Submitted by Maggie Sims on Mon, 03/06/2023
Be sure to know what is and isn’t appropriate to ask.

It’s been said that some things are better to get out in the open, including those embarrassing or awkward moments in our lives.  It happens that on March 18, the nation officially recognizes National Awkward Moments Day.  (Yes, there is a national day for everything - including National Everything Day!) The purpose for observing National Awkward Moments Day is to admit and laugh at your mistakes, learn from them, and move on.  

We all have had our awkward moments.  We may have said the wrong thing or asked an inappropriate question. Usually, this just leads to a red face and maybe the need for an apology. But under the ADA, there are some questions that would be considered not just awkward, but downright illegal.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government programs, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Since the ADA is such a wide-ranging law, there can be a lot of opportunity for awkward questions from employers, prospective employers, service providers, and businesses open to the public.  When is a question merely offensive versus discriminatory? Let’s look at some inappropriate questions that we should all be familiar with.  

Common Employment Questions that are on the ADA “NO” list:

• “Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?”

• “Do you have a valid State Driver’s License – Yes/No”

• “Have you ever had or been treated for any of the following conditions or diseases? (See checklist)”

• “Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist? If so, for what reason?”

• “Do you suffer from any health-related condition that might prevent you from performing this job?”

• “How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?”

The problem with these questions is that they can (even inadvertently) elicit information about a person’s disability.     

Common Public Accommodations Questions that are on the ADA “NO” list:  

  • “Is your service animal certified?” 
  • “Can I see proof of the service animal’s training?”
  • “Why do you need to use a service animal?”
  • “In order to modify services for your disability, can you show proof of your disability?”
  • “Can you bring a family member or friend to interpret for you?”
  • “As the parent of a child with diabetes, can you plan to be here to administer medications and blood tests to your child?”

Have you found yourself asking or being asked any of these questions? Learn more about the “dos and don’ts” of the ADA by visiting the Rocky Mountain ADA website, and for additional ADA employment guidance, visit the Job Accommodation Network.  

And with all this new information, you’ll be ready to celebrate the national “Everything You Do is Right Day!”  

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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center's blog, Access Granted, tackles ADA issues through unique and diverse perspectives. Articles are written by staff of RMADAC and a variety of special guest authors. Some may be educational, others might be personal or thought-provoking. Either way, Access Granted will bring you the ADA of today!

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