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Brain Injury Insider

Episode 74: Accommodations Following a Brain Injury

Accommodations following an acquired or traumatic brain injury should not be viewed as a favor

Following a traumatic or acquired brain injury, accommodations may be necessary to assist survivors overcome and offset injury related limitations.

Brain injury is considered a disability under landmark civil rights legislation for the disabled known as the Americans with Disabilities Act or “ADA” for short. 

It is a civil right and accommodations should not be looked upon with disfavor or disdain.

So, why am I discussing accommodations this week?  Because I am disturbed at the way the use of assisted technology for someone with a speech and language impairment following a stroke is being treated by his opponent in an important Senatorial race and how the media is contributing to stigmatizing brain injury survivors.

This week’s brain injury insider is not a political statement or a political endorsement.  It is a response to the further victimization of brain injury survivors.

So, let’s get into it.

Last week, John Fetterman, the democratic US Senate candidate in Pennsylvania utilized assisted technology to read on a computer screen questions posed by a reporter because of auditory processing issues he has following a stroke.  The media said Fetterman could not understand the questions and implied they were doing him a favor.  His opponent declared he was incompetent.   

Accommodations to assist a stroke survivor or any individual with an acquired or traumatic brain injury in reading, in understanding oral communication,and to aid in speech, do not differ from wheelchairs, canes or crutches to assist those following a physical disability.

A brain injury survivor may need a memo note pad or even a tape recorder as a memory aid. A brain injury survivor may need specially designed prism glasses to assist in reading because of word convergence.  A brain injury survivor returning to work may need some quiet break times, a distraction free workspace, or instructions provided in written format rather than orally.

Would anyone say anything disparaging about a blind individual requiring written material be provided in braille or a deaf individual requiring sign language?

A brain injury is an invisible injury affecting the lives of millions of Americans.   

Accommodations may be necessary to assist survivors in leading normal, productive lives. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discriminatory conduct against any person with a disability including disabilities caused by an acquired or traumatic brain injury and

requires equal opportunity and reasonable accommodations in services and supports provided by any government entity, in places of public accommodation, in employment, in education and in transportation. 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability.

The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency, including the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services.

These organizations and employers include many hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers and human service programs.
Since each brain injury is unique.  Accommodations must be tailored to the individual needs of the person. 

Accommodations are also frequently required when students return to school following a brain injury.

Again, these accommodations are not a favor to students, they are a right students are entitled to under the Americans with Disability Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act known as the “IDEA” as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

In school these accommodations may include:

  • Allowing additional time to complete in-class assignments
  • Allowing for extra or extended breaks
  • Testing accommodations
  • Providing students with instructor’s notes or help for a student to obtain quality notes from other students
  • Allowing student to audio record lectures for later playback
  • Providing both oral and written instructions; and clarify instructions
  • For lectures, providing student with an outline or study guide when available
  • Allowing use of a portable computer with spelling and grammar checks for assignments and note-taking
  • In grading work, reducing emphasis on spelling and grammatical errors
  • Providing preferential seating at or near the front of the classroom
  • Exempting a student from reading aloud in front of classmates because of impaired reading skills.

This is a short list of the many accommodations that may be necessary when a student returns to learn.   

So, let me say this again, brain injury is an invisible injury.

Survivors of an acquired or traumatic brain injury may receive accommodations, not because someone is doing them a favor, but because it is a civil right guaranteed by law.

Survivors of an acquired or traumatic brain injury may receive accommodations, not because someone is doing them a favor, but because it is a civil right guaranteed by law.

Let’s remove the stigma associated with assisting a brain injury survivor.

Audio version

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Brain Injury Insider

michael kaplen
Brain Injury Insider is a weekly video update by The Brain Injury Law Firm ®. We cover the latest news and developments in traumatic brain injury, concussion, and brain injury law.