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Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
Caring for Our People with Disabilities & Chronic Illness

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Hills on Spirit Lake Nation

ADA in Indian Country
Willie Davis, Spirit Lake Consulting, Turtle Mountain Site Coordinator

Did you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply on reservations unless it has been adopted by the tribal council?

Did you know that, as of 2005, very few tribal councils had adopted all five titles of ADA?

Presently, there is the need for Tribal Governments to look at adopting these titles. With over 100 tribes had requested assistance in establishing disability policy, according to the president of the Intertribal Deaf Council , it certainly should not be assumed that tribes are not interested in the rights of people with disabilities. In most cases, they simply want to review the legislation and have the opportunity to make any desirable modifications to meet local needs. There are many benefits for them to consider adopting ADA. For instance with the adoption of these acts tribal members with disabilities will have an equal opportunity to find and secure employment. This legislation is especially important for those tribes that have a local Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Project in their community, where individuals with disabilities completing this training project will know that their Tribe supports and is willing to invest in part-time or full-time employment for them. There is a movement by local coalition members on the Turtle Mountain Reservation to get ADA passed. Presently, the Tribal Council is reviewing the 31 page document as adapted from the United States ADA act. If achieved, then our tribe would be one of the first to adopt all five titles.

The ADA has been a safeguard to assist people with disabilities, but it does not guarantee that you will get a job. There is still the notion that those hiring will not give a person with a disability a chance. I often wonder, if I did not know people or have contacts in my community when I first graduated from college, how long it would have taken to find employment outside my reservation. Even today, that is how I got my Consultant position with Spirit Lake Consulting, I knew the President and gave him my business card and followed up with a cover letter and resume. So, I do believe that it is vital that you develop a network of people and businesses that are aware of your qualifications, so that if and when they are ready for hiring, you will be considered. This is one reason our workshops offer opportunities for group interaction. Of course, the major reason is to allow staff and family members to share their knowledge and experiences. Still, you never know when the person you meet might be in a hiring position. It may be more difficult for people with disabilities to get involved in the community, but it is also more important.

ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. Still, it is imperative that those who the law applies to, should make sure that they stand up for themselves or find someone to assist in their personal or professional needs. After all, many of these changes or accommodations can result in positive outcomes for both the employee and employer. Both need to put a little work and communication into resolving the problem or issue. In my case, I did not wait passively for my employer to meet my needs or even figure out what those needs were. I identified the modifications I needed, such as wider doorways, and found the organization on the reservation that could make those modifications.

 For a full summary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, please click this link:

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