your needs are met, you may not be able to fully do your job.
 
Definitely. You can help by filling out the request form with as much information as possible and by providing any information you have about the limitations you're experiencing or your preferred accommodation that you think might prove helpful. You can also help by following up with your providers to ensure that they provide the information to us or your supervisor promptly. Often it is waiting for documentation that managers need to make determinations or to substantiate requested accommodations has been one of the primary causes of delays in meeting our customers' needs.
 
While security policies vary somewhat from one building to another, in general DOT security policy requires that visitors be escorted by the person they are visiting at all times. The person who "signs for" the visitor at the guard desk is responsible for that visitor at all times until the visitor leaves.
 
For several practical reasons, DRC does not provide the escort for interpreters, personal attendants, readers, or others who are here to provide service to our employees. Escorting the service provider is a role and responsibility that should be addressed by the person who requests the service. If the person requesting the service is unable to escort the vendor or arrange for an escort, the employee cannot receive the accommodation he or she needs from the agency.
 
Because there are frequent occasions when the contact person provided does not answer the telephone when the guard desk calls, DRC requires two alternate contacts for each service request. Please ensure that the contacts you are providing will be available to answer the phone when the service provider arrives and can escort the provider to the location of the event. It is not possible for DRC to provide an escort for your service providers. You also should not assume that the service provider will have a contractor badge.
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Last updated: Monday, April 23, 2012