How to Ask for a Reasonable Accommodation of Your Disability from the Office of Administrative Hearings
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) must make sure its services and its hearings are fully available to all persons with disabilities. This may mean OAH needs to make a change in the way it handles a hearing or communicates with you to make sure you have the same chance to take part in the hearings as a person without disabilities. #8406EN
- What is “requesting an accommodation”?
- What is a reasonable accommodation?
- How do I get OAH to grant my accommodation request?
- Can OAH deny my reasonable accommodation request?
- What are some examples of accommodations?
- How do I ask for an accommodation?
- What if OAH denies my request for accommodation?
- Where can I get legal help?
The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) must make sure its services and hearings are fully available to all persons with disabilities. OAH may need to change the way it handles a hearing or communicates with you to make sure you have the same chance to take part in a hearing as someone without disabilities.
If you need extra help from OAH to take part fully in its proceedings, you can ask OAH to change its rules or policies or give you help to meet the needs your disability creates. This is “requesting a reasonable accommodation of a disability.” Use the ADA Accommodation Request Form to ask for an accommodation.
Under the Washington Law against Discrimination (RCW 49.60) and federal Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213), OAH must approve a request for accommodation that is “reasonable” and necessary to meet your disability-created needs. OAH’s refusal to “reasonably accommodate” that disability is discrimination.
*“What are some examples of accommodations,” below, has more info.
An accommodation that will not
- cost so much that OAH cannot afford it, or will take too much time or effort
- drastically change how OAH conducts hearings or proceedings
You must show that you have a disability AND the accommodation you asked for is connected to your disability.
*Example: Julia asks to bring a guide dog to a hearing. She must show she has a vision impairment and needs a guide dog to help her.
Only if what you asked for is unreasonable and unnecessary. This means any of these:
You do not need what you asked for. It is not connected to your disability. Example: You ask OAH to schedule your hearing in the late afternoon. Your disability is vision impairment. A preference to have the hearing later in the day has nothing to do with your vision.
What you asked OAH to do costs too much. They cannot afford it.
It will take so much time or effort for OAH that it is too much of a burden.
Your request will drastically change how OAH does things.
If OAH does not agree to a request for accommodation, OAH must show the accommodation is unreasonable.
Here are a few:
having an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter or real-time transcription services if you are deaf or have a hearing impairment
getting paperwork in large print or Braille if you are blind or have vision problems
having a qualified reader read paperwork for you or providing audio recordings if you cannot read
having the hearing in a wheelchair-accessible room if you have a mobility impairment
having a hearing by phone instead of in-person if you have agoraphobia
taking breaks during the hearing (example: you need to move a lot due to back pain or can only concentrate for short periods)
having a hearing in the afternoon if a morning hearing would interfere with your medication schedule
appointing a lawyer for you if you cannot represent yourself in a hearing due to a mental disability, such as a developmental disability, traumatic brain injury or mental illness. Example: Because of your disability, you do not understand what you read, follow instructions, concentrate or communicate clearly.
In writing is better. Use the ADA Accomodation Request Form to make your request. If that is not possible, you can do it verbally.
If your request is in writing, return the completed form to the proper OAH office. Include copies of any documents you want OAH to consider, such as medical records or statements from doctors, counselors, or others in support of your need for accommodation. Be specific about what you need OAH to do so you can take part fully in the proceedings.
You do not have to tell OAH your specific medical diagnosis or disability. OAH may not ask what your specific medical diagnosis (for example, Schizophrenia, Autism or illiteracy) is. They can ask you to verify that you have a disability and need the accommodation you asked for.
*Example: You can give OAH a statement from your treating doctor that you have a disability and need the accommodation you asked for to take part fully in a hearing.
You do not need a diagnosis of a specific medical condition to have a “disability” under the law.
When asking for a reasonable accommodation, give as much notice as you can of your need for accommodation. OAH may need time to meet your needs.
If you believe OPAH wrongfully denied your request, contact OAH’s Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator:
Office of Administrative Hearings
Attn: Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator
PO Box 42488
Olympia, WA 98504-2488
(360) 407-2700 OR (800) 583-8271
You can also file a discrimination complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission:
Washington State Human Rights Commission
Olympia Headquarters Office
711 S. Capitol Way, Suite 402
Olympia, WA 98504-2490
Toll free: 1-800-233-3247
Call Northwest Justice Project’s intake phone line, CLEAR at (888) 201-1014, 9:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. weekdays. They provide free legal services in non-criminal matters for low-income persons and families in Washington.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of July 2018.
© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)