What’s considered a disability? 10 causes every HR leader should know

When most people consider disability, they picture something catastrophic happening—an ill-timed dive off a high rock, or a speeding car hurtling into theirs—and, for the most part assume it can never happen to them.

That’s why human resources experts often find it challenging to convince their employees of the importance of disability insurance even though you know it’s a wise investment and more commonly used than most people assume. In fact, if you were to keep track of the 20-year-olds in today’s workforce, you’d find out that nearly 25 percent of them will be out of work for at least a year due to a health condition before they reach retirement age.

The statistic isn’t meant to alarm anyone, but rather to underscore the importance of making sure that your team members realize that disability insurance is for everyone. It can be the lifeline they need in the case of an unexpected condition—and yet at least 51 million working adults go without disability coverage, except for the basic coverage offered through Social Security.

That can be downright scary considering the precarious financial position of many Americans—and the skyrocketing cost of medical treatment. Any of these conditions can rob workers of the opportunity to earn enough to pay their bills, and just when they need the extra income the most.

Wondering what the top causes of long-term disability are? Your employees might be surprised to learn that they are relatively common occurrences.

  1. Muscoskeletal. This is a fancy way of saying “back pain,” something weekend warriors—or even just good Samaritans helping a friend move—can probably see themselves experiencing. It also covers other muscle, back, and joint disorders, such as arthritis. Together, these conditions account for nearly 30 percent of all long-term disabilities.
  2. Cancer. Yes, we can put this in the “catastrophic” category, but it’s actually more prevalent than you might imagine. In fact, more than 70,000 people in their 20s and 30s—the prime of their life—are diagnosed with cancers, including lymphoma, leukemia, testicular, melanoma, and breast cancer. Even if they are eventually cured, cancer treatment can decimate a family’s finances as they miss work to undergo treatment.
  3. Pregnancy. It’s hard to consider pregnancy as a “long-term” disability, but the bottom line is that pregnancy (think bed rest) and childbirth can infringe on work, especially if there are complications. In fact, about 1/10 of all claims involve a pregnancy-related issue, but by tapping long-term disability insurance, your employee and their little bundle of joy can be covered.
  4. Mental health issues. From anxiety to depression, mental health problems can take a toll, and fortunately, people are realizing that mental health is just as vital to treat as physical health. Since over a quarter of the population is diagnosed with one or more mental disorders each year, it’s easy to see how they can be a leading cause of long-term disability.
  5. Injuries. Nine percent of long-term disability claims come from the “injury” category, which covers everything from accident recovery to surgery, broken bones, and even poisoning.
  6. Cardiovascular issues. From heart attack to stroke, cardiovascular events strike unexpectedly and can prevent employees from coming to work for an indefinite period of time as they build their strength back up.
  7. Nervous system. This category encompasses a wide range of potential issues that include multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy, plus a range of additional eye and ear disorders. Even conditions that are often considered an older person’s disease, such as Alzheimer’s, can strike during peak earning years. In fact about 200,000 people contract the early-onset form of Alzheimer’s, which typically develops in their 40s and 50s.
  8. Infectious diseases. While headlines trumpet new types of infectious diseases, from zika to MRSA, this category also encompasses far less-exotic strains, such as bacteria that causes strep throat and viruses that bring on the flu. As more conditions become resistant to today’s hardest-working antibiotics, the threat of losing work due to infectious disease grows more prevalent.
  9. Digestive system. Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are just three of the better-known conditions in the digestive diseases category. Altogether there are 40 digestive conditions that plague more than 34 million Americans, causing them to miss work as they wrestle with treatment and prevention.
  10. Respiratory diseases. Asthma is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions, which also include a wide variety of other lung-related ailments. It’s not a leap to assume that difficulty in breathing would lead to difficulty in working…illuminating the need for long-term disability insurance.

No one wants to sit down with employees to go over a list of illnesses or conditions they may eventually have, but the good news is that human resources professionals have the opportunity to expose their colleagues to one of the best-kept secrets in the benefit world—how disability insurance can help prevent them from losing a paycheck just when they need it most.

7 Fixes to Make Your Home Easier to Navigate If You Have Arthritis

Kitchen counter with high stools.Arthritis doesn’t just affect the AARP set. In fact, it’s the leading cause of work-related disability, affecting nearly a quarter of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis is actually a “catch all” term for more than 100 joint-related diseases and conditions, including gout, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re one of those suffering with this disability, you know how challenging even the simplest tasks can be. But while major home renovations might seem daunting, there are some relatively easy hacks that can make a home friendlier for those living with arthritis.

1. Add some kitchen gadgets.

Yes, we all have too many one-use items like garlic crushers and potato ricers. But if you love to cook (or just love to eat) and have arthritis, we can guarantee that some additional tools will never be perceived as clutter in the “gadget” drawer or on the counter. Here are four that are likely to become indispensable:

  • Jar opener: Grip the top better without having to squeeze harder
  • Food chopper: Put down the knife and let this handy helper do the work
  • Appliance knob grips: Make the knobs on your stove, faucet, and other appliances bigger and easier to grasp with these enlarged coverings
  • Grabber: Easily retrieve dropped items without bending or stooping

2. Make two quick fixes for a safer bathroom.

While you might not want to undertake a bathroom overhaul, there are two must-do fixes you can implement:

  • Raised toilet seat: This goes right over the existing one to make it easier to reach without altering your existing fixture.
  • Bars and handrails: Bathing safety should never be taken lightly. Grips will ensure you don’t slip getting out of the shower or tub, and they now come in more decorative-looking choices these days — more like a towel bar — in a variety of finishes to lessen an institutional feel.

3. Purchase items in smaller quantities.

Yes we all love the thrill of saving money with bulk buys, but a huge bottle of soap or laundry detergent can be unwieldy. At the least, make sure you have assistance to put the larger contents into a smaller container for everyday use.

4. Make sure there are no trip hazards.

Check that your flooring is smooth, but not slippery. That might mean replacing worn carpet or covering slick hardwoods with carpet. If you don’t want to cover your lovely floors, you can consider area rugs, but they can be especially dangerous since it’s easy to catch a toe under the corner. Ensure they are stuck to the floor with sticky mats.

5. Climb carefully.

A two-story home can be a challenge if you have to navigate the stairs frequently. The best advice is to make sure that your items for daily living are downstairs, so even if your bedroom is up, you won’t be making multiple trips up and down the stairs. You can even equip a downstairs powder room with a second set of supplies you use frequently, like your toothbrush and toiletries, to eliminate trips.

If you do have to navigate stairs, at least occasionally, make sure that they are covered with a nonstick surface, such as a runner that is anchored down. Then make sure the handrails are easy to grasp – a rail on each side is best, so you might want to install a second one. Another trick is to put colored tape on the edge of each step to make them more visible.

6. Swap out more comfortable seating.

Low chairs and couches can be hard to rise from so make sure that at least your favorite chair is a comfortable height. A dining table that’s counter-height, outfitted with bar stools, can be a smart switch.

7. Declutter and reorganize.

The best overall tip is to take sure that your house is easy to navigate. That means getting rid of excess items that are in your way, from unnecessary furniture and lamps, to closets that are so stuffed you can’t locate the item you are looking for.

Then organize the house to your comfort, such as keeping everyday items within arms’ reach. That might mean moving dishes around in your kitchen, reshelving staples in your pantry to be at eye level and making sure that the most frequently worn items are front and center in your closet or drawers.

These few easy fixes can help you live more easily with an arthritis disability.

How Should HR Leaders Approach Mental Health in the Workplace?

Man looking to side.This article originally appeared in Human Resource Executive in the summer of 2017 — we’re reposting it as May is both Disability Insurance Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. 

This column is not the one I planned for you to read today. A computer-system update gone wrong drove me to write a new post on a different topic (since my electronic notes perished as well). But I’d like to believe I would have asked my editors to allow me to switch topics at the last minute even if this didn’t happen.

Why? Because on 20 July 2017, Chester Bennington, the ferociously-talented lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park, committed suicide. The act was made more poignant since it’s thought Bennington mimicked the recent death of his close friend (singer Chris Cornell) on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

Bennington wasn’t alone in his desperation. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, approximately 121 people in the United States died by the same method that day – and 3,025 people attempted suicide.

Depression — the usual precursor to suicide — is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. In the U.S., depression is a top-five cause of both short- and long-term disability absences. (Musculoskeletal claims are the leading cause of long-term disability.)

In an interesting comparison, Ian Bridgman of The Claim Lab indicates that in Canada (where long-term disability policies do not carry a 24-month-mental-health limitation) mental health diagnoses are the number one cause of employee absences lasting more than three months.

How should HR respond to mental health issues?

Given all this information, I find myself reflecting upon whether I’ve done enough to reach people who struggle with depression or anxiety disorders – or, as importantly – HR leaders who can make a difference every day in employees’ lives.

While I share a great deal of information about mental health via social media channels, I realized the last time I covered the topic here was in 2011. That column was in response to the Screen Actors Guild abandoning mental-health benefits for its members.

I doubt I’ve saved or comforted a single soul by posting the phone number for the suicide-prevention hotline on my Facebook wall or in my Twitter or LinkedIn feed, and something similar can be said about companies that simply offer an employee-assistance program and consider the topic addressed.

So, what’s an HR executive supposed to do about the workplace and mental health?

Normalize the conversation

We can look for guidance from people like Ben Congleton, CEO of Olark Live Chat, whose support of employee, Madalyn Parker (who took two days off from work to focus on her mental health) went viral.

Congleton seemed astonished by the response, and used his momentary fame to articulate the opportunities offered to employers on how to “normalize mental health” as a general health issue.

  • Build a safe space for employees where they can feel vulnerable and are willing to share any issues, whether they are related to mental health or not.
  • Reflect on how your company’s values support this safe space for your employees – one in six of whom is taking a psychiatric drug for a mental health issue.
  • Provide paid leave for mental and physical health issues – whether it’s in the form of traditional sick leave, salary continuation, paid time off, or short-term disability.
  • Take time to express gratitude to your employees.

Parker presents two additional considerations that are helpful from an employee perspective:

  • Offer flexible work arrangements.
  • Educate staff through training programs like Mental Health First Aid at Work to increase understanding and supportive behaviors about mental health in the workplace.

HR offers a first-line of assistance to employees

I’ll end with a few thoughts of my own:

  • Consider providing a more generous bereavement policy for employees who lose a loved one for any reason. Two or three days of paid leave is barely enough time for a worker to bury a loved one, never mind recover from the experience.
  • Keep in mind that your employees are also impacted when their dependent or loved one is suffering from mental health issues. Contemplate ways to assist employees, especially if a dependent dies by suicide.
  • If your company offers an EAP, stay updated on the utilization rate. I led a research project on the impact of employee assistance programs on absence and return-to-work rates. We found the only time EAP made a statistically-significant difference on the length of an employee absence was when the overall company utilization rate was over 10 percent.

Mental-health issues are pervasive throughout the U.S. and global populations. Employers, and HR leaders, are a first-line of assistance to the nearly 150 million working Americans.

5 Innovative Apps for People With Disabilities

Man with an appEver since Steve Jobs appeared on a stage with an iPhone in 2007, software has been radically changing and disrupting our world. Our phones have become virtual publishing houses, TVs, calculators, cameras, GPS devices, and countless other things. For people living with disabilities, accessible tech is making a big difference — and offering new ways to engage with the world.

This is happening on a city-wide level around the globe. One university in Seattle is pioneering a new map-based app that allows pedestrians with limited mobility to find the best routes through the city. In Toronto, a nonprofit is installing battery-powered beacons on streets to help improve accessibility for those with visual impairments. Then there’s also a whole ecosystem of apps that people can access via their phones. 

Here are five digital apps to be inspired by:

Access Now

This app was created by Maayan Ziv, whose advocacy work has won her accolades such as the David C. Onley Leadership in Accessibility Award. Ziv lives with muscular dystrophy and she created Access Now to share information about the levels of accessibility in buildings in areas throughout the world. The app allows you to search for specific types of accessibility and includes crowdsourcing via its global community map, where members of the public can update info and rate venues.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is an inspired app that connects people with blindness or other visual impairments with other members of the wider community. Someone can take a photo of an object — for example a gallon of milk in their fridge — upload the image, then ask a question such as, “what’s the sell-by date?” They’ll get a near-instant reply, spoken out loud via their phone’s audio. This app has been around for several years now, and at the time of writing this blog, has amassed more than 60,000 blind and low vision users and over 876,000 volunteers. 


RogerVoice is a close captioning app that allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to converse in real-time. The app draws upon voice-recognition technology to transform someone’s words into text, as well as allowing people to type responses, which are then converted to voice on the other side of the call. 


Rheumatoid arthritis is a leading cause of disability. It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks tissues close to joints and other body parts, and can affect areas throughout the body. MyRA is an app that helps people track their RA and make daily updates of how they’re feeling. A clever design makes the process visual, where they can click on areas around the body on their screens. This creates a history of data that help them discuss their condition more accurately with their physician. 


If you’re living with either a short-term or long-term disability, there will be psychological effects. Whether it’s getting used to a completely new way of life or dealing with chronic pain, it is beneficial to have a community around you. Reachout is an app that offers an online support network for those who need one. There are groups for chronic pain, mental health, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease — as well as groups for caregivers.

Tolerating Gluten Intolerance

Jan-celiac-imageAt 18 months old, my son suddenly changed from the happiest little dude in town to a miserable and often inconsolable kid. Without warning, he became thoroughly unhappy, bouncing between periods of lethargy and periods of frustration. His sleep, which had been challenging anyway, as it is with most little ones, became a constant battle; he struggled to get comfortable and would wake several times each night. His enthusiasm for eating and trying new foods disappeared, causing us to coax most meals into him. And, perhaps most troubling, he began to loose weight.

His pediatrician was stumped. She couldn’t identify an illness. There were no injuries to explain the situation. No significant changes in his daily life.

Eventually a blood test was ordered, mostly to rule out celiac disease. When the results showed extremely high tTG levels, the doctors thought there must have been an error. To confirm, an endoscopy was performed. Sure enough, numerous ulcers in his small intestines were discovered.

I was positive this was karma’s way of punishing me. Over the preceding couple of years, several friends had joined the anti-gluten trend and decided to remove the protein from their diet for no reason, as far as I could tell, other than following a fad. So I began telling people that I had become intolerant of gluten intolerance. My son’s diagnosis felt like payback.

We immediately removed gluten from the little monster’s diet, and almost immediately his mood improved. Within a couple of weeks, he began to put the lost weight back on, and was once again the happy, exhausting kid he had previously been.

An Invisible Autoimmune Nightmare

My son’s sensitivity is high. After diagnosis, we began regular check ins with a gastroenterologist. At our first visit, we learned it could take as long as a year for his body to fully heal. We also learned that a single gluten-containing crumb small enough to fit under my fingernail would be enough to make him feel sick for a day or two.

For reasons unknown, the gluten protein causes the villi in the small intestines to flatten out, which then prevents them from absorbing the nutrition passing through the body. This not only results in discomfort, but in some cases the body is so deprived of nutrition and vitamins, that the disease can prevent growth and may lead to additional problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, and weakened bones.

It’s Everywhere!

We became gluten fanatics almost overnight. It was fairly easy to cut out the obvious problems – wheat, rye, and barley – but we soon discovered it’s more complicated than just avoiding bread and crackers. The stuff shows up in soaps, shampoos, soy sauce, candies, some hot dogs, dry-roasted nuts, vitamin supplements, toothpaste, and laundry detergents! We had to make special play dough to send with him to daycare, because the store-bought stuff isn’t safe. If they blow bubbles on the playground and he pops one, they have to wash his hands before he sticks a finger in his mouth. When I repaired a small crack in a wall at home, he had to be out of the house until dust from the drywall and joint compound was thoroughly cleaned up, because even those have gluten in them!

Awareness is on the Rise

The good news is having celiac disease in 2018 is a lot better than it would have been even 10 years ago. Our local grocery store has an entire gluten-free section. Most products list all ingredients on their labels, often highlighting known allergens. And overall awareness of gluten intolerance is high. We’ve learned to avoid most cereals, breaded foods, and even some non-wheat grains, as they can have trace amounts of gluten if processed in a facility that also processes wheat. We learned that even if a pizza joint offers a gluten-free option, wheat flour in the air could impact our pie. And we’ve learned that “gluten-free” is definitely not the same as “Certified gluten-free.”

Luckily, in addition to special sections in the grocery store, many restaurants are also proving options for a growing population of celiacs. Even in our relatively small city, there are several gluten-free restaurants. And the local gluten-free bakery is worth a visit, whether you have an intolerance or not.

The Numbers Seem to be Growing

While celiac disease is estimated to impact only 1% of the population, general gluten intolerance is on the rise–four times more common today than it was in the 1950s! It’s not clear why more people are becoming sensitive to the protein, but theories range from changes in wheat, to too much gluten in processed foods, to poor diet and excessive use of antibiotics, contributing to an overgrowth of candida in the gut.

Only One Treatment…For Now

There is currently no cure for celiac disease, and the only real treatment is a gluten-free diet. However, thanks to more people suffering from an intolerance, there is more research underway today than ever before. Several new drugs are being tested, and trials of vaccine-like treatments have already begun in Europe and Australia. It’s possible that an effective solution will be developed before my son grows up and has to opt for gluten-free beer (yep, most beers have gluten, too).

Until then, we’ll keep the house gluten-free, make our own play dough, read every label, and visit that celiac-safe bakery as often as possible. And lots of chocolates are gluten-free, so we have that going for us!

The Cost of Cancer – Planning for Survival

Jan-cancer-costs-imageNo one plans to have cancer. Aside from the shock and anxiety for the future a diagnosis brings, cancer also presents a financial situation that few people fully consider. Huge medical bills, on top of the typical expenses like college loans, mortgages, and car payments, can leave survivors concerned about their finances. Despite this, there are a variety of precautions and preparations that can be taken to limit the impact of a diagnosis from a financial perspective. The effects of cancer can certainly rear its head in many ways. However, with some additional budgeting, cancer patients can put their minds moreso at ease while heading on the road to recovery.

Types of Costs

Costs associated with cancer can present themselves in a variety of ways. A 2017 study from JAMA Oncology shows that cancer patients tend to spend upwards of a third of their income on medical expenses, in addition to their usual health insurance fees. One of the primary causes of debt is of course the presence of medical bills. From seeing primary physicians, specialists, consultants, and other healthcare professionals, each of these visits and additional tests can add up.

For relatively rare cancers like mesothelioma, finding a doctor that specializes in your specific diagnosis can mean traveling across the country regularly. While the main concern when undergoing treatment is of course seeing the specialist that is most likely to save your life, the costs associated with travel are rarely thought of. These travel expenses, from gas money to airfare, can quickly add up.

Not to mention, hefty prescription drug costs that often come out-of-pocket. As one of the fastest growing sectors of healthcare expenses, cancer patients can spend thousands of dollars for their required prescriptions. These medications come in addition to various treatment methods like chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery. With often lengthy periods of treatment, these medication costs can put a definite financial strain on the patient and their family.

Debt from cancer treatment can also accumulate from a lack of income. If the treatment is aggressive, many patients are forced to leave their jobs to focus on their health and recovery. In a household that is used to having two incomes, the loss of that influx of money can certainly make an impact. If the diagnosis requires extended periods of time away from your profession, the patient may also come back from recovery to find that the work is no longer relevant or is done differently. This retraining period can be another obstacle altogether. In the case of older demographics, this can also deal a significant blow to retirement savings. As a result, cancer patients are around 25 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than those without cancer.

Even after the cancer patient has been through the final stages of treatment and is considered in remission, there are routine check ups to ensure that person stays healthy for years to come. All of the regular medications, treatments, and evaluations to keep cancer at bay will also come with a price tag. While beating cancer is clearly a blessing, this is an additional cost that many do not anticipate maintaining for the rest of their lives.


While it may be difficult to plan for cancer, there are some steps that can make the diagnosis less of a burden on the patient’s finances. Taking precautions with various forms of insurance and an emergency savings can go far to ensure the survivor and their family are protected. Health, life, and disability insurance are all small yet highly effective steps to take when planning for the future. It’s a great idea to establish a Health Savings Account (HSA,) which allows for contribution to a savings store for healthcare expenses directly from the person’s paycheck, before taxes. Even as a young person new to the workforce, taking out insurance and creating an account for health related expenses can be very beneficial and will keep your mind at ease for years to come.

If found in a stressful financial situation due to medical expenses, be sure to consider all of your options via financial assistance programs and debt service providers. There are a variety of professionals that specialize in debt management and refinancing that can help a patient through a difficult time as they start on the path to financial recovery. In the meantime, strict budgeting and monitoring income closely can allow for cutting down on what’s not necessary and saving where possible. Additionally, in certain cases like mesothelioma, the cancer victim may be eligible for compensation in a legal setting with the help of a specialized mesothelioma lawyer. Because this type of cancer develops due to exposure to asbestos, this may be an advisable route to explore if wrongfully exposed in the workplace.

Although talking about and planning for the future can seem daunting, taking adequate measures to prepare for the unknown can make all the difference when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Taking out insurance, saving for emergencies, and maintaining a tight financial ship will put a patient in the best position to focus on treatment and recovery. Battling cancer is difficult enough without having to worry about each added expense to save your life, but taking these precautions in advance will leave you and your loved ones prepared in case the unthinkable happens.

What Every Business Needs to Know About Anti-Discriminatory Laws

Oct-Antidiscrimination-imageEvery business should have a basic knowledge about anti-discriminatory handicap and disability laws. At a very general level, the following definition can be proposed: discrimination is any violation of the principle of equality in relation to prohibited criteria. Older discrimination laws used to provide sanctioned regulations which did not sufficiently take into account the differences of the situations to which they applied and were unjust. The related discrimination laws are also classified by the impact of the disability on the amount of the applicant’s resources.


In case-law, the U.S. courts in the 1960s considered that the application of a uniform rule to different situations might violate the principle of equality and be discriminatory. The first category of disability concerns disabled persons able to engage in gainful employment. A classification in a category may not be final. Also, handicap and disability laws entitle a disabled person to obtain a disability card allowing him or her to benefit from certain advantages in the course of everyday life.


A disabled person must attach all the documents requested within a disability discrimination claim letter. A disability discrimination claim letter must also indicate the date from which the person concerned may no longer claim the daily disability benefits due to the stabilization of his state of health. The problems they designate may of course be much older, but they were usually either denied or addressed in some other way. This conception, moreover, is not unique to the US alone.


However, access to the disability discrimination court is only reserved for applicants who have a disability at the time of their application for a disability discrimination claim. The second category of disability includes disabled persons who are absolutely incapable of practicing any profession. The disabled person must also complete a form for the disability discrimination court in which he provides information about his tax situation.


Disabled persons are divided into categories to determine the amount of their payments. In the absence of a reply, the disability discrimination application must be considered as having been refused. Harassment is considered to be a form of discrimination when undesirable behavior related to a disability has the purpose or effect of infringing on a person’s dignity and creating a humiliating, intimidating, degrading, hostile or offensive environment.


In practice, a number of disabled workers who are potentially eligible for a disability discrimination claim are unable to obtain the necessary supporting documents for the administrative recognition of their claim in the course of their careers. If this is the case, the disabled worker is usually informed of this decision by registered mail. It is also possible to switch from one disability category to another according to the evolution of a disabled worker’s health. The disability discrimination court must also reply to a disability discrimination application request.


Indirect disability discrimination occurs when an apparently neutral provision, practice or criterion is likely to result in a particular disadvantage to persons with a particular disability. Depending on a disabled worker’s situation, they should consult a lawyer in order to estimate the amounts they can claim. In U.S. law, this adaptation of the law does not require different situations to be treated in different ways.


However, the plurality and complexity of the contemporary world has led the US courts to take notice of the multiplicity of concrete situations and to adapt, if necessary, the application of the law to realities. Indeed, US law accepts, when there are differences of appreciable or even objective situations, that the general rule should take them into account and is therefore applied differently depending on the situations in question. Therefore, there are different concepts of discrimination, and between law and the social sciences, a multiplicity of concepts of discrimination have been defined.


More concretely, in any situation of choice, decisions and practices will be fair when they are based only on objective criteria and which will appear to be legitimate in the situation in question: qualifications used to choose an employee, resources used to choose a tenant, etc. Therefore, decisions should not depend on the health of the applicant on the one hand and on certain administrative data on the other.


The law also provides various conditions for receiving a disability discrimination claim. In the absence of an initiative by the court, it is the responsibility of the disabled person to carry out the necessary formalities directly.

Three Natural Alternatives to Antidepressants

8-28-alternative-antidepressants-imageDepression is one of the world’s most misunderstood mood disorders, affecting people from all walks of life. While mild depression can make getting through the day more difficult than it should be, major depressive disorder—affecting roughly 6.7% of the population—can actually put you out of work. It’s a leading cause of disability worldwide, and no one is immune to the risk. Many turn to pharmaceutical antidepressants such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) for relief of symptoms, but these types of medications don’t work for everyone, and the associated side effects can be intolerable for some individuals.

Fortunately, there are a handful of natural supplements that can help to combat symptoms of depression in certain people—here are three of the most well-known options to consider.

1. St. John’s Wort

A plant first discovered by the Ancient Greeks, usage of St. John’s Wort to fight depression has has spread throughout the entire world and experienced significant growth in popularity in recent years. Studies have shown that St. John’s Wort is more effective than placebo in treating mild-to-moderate instances of depression, and side effects tend to be far less prevalent than with prescription medications. That said, St. John’s Wort (which is actually in the MAO inhibitor family) may interact adversely with tyramine-containing foods, such as red wine and aged cheese—dietary caution is advised for those who take the supplement regularly.

2. SAMe

S-Adenosylmethionine, commonly referred to as “SAMe,” is a naturally occurring molecule that is not only used to regulate mood, but has also shown efficacy with treating pain and inflammation in numerous clinical trials. While St. John’s Wort is typically reserved for treating low-grade depressive symptoms, the energizing effects of SAMe may help target stronger symptoms of lethargy so often associated with mood disorders. Though typically more expensive than other natural alternatives to antidepressants, it comes along with few side effects, aside from potential gastrointestinal distress.

3. 5-HTP

Found in Africa, the Griffonia simplicifolia plant is not exactly a household name. It does, however, hold a unique substance within its seeds called oxitriptan, which forms the basis of a depression-fighting supplement known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. Because Hydroxy L-tryptophan is a direct precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP is thought to work by boosting levels of the chemical within the brain when taken consistently. Though effective for some when taken on its own, 5-HTP should never be taken in conjunction with SSRI medications, as a dangerous condition known as serotonin can potentially occur in such a scenario.


Depression can at times make it seem as if there’s no escape, but with the right approach, it’s a highly treatable condition. Always discuss treatment options with your doctor, and consider mentioning one of the natural SSRI alternatives listed above.

Major American Cities Still Pose Problems for People with Disabilities

Major American Cities Still Pose Problems for People with Disabilities

The wealth of jobs and other opportunities in major U.S. cities is unparalleled. Yet, people with disabilities cannot always easily access sidewalks, office buildings, and transportation. (Even with federal legislation which exists to protect the disabled.) Too many people with disabilities lack handicap-accessible accommodations.

This issue impacts people with disabilities across the country. People with disabilities often find they cannot get where they need to go because they use a wheelchair or scooter. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is “a response to an appalling problem: widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities,” those who reside in major cities know that serious barriers to equal access remain.

What Access

A March 2017 survey of 554 Americans living with disabilities found that 20 percent of those individuals encounter a barrier to a building, a service, or transportation at least once per day. Nearly 12 percent say it happens multiple times per day.

In places like New York City and Washington, D.C., most people have no choice but to rely on public transportation. Yet even in D.C., where the ADA became law, wheelchair users risk their lives to get to their bus stop.

Washington, D.C.

Wheelchair users in D.C. neighborhoods must occasionally travel in the street. The same goes for cities with heavy snow in the winter, which can make sidewalks impassable for wheelchairs and scooters. Even when there are crosswalks available, it can be a challenge to reach the signal button. As a result, many wheelchair and scooter users must rely on the kindness of strangers.

Washington, D.C. is not the worst major city for handicap accessibility. (D.C. was #57 on WalletHub’s list of 150 best and worst places for people with disabilities). New York City fares far worse, coming in at #130 on the list. This spot is justified believes disability advocate Sasha Blair-Goldensohn.

New York City

After a freak accident eight years ago, Blair-Goldensohn became wheelchair-dependent and had to navigate NYC streets. In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “New York Has a Great Subway, if You’re Not in a Wheelchair” he writes, “New York’s subway is by far the least wheelchair-friendly public transit system of any major American city, with only 92 of the system’s 425 stations accessible. That means fewer than one in four stations can be used by people in wheelchairs when elevators are working—and they frequently are not.”

Accessible New York City buses do not run after certain hours. And NYC’s paratransit service, Access-A-Ride, often won’t schedule late-night transports. Despite the fact that people with disabilities have transportation access protections. Finding accessible transport is difficult even under ideal circumstances.

This is a huge problem for the more than 535,839 New York City residents who live with an ambulatory disability. They have mobility challenges, which affect where they can live.

Broken Promises to People with Disabilities  

Recent reports have found that the New York City Housing Association (NYCHA) has completely failed in its promise to make just five percent of all of their housing units fully accessible for the disabled. In 1996, NYCHA struck a deal with the federal government to make around 8,900 of their apartments accessible. But 20 years after the original agreement, NYCHA upgrades consist of only one-third of that five percent. In other words, only 2,953 apartments meet accessibility standards.

Even more startling is the fact that 47 percent of NYCHA’s buildings are inaccessible for wheelchair users, and according to the organization, most of them cannot be made accessible due to structural issues. Unfortunately, around 20 percent of NYCHA’s 400,000 tenants are seniors over the age of 62, many of whom have mobility issues.

Of course, it’s not just New York City. Around 36 percent of all those surveyed live in a home which is not wheelchair accessible. Of these people, 70 percent have steps leading into their home; 51 percent cannot afford to make the necessary modifications for wheelchair accessibility; and 16 percent say that their landlord, homeowner, or condo board will not allow modifications.

Where’s the Humanity

Clearly, lack of financial means is a huge hurdle in making spaces more accessible, both for individuals and local governments. But so is the fact that many people simply don’t seem to care. Whether building owners decide upgrades aren’t necessary, or choose to blatantly disregard the law, Americans with disabilities are expected to just live with these difficulties.

While there are certain U.S. cities which have been deemed disability friendly (thank you Denver), Americans with disabilities should be able to live anywhere they want to. With a new administration in the White House, the future of the current disability protections—inadequate as they may be—remains uncertain. It seems likely that disabled Americans will have to continue to fight for even those protections granted under the ADA, and that U.S. citizens will have to come together to make sure these essential rights are enforced.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Myths, Facts, and Treatment

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Myths, Facts, and Treatment

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is an invisible illness. And like many invisible illnesses, there is a certain social stigma to it. Is it real? Is he just lazy? I fight through my fatigue, why doesn’t she? Does everyone need some type of illness for sympathy? That is a pretend condition if I ever heard one.

Not only does the sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome face the illness itself, but also potential backlash from others who doubt the very existence of the illness.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The Mayo Clinic defines chronic fatigue syndrome as “…a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.”

Sounds like a veritable hell on earth to more than a few people.

Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The cause of CFS is unknown. However, scientists have speculated about potential contributing factors: unusually low blood pressure, viruses, hormonal imbalance, and a weakened immune system.

Chronic fatigue can occasionally develop after a viral infection. The Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6, rubella, and several others have been studied without solid conclusions.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Myths

CFS does not exhibit measurable abnormalities.

There are many studies that observe central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, and immune system abnormalities in CFS patients.

CFS is a mental disorder.

Without a cause, some people consider CFS a mental disorder. This is not true. The condition exhibits a collection of physical signs and symptoms that validate the medical diagnosis.

CFS is an illness that affects white, middle-aged, affluent women.

CFS strikes all ages and socioeconomic groups. Affluent white women is the population that seeks out CFS specialists the most. However, this does not mean it strikes this group more than others. A 1999 CFS study indicated the highest occurrence of chronic fatigue syndrome to be among minorities, those with low levels of education, and lower occupational status.

Stress causes CFS. 

Stress does not cause the disease. There have been numerous outbreaks of CFS. Pathogens most likely cause outbreaks.

Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There is no drug specifically aimed at treating CFS. There is no proven cure. CFS is not well understood at this point. However, treatment strategy usually consists of one or more of the following:

It is important for patients to stay as active as they can in order to experience symptom reduction.

Spread Awareness

The more people with CFS education, the less likely they are to perpetuate the rumors of this invisible illness. And with awareness comes the interest of those with and without CFS to push forward the research needed to find the cause and eventual treatment.