The Disabilities Act: Look At It This Way

Your article, "The disabilities act is a godsend--for lawyers" (Top of The News, Aug. 17), echoes the concerns about discrimination lawsuits that employers have expressed since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. Less well-reported, however, is how the ADA applies to the nearly 4 million current workers with disabilities and the 1.4 million who become disabled each year. (Estimates are from the National Institute of Disability & Rehabilitation Research.)

How the ADA will affect the employer depends on the company's approach to disability and its familiarity in managing employees with disabilities. Employers that are using strategies such as rehabilitation and return-to-work programs already have experience that will help them as they comply with the ADA regulations.

We believe employers will find several positives in the disabilities law that could actually help reduce their benefits outlays and enhance their work environment. One, it will draw attention to the need for disability-management services, especially proven back-to-back programs, to accommodate employees who become disabled.

Two, by encouraging employers to take a more active role in rehabilitation, the law has the potential to help lower disability insurance.

And three, the law encourages employees to better match people's abilities with job responsibilities, which will protect against discrimination claims and lead to a more productive use of people's talents.

Eric Reisenwitz

Vice-President, Disability

CIGNA Special Benefits Cos.