Community Access and Benefits

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Every person in America has the right to access public services and spaces. For those with disabilities, this right is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

LAJAC-ADA The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  

Who is covered by the ADA?

The law protects people who have a physical or mental impairment that seriously limits at least one major life activity such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, doing manual tasks, or caring for oneself.

How does the ADA impact my family member with a disability?

The ADA is an equal opportunity law. This means it guarantees people with disabilities the same opportunities as other Americans when it comes to:

  • Employment
  • Accessing public spaces such as hotels, movie theaters, bowling alleys, etc.
  • Traveling by public transportation
  • Taking advantage of state and federal government programs and services
  • Communicating by telephone

How does this affect the daily life of my loved one?  The ADA requires businesses and government agencies to make reasonable accommodations that allow Americans with disabilities to access services and spaces, or enable access through the use of assistive technology.

Assistive technology (AT) can be any item used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. AT can include devices or services that positively impact daily living.

Examples of reasonable accommodations and assistive technology include wheelchair ramps, large-print forms, adjusted work schedules and talk-to-text software.

For more information about assistive technology, contact Ability Tools, California’s Assistive Technology Act Program. This agency connects Californians with disabilities to assistive technology devices, tools and services to make life easier.

Disability Rights California can help you or your disabled adult advocate, educate, investigate and litigate to advance and protect their rights.

For an index of agencies monitoring ADA and reasonable accommodations in the LA area, please click here.


An employer is required to make reasonable accommodations unless doing so would create significant difficulty or excessive expense. Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Modifying equipment needed to do a job
  • Adjusting the employee’s schedule (to allow time off for medical appointments, if necessary)
  • Providing assistive technology

To learn more about the employment rights of your family member with a disability, click here.

What can I do if I think my family member has faced employment discrimination because of his or her disability?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, commonly known as the EEOC, enforces laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

You can contact the Los Angeles District Office to find out more about the laws they enforce or to file an employment discrimination complaint.

For more information about your legal rights at work, contact Bet Tzedek.

What government benefits are available for my loved one? *Please note that your adult child cannot have more than $2,000 of savings while receiving public benefits. It is important to consult an attorney, accountant and/or your case manager to be sure assets are properly managed. LAJAC-socialsecutirty   To learn more about the connection between working and your adult’s federal benefits and state entitlements, visit

Federal Benefits

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued their final regulations on Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) in January, 2014. States were given five (5) years to phase in changes that will bring both residential and non-residential (vocational, day and habilitation) programs into compliance so they can continue to receive funding. These changes will have sweeping effects on the lives of adults with special needs.

The Autism Self Advocacy Network has published a toolkit to help advocates, administrators and professionals understand how the new regulations will change how services are provided.

HCBS Advocacy provides in-depth information about the new HCBS settings rules as well as regular updates on California’s transition plan.

The LEAD Center is a collaborative of disability, workforce and economic empowerment organizations dedicated to advancing sustainable individual and systems level change to improve competitive, integrated employment and economic self-sufficiency for all people across the spectrum of disability. Visit their Resource Center for more information about the new regulations and how they will change how services are provided.

The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination is a an advocacy network of 15 national organizations who have come together to bring about a significant modernization of the federal adult system of services and supports for Americans with disabilities. Learn more about their work.

Social Security 

The Social Security Administration provides cash benefits to people unable to work because of age, disability, or injury, through three programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI), the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the State Supplemental Payment program (SSP). Click on the links below to learn more.

For the programs above, disability is defined as a condition that prevents a person from engaging in substantial gainful activity because of a mental or physical impairment that has lasted or can last for at least twelve consecutive months.

Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits  – When the primary wage earner of your family reaches the age of 65 and begins to collect Social Security benefits, an adult child with a disability becomes eligible for DAC benefits. You must apply for DAC benefits; it is not an automatic process. The DAC benefits are in addition to SSI benefits. Because an adult child cannot accrue more than $2,000 of savings while receiving SSI, it is important to consult an attorney, accountant and/or your case manager to be sure these assets are properly managed.

Click here for an overview of the benefits available for disabled citizens through the federal government.

For a complete guide to federal disability benefits, click here.

State Benefits

In California, the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act and related laws define the obligations of the state to provide services and supports to people with developmental disabilities over their lifetime.

The agency through which the state accomplishes this is called the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).LAJAC-Cali

For a Consumer’s Guide to the Lanterman Act, click here.

The California State Council on Developmental Disabilities is a state agency that ensures people with developmental disabilities and their families get the services and support they need.

What are Regional Centers?

Regional Centers are nonprofit private corporations responsible for helping adults with developmental disabilities and their caregivers choose and access appropriate community services. Regional Centers are located throughout the state.

Who is eligible for Regional Center services?

To be eligible for Regional Center services, a person must be a resident of California and must have a disability that began before his or her 18th birthday that is expected to continue indefinitely and results in a “substantial disability”. The disability must be a result of one of the following conditions:

Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Intellectual Disability, or a disabling condition closely related to an intellectual disability (like a traumatic brain injury) or requiring similar treatment and supports.

Developmental disability does not include conditions that are solely attributable to a psychiatric*, physical or learning disability.

Services supported by Regional Center funding may include: care coordination, residential assistance, vocational services, daytime activities, caretaker respite, transportation, advocacy, and training for activities of daily living.

Most services are provided at no charge, or require a small fee, based on a family’s financial situation.

Click here for a full list of services provided by Regional Centers.

*The Mental Health Services- Oversight and Accountability Commission is the state agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63), which expanded California’s mental health system of care.

It can be challenging obtaining services if your adult with special needs does not have one of the diagnoses noted above.

If your adult with special needs is affected by a psychiatric disorder, click here to connect with the California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Step Up On Second provides compassionate support to people experiencing serious mental illness to help them recover, stabilize, and integrate into the community. Services include permanent supportive housing, vocational training and placement, and ongoing supportive services.

Pacific Clinics provide support for people dually diagnosed with mental illness and addiction throughout the Los Angeles area.

If your adult with special needs has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), contact the FASD Network of Southern California for information, training and support.

If your adult with special needs has been diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, contact the Rett Syndrome Research Trust for information about cutting-edge research and support.

How to apply for Regional Center services:

To expedite the application process, several Regional Centers have online applications accessible through their websites.

To find your local Regional Center, click here.

Adults receiving services from a Regional Center are called Consumers.

When a program is approved by a Regional Center to provide services to consumers, it is called a vendored program. Once eligibility is determined, a case manager or service coordinator is assigned to help consumers and their caretakers develop an Individual Program Plan (IPP).

Part of this process includes exploration of what services are available and where they are located. Once the IPP is written, the case manager or coordinator will help the consumer obtain services. Most services and supports are free regardless of age or income.

It is important to note that, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) final regulations on Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) discussed above, reaffirms the IPP process is required to be a person centered planning process  reflecting individual preferences and goals.

Click here for some topics to discuss with your adult child before your first IPP meeting.

If your adult child already receives Regional Center services, click here for an evaluation of current services.

For help navigating the Regional Center system, click here to contact an LAJAC Case Manager or Intake Specialist.

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Coming Soon… Self Determination: In 2013, the California State Senate passed SB486, which created a statewide Self Determination Program. Once approved for federal funding, the program will be phased in slowly over a three-year period. This will be a voluntary program which would grant consumers an annual budget to purchase the services outlined in his or her Individual Program Plan (IPP), rather than relying on Regional Centers to purchase services through vendored agencies.

Self-Determination was the subject of a recent LAJAC Knowledge is Power workshop. Click here to see the video or to download the presentation.

For a list of upcoming community meetings and trainings on Self Determination, click here.

What kind of medical insurance is available? People who receive SSI are usually automatically eligible for Medi-Cal. When a person is found eligible for SSI, he or she will  typically be enrolled in Medi-Cal automatically, and a benefits card will be mailed to his or her home address. Click on the links below for more information about each program.

  • Medi-Cal - California’s Medicaid program provides health care coverage for eligible people with low income or disabilities. Services may be provided to Californians with developmental disabilities based on a federal Medicaid waiver for home and community-based services.
  • Medicare - This federal program provides health insurance for senior citizens who have worked and paid into the system. It also provides health insurance to people over 20 with disabilities who have received SSDI for at least 24 months and/or have certain medical conditions.
  • Cal MediConnect – This is a new health care initiative in California that intends to coordinate state and federal benefits and access to care. People who are eligible for both Medi-Cal and Medicare will automatically be enrolled in this program, which will require all participants to receive benefits through a managed health plan. Participants who do not want to participate in this program will have to actively decline.
  • Denti-Cal – Dental services are provided under the Medi-Cal program. Services available vary by county.
  • Medi-Cal Vision – People who are eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits are also eligible for vision coverage.
  • The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program is a component of Medi-Cal that provides in-home services for individuals who might not be able to stay in their homes without support. Examples of IHSS might include: housekeeping, grocery shopping, personal care services (such as toileting or bathing), and protective supervision for the mentally impaired. The services administered are tailored to the needs of each person.

Additional Resources:

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:
  • Each year, Hunger Action LA publishes “The People’s Guide to Welfare, Health & Other Services.” This is a booklet that contains many resources available in the Greater Los Angeles area for those who need assistance. Click here for a link to their website. Please note you will be required to pay $1.25 for a paper copy of the booklet, but you can view it electronically for free.

For more information about community access and/or benefits, click here to be connected with an LAJC Case Manager or Intake Specialist.

We want to hear from you! Click here to tell us what you think about this website.



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