Community Access and Benefits

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

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects people with disabilities from being treated unfairly.

Who is covered by the ADA?


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

What does the ADA do?

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

  • Jobs
  • Getting into public spaces such as hotels, movie theaters, bowling alleys, etc.
  • Traveling by public transportation
  • Using state and federal government programs and services
  • Communicating by telephone

How does this affect my daily life?

The ADA asks businesses and government agencies to make reasonable accommodations that let Americans with disabilities use services and spaces. This can be done through the use of assistive technology.

Assistive technology (AT) can be any item that helps you do things in your daily life. AT can include machines, tools or services.

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 helps Californians with disabilities get assistive technology devices, tools and services to make life easier.

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



An employer has to make reasonable accommodations unless doing so would create big problems or very high costs for the business.  Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Changing 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 your employment rights, click here.

What can I do if I think my boss has treated me unfairly because of my disability?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, known as the EEOC, makes sure businesses obey the laws that stop unfair employment practices, 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.


Now that I’m an adult, what government benefits are available to help me?

*You cannot have more than $2,000 of savings while getting government benefits, so it is really important to talk to an attorney, accountant and/or your case manager to be sure you are managing your finances in the right way.

To learn more about the connection between working and your federal benefits and state entitlements, visit

Federal Benefits

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced their final rules on Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) in January, 2014. States were given five (5) years to slowly make sure all programs follow the new rules so they can continue to get funding. These changes will have a big effect on how services are provided.

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

HCBS Advocacy provides detailed information about the new HCBS settings rule as well as regular updates on California’s transition plan.

The LEAD Center is made up of a group of organizations who want to make employment and economic independence possible for all people. Visit their Resource Center for more information about the new rules.

The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination is an advocacy group of 15 organizations who have come together to make the adult system of services and supports for Americans with disabilities better. Learn more about their work.

Social Security

The Social Security Administration provides cash benefits 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 these programs, disability is defined as a condition that prevents a person from working because of a mental or physical issue that has lasted for a year.

Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits – When the person in your family who supports you retires and begins to collect Social Security benefits, you become eligible for DAC benefits. You must apply for DAC benefits; you don’t automatically get them. The DAC benefits are in addition to SSI benefits. Because you can’t have more than $2,000 of savings while getting SSI, it is important to talk to an attorney, accountant and/or your case manager to be sure you are managing your finances in the right way.

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

Click here for commonly asked questions about Government Disability Benefits.


State Benefits

In California, the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act and related laws describe the services and supports the state must provide to people with developmental disabilities. The agency managing this for the state is called the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

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

The California State Council on Developmental Disabilities is a state agency ensuring 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 people with developmental disabilities and their families find and use appropriate community services. Regional Centers are located throughout the state.

Who is eligible for Regional Center services?

  • To get services from a Regional Center, a person must live in California and must have a disability beginning before his or her 18th birthday that is expected to continue for life and causes a “substantial disability” for the person. The disability must be caused by one of these 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.
  • A psychiatric disorder or a diagnosis of Mental Illness does not qualify someone for Regional Center Services.*

Regional Center services could include: care coordination, help finding a place to live, job-related services, daytime activities, transportation, advocacy, and training for activities of daily living. Most services are free, or have a small cost.

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

*The Mental Health Services- Oversight and Accountability Commission is the state agency in charge of making sure the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63), which expanded California’s mental health system of care, is being followed.

If you have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or Mental Illness, click here to connect with the California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Step Up On Second provides  support to people with mental illness. Services include permanent supportive housing, job training and placement, and ongoing supportive services.

If you have been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), contact the FASD Network of Southern California for information, training and support.

Pacific Clinics provide support for people diagnosed with mental illness and addiction. They have offices all over the Los Angeles area.

If you have been diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, contact the Rett Syndrome Research Trust for information about treatments being researched and support.


How to apply for Regional Center services:

Some Regional Centers have online applications on their websites.

To find your local Regional Center, click here.

Adults who get 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 you are found eligible for services, a case manager or service coordinator will be assigned to help you and your caregivers develop an Individual Program Plan (IPP). Part of this process includes finding out what services are available and where they are located.

Your service plan should be all about your hopes, your dreams and your vision for a good life. It should include the supports you need to build the life you want. This is called Person Centered Planning.

Click here for some things to think about before you go to your first Individual Program Plan (IPP) meeting.

If you already get Regional Center services and want to think about whether or your services still fit your needs, click here.

Once your Individual Program Plan (IPP) is written, your case manager or coordinator will help you get the services you need.

For help understanding the Regional Center system, click here to contact an LA JAC Case Manger or Intake Specialist.

Coming Soon…

Self Determination: A voluntary program which gives consumers a certain amount of money every year to pay for the services described in his or her Individual Program Plan (IPP), rather than having the Regional Centers do it. The program will start sometime in 2016 and will become more widespread over the next three years.

One of our LAJAC Knowledge is Power workshops was all about Self-Determination. Click here to see the video.

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

What kind of Medical Insurance is available? 

People who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can usually get Medi-Cal without completing a different application. If you are eligible for SSI, you will automatically be registered for Medi-Cal, and a benefits card will be mailed to your 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. Some social services may be provided to Californians with developmental disabilities.
  •  Medicare - This federal program provides health insurance for senior citizens who have worked and paid into the system and for people over 20 with disabilities who have received SSDI for two years and/or have certain medical conditions.
  • Cal MediConnect – This is a new health care program in California for people who get both Medi-Cal and Medicare. If you are one of those people, you will automatically be signed up for this program. The program will require you to get your services from a managed health care plan. If you do not want to participate in this program, you have to tell the state.
  • Denti-Cal – Dental services are provided under the Medi-Cal program. Services are different in each county.
  • Medi-Cal Vision – People who get Medi-Cal benefits may also be able to get vision coverage.
  • The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program is a part of Medi-Cal that provides help with day-to-day chores for people who might not be able to stay in their homes without support.

Additional Resources:

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:
  • Each year, Hunger Action LA publishes “The People’s Guide to Welfare, Health & Other Services.” This is a booklet that has a lot of government resources available in the Greater Los Angeles area for people who need help. Click here for a link to their website. It costs $1.25 for a paper copy of the booklet, but you can read it online for free.

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

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