Information and Referral Services
Live Assistance for People with Disabilities
DDS Information and Referral Services Team connects callers to live, professionally certified, Community Resource Specialists specifically trained in disability services, who:
- inform and educate on services available statewide;
- screen for appropriate services and supports;
- assist in navigating and connecting to programs and services based on individualized needs;
- attend disability-related community events and speaking engagements throughout the state; and
- work in partnership with some benefit programs such as NJ WorkAbility and Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS).
Nationally Certified Community Resource Specialists (CRS) are available during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, to provide information and assist with navigating State and County Services available to individuals with disabilities. In addition to providing live assistance over the phone, Community Resource Specialists attend public events throughout the State to disseminate information and answer questions.
All DDS Community Resource Specialist hold certifications from the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), the internationally recognized professional credentialing program for community I & R providers. Certification consists of an initial exam and the completion of a minimum of 10 documented hours of continued training every two years.
Contact a DDS Community Resource Specialist: 1-888-285-3036
Office Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm Monday - Friday
I & R Events
In addition to providing services over the phone, DDS Community Resource Specialists host tables at many community events throughout New Jersey, where they are available to distribute information and to answer your questions directly.
The types of community events we attend regularly include the following:
- School to Adult Life Transition Fairs
- Disabilities Awareness Events
Please feel free to stop by our table to introduce yourself during our next event!
See our upcoming events schedule.
Are You a Non-Profit or State Funded Agency Interested in Having an I & R Specialist Host a Table at Your Next Event?
Ask the I & R Specialists - Frequently Asked Questions
An acquaintance of mine suggested that I might be interested in attending something called the “Abilities Expo” – what is this?
The Abilities Expo is the largest disability event in the state. It is a three day family friendly event held annually toward the end of April or beginning of May, at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison. The Abilities Expo provides consumers, families, and professionals in the disability field an opportunity to visit hundreds of exhibitors featuring a wide variety of products, services, and workshops, all under one roof.
The Division of Disability Services hosts a booth at the expo every year. We encourage our callers to attend. Admission is always free! For more information, visit: www.abilities.com
ADA Accessibility - "Grandfathered"??
I have a mobility impairment, use crutches, and am unable to climb stairs. I recently went to a restaurant with some friends and the entrance had no ramp, forcing us to go elsewhere for dinner. When we complained to the manager about this problem, he said that because theirs was an older building, they were “grandfathered in” and were not subject to the accessibility requirements of Americans with Disabilities Act. Is this true?
This is a common response from businesses to a common complaint. Let me clarify a couple of things. No building is “grandfathered in” and exempt from Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements because of its age. There are, however, other reasons why a place of public accommodation might not be required to make the modifications necessary to provide access to patrons with disabilities.
Both the ADA and the New Jersey Barrier-Free Sub code stipulate that a building which was constructed prior to the passage of the ADA must be modified unless the business can demonstrate that the necessary modifications would result in an exceptional financial burden or that making these modifications would structurally destabilize the building or could not possibly be constructed to code within the available space. Exceptions are also legally allowed for buildings which have been designated as historical landmarks, thus protecting them from alteration.
Unfortunately, some business owners use minimal knowledge of the law to assume that their older buildings need not be modified because their construction predates the ADA. If you encounter a business which is not accessible, I would encourage you to make a complaint to the Office of Regulatory Affairs. This Office, under the New Jersey Division of Codes and Standards, is responsible for enforcement of the Barrier-Free Sub code. They can be reached at (609) 984-7672. This Division has the authority to investigate and make an official determination as to whether the property manager should be required to make modifications to make the building accessible.
Airport Security and People with Disabilities
I haven’t been on an airplane since I began using a prosthetic limb. I’m going to be flying soon and am concerned about what to expect and what my rights are when going through security.
Of course all airplane travelers, both with and without disabilities, must go through security screenings. By federal law, security screeners can require you to go through metal detection, but they cannot separate a passenger with a disability from his or her mobility device (wheelchair, walker, cane, prosthesis, etc..) or service animal during the procedure. If passing through the gate presents a logistical problem, the staff may instead use a hand-held wand. Security personnel do have a right to thoroughly inspect mobility devices, medical equipment, and any apparatus worn by a service animal, but any traveler has a right to request that such an inspection be done in a private area, out of view of other passengers, and by security staff of one’s own sex.
If at any time during your screening you feel that you are being treated inappropriately, you may request that a Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO) be brought to the scene to resolve the dispute. The Air Carriers Access Act, which is a federal law requiring airlines to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities, mandates that a CRO be immediately available to mediate between airlines and passengers with disabilities.
For detailed information on traveling by air, check out the information for passengers with disabilities at the websites of the Federal Aviation Administration (www.faa.gov) and the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov).
Disclosure of a Disability to Prospective Employer
I have a psychiatric diagnosis. I am currently taking medication and undergoing therapy. Right now, I’m looking for a job and setting up job interviews. What, if anything, should I disclose to a prospective employer?
The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require an individual with a disability to self-disclose during a job interview process. If an applicant with any kind of disability meets all of the legitimate requirements for a position and can perform all of the essential functions of the job with or without the provision of a “reasonable accommodation”, then discussion of the disability need not come into the interview. If you will be able to fully handle the position’s responsibilities if an employer provides a reasonable accommodation, then you should request that accommodation in writing once you are hired.
Be aware, however, that the ADA specifically protects “qualified individuals with disabilities”. No law requires an employer to hire anyone, with or without a disability, who cannot do the job as it is described in the job description. Anyone interviewing for a position has a responsibility to be honest when describing his or her abilities and qualifications, and as an individual with a disability you are not protected by the law if you are hired but failed to disclose information with would have legitimately disqualified you from the job. “Discrimination” is the failure – for reasons of prejudice - to hire the most qualified applicant for the job, not failure to hire a non-qualified applicant.
If you feel have more specific questions, or if you feel that you have experienced discrimination during a hiring process, you may contact the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4900 or www.eeoc.gov. The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for interpreting and enforcing civil rights laws in the workplace.
Accessible Parking - Child with Autism
My child has autism. One of my concerns is that he sometimes tries to run when I open the car door. Do we qualify for disability parking privileges in NJ?
Unfortunately, the State of New Jersey will not issue accessible parking placards or plates based exclusively on behaviors, like running away when a car door is opened. The state requires that an individual must have one or more of the following circumstances in order to make application for accessible parking:
- Has lost the use of one or more limbs as a consequence of paralysis, amputation, or other permanent disability.
- Is severely and permanently disabled and cannot walk without the use of or assistance from a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair or other assistive device.
- Suffers from lung disease to such an extent that the applicant’s forced (respiratory) expiratory volume for one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than sixty mm/hg on room air at rest; oruses portable oxygen.
- Has a cardiac condition to the extent that the applicant’s functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to standards set by the American Heart Association.
- Is severely and permanently limited in the ability to walk because of an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition; or cannot walk two hundred feet without stopping to rest.
- Has a permanent sight impairment of both eyes as certified by the N.J. Commission of the Blind (placard only).
Please visit the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for more information.
Accessible Parking - Paying the Parking Meter
Is it true that as long as I have an accessible plates or placard for my car, I can park in a metered space without putting any money in the meter?
No. Everyone must pay to park when using a metered space, including those with disabilities. A vehicle with an accessible placard/plate must put the appropriate amount of money in the meter. If the vehicle will occupy the space for more than the maximum amount of time allotted on the meter, the driver must fill the meter to the maximum amount allowed. This will permit the vehicle to occupy the space for up to 24 hours without having to come back to refill the meter. A municipality may require the vehicle to vacate the space after 24 hours.
For more information related to parking privileges for individuals with disabilities, please review DDS' Guide to Accessible Parking (English) (Spanish).
Accessible Parking and Snow
I am a driver with a disability who has a placard for accessible parking. I’m often frustrated in the winter, when I try to go out shopping, to find that snow which has been cleared from the parking lot has been piled into the accessible parking spaces. This doesn’t seem fair – are businesses allowed to do this?
Access to parking spaces, curb cuts, or other improvements designed to provide accessibility, shall be unobstructed. Owners or controllers of public parking areas must remove snow or ice from these areas within 24 hours after the weather condition causing the snow and/or ice ceases. Violation of this act is punishable with penalties of $500 to $1,000 (C.394:4-207.9). If you are faced with a situation like this again, your first course of action should be to politely bring the problem to the attention of the manager of the business. Often the pile of snow ends up where it shouldn’t be simply because of ignorance of the law and because no one was thinking about the barrier that was being created, and when confronted, a manager will be glad to correct the mistake. If management seems uninterested in having the snow cleared or if the problem recurs at this location, you may contact the local police department for enforcement and/or file a complaint with the NJ Division on Civil Rights.
For more information related to parking privileges for individuals with disabilities, please review DDS' Guide to Accessible Parking (English) (Spanish).
Housing Discrimination - Condominium Bylaws
I have a mobility impairment and I live in a condominium complex. Some of the bylaws seem discriminatory or at least very inconvenient for a person with a disability. What are my rights in this situation?
A condo association certainly has the right to develop a set of bylaws which facilitate the smooth operation of the complex and maintain an acceptable quality of life. However, any bylaw which conflicts with a state or federal law is probably legally invalid. For example, the association may set rules for the color that a resident must use to paint a porch, but they may not ban ramps at entrances when there is sufficient space to install them in accordance with building codes because they are “unsightly.”
Your rights as a renter or buyer with a disability are protected by the federal Fair Housing Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The NJ LAD is enforced by the NJ Division on Civil Rights. For more information, please refer to the following: Disability Accomodation Rights Fact Sheet.
See also: New Jersey Department of Community Affairs or Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Housing Discrimination - Due to Low Credit Score
I am collecting Social Security Disability benefits and am attempting to rent an apartment. I had some financial difficulties while I was waiting for my disability determination and now I have a less than perfect credit score, which has caused a couple of apartment complexes to turn me down. Since I have a disability, doesn’t this constitute discrimination?
Property managers have a legal right to accept or reject an applicant based on financial criteria. Remember that the rental offices are turning you down based on your credit score, not your disability, so they are not engaged in discriminatory behavior. Unfortunately, many individuals with disabilities are in a similar situation.
You may want to try to discuss the reason for your credit score with the person from whom you are attempting to rent an apartment. If your credit up to the onset of your disability was good, and you’ve begun to get back on track since you’ve started collecting benefits, it’s possible that if they understand the reason for your current credit score they may be willing to enter into a lease.
You may contact one of the several non-profit consumer credit counseling agencies which serve New Jersey residents. A consumer credit counselor can examine your credit report to determine what is negatively affecting your credit score, and can then help you to develop and implement a plan within your budget to work through your debts and improve your overall rating.
Housing Discrimination - Landlord Requirements
Now that I’m using a scooter, my landlord is refusing to pay to put a ramp on my porch. Isn’t he required under the ADA to do this?
The law which regulating your situation is the Fair Housing Act. What this federal law states specifically, is that while a landlord is not required to make modifications to a rental property, he or she is required to allow a tenant with a disability to modify the property at the tenant’s own expense. The landlord may also require you to restore the property to its original state when you vacate. The refusal of a landlord to make and/or pay for modifications does not constitute discrimination. It is discriminatory to refuse to allow a tenant to make reasonable and appropriate modifications. If you’d like to read up on the Fair Housing Act, the entire text of this law is available on the following page: US Department of Justice
Low Cost Car Insurance
I’m having a hard time affording my car insurance. I have NJ FamilyCare. I’ve heard there’s some sort of low-cost insurance available to me. Do you know anything about that?
You’re referring to the Special Automobile Insurance Policy (SAIP). SAIP is an initiative to help make limited auto insurance coverage available to drivers who are eligible for Federal Medicaid with hospitalization. Such drivers can obtain a medical coverage-only policy at a cost of $365 a year. SAIP can be obtained at most insurance agencies. If you're not sure how to get one, you can call the Personal Automobile Insurance Plan (PAIP) customer service number at 1-800-652-2471, or search for a PAIP producer. Effective 01/01/2011, National Continental Insurance Company is the carrier that writes SAIP policies.
Service dogs - How do they assist?
Since my spinal cord injury, it’s been suggested to me that I could benefit from having a service dog. How can a service dog assist me, and where would I obtain one?
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Service dogs provide may assist in various ways. Examples may include the following: picking items up off the floor, pulling a wheelchair, detecting low blood sugar or seizure activity, seeing for a person who is visually impaired or hearing for a person who is deaf, or reducing anxiety for those with post traumatic stress disorder.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), a place of public accommodation cannot refuse admittance of a service animal when it is accompanying a person with a disability. The ADA/NJLAD requires that places of public accommodation (which include privately-owned businesses that serve the public) allow people with disabilities to bring service animals into any area in which customers are generally allowed.
The ADA/NJLAD does not require that an animal be certified or have special identification, but it is not inappropriate for a business to ask if an animal which does not have an identifying vest or a special harness is a service animal rather than a pet. The business may not, however, insist on proof of certification before permitting admittance of a service animal accompanying a person with a disability.
For more information, see: Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA
Tax Assistance for People with Disabilities
I have a disability and I have questions about doing my federal tax returns. Can you assist with tax advice?
Unfortunately, the Division of Disability Services is not qualified to answer tax questions. Instead, please contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or 800-829-1040.
If you believe your tax issue cannot be handled online or by phone, and you want face-to-face tax assistance, please contact your local tax payer assistance center.
Additionally, your local Independent Living Center may be able to direct you to a local tax clinic which can provide you with one-on-one assistance.
Assistance with Dental Services
I have a disability and am considered low-income. Dental services are not covered under my insurance. I have a toothache and am in need of treatment. Is there any assistance available?
There are a few programs which may be of assistance to you.
Through The Dental Lifeline Network of New Jersey, dentists in New Jersey have volunteered to provide comprehensive dental care at no charge to people of all ages who are permanently disabled, elderly or medically fragile and lack adequate income to pay for needed dental care. Qualifying individuals generally pay nothing, but occasionally, people in a position to pay for part of their care may be encouraged to do so, especially when laboratory work is necessary. If dental insurance and/or NJ FamilyCare cover any portion of your dental problems, you will be asked to exhaust this resource.
Additionally, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) provides a full range of oral health services while training the next generation of dentists. At their clinics, they offer high-quality care at rates much lower than private practices, but services are not free. RSDM accepts Medicaid plans, but we do not accept private insurance. For more information, please visit them on the web using the above link or call (973) 972-4242.
Also, the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, in conjunction with the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, developed a dental provider database listing dentists and dental practices that have taken steps to accommodate those with developmental disabilities.