We all want to work and be productive, but ensuring you have the resources to succeed in the workplace when you have a disability can feel overwhelming. Whether you are still applying for jobs or need to ask your employer for an accommodation, read on to learn more about workplace accommodations.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
As you begin thinking about your workplace success, you need to first understand what qualifies as a reasonable accommodation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees with disabilities. For example, employers cannot refuse to hire someone because of their disability if they are otherwise qualified for the position. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants.
A reasonable accommodation is assistance or a change in the job or the workplace allowing an employee with a disability to do a job. Reasonable accommodations generally fall into one of these categories:
Changes to the job application process allowing a qualified applicant with a disability to apply and be considered for the position
Changes to the employee’s work environment or the manner in which the job is done enabling a qualified person with a disability to perform the job’s essential function
Changes allowing an employee with a disability to enjoy the same benefits and privileges as other employees
Be prepared when you request your accommodation. Be professional and show the employer you have done your homework. Here are some tips for requesting an on-the-job accommodation.
Set the stage.
Demonstrate your ability to be productive. Always produce your best work. Arrive on time, or stay connected when you are supposed to if you work at home.
Be helpful and show initiative. Complete your tasks and projects on time. View additional tasks as another way to serve your company. If your employer knows you are willing to work hard, they will respond better to you when you ask for accommodation.
Know your legal rights as a person with a disability. Being able to articulate your rights under the ADA will give you confidence when you ask for an accommodation.
Consider the following questions as you evaluate your job and work environment:
Can you find everything you need in your workspace, and does it support your productivity?
Do you understand your company’s preferred communication style, and does that style work for you?
Are some of your job tasks, such as navigating an inaccessible software or watching training videos without captions, challenging for you because of your disability?
Answering the questions above will help you articulate the accommodations you need to your employer. For example, maybe you need your company’s IT department to help you enable Windows Magnifier so you can read text on your computer screen. Maybe you need to be moved to an area with more natural light to decrease eye strain.
The key is to bring some proposed solutions to your employer. Articulating the problem you face and how you plan to solve it will increase the chances of success. Suggesting ideas will also get the person you are talking to thinking. Maybe someone else in your company uses a different screen magnifier, which would allow you to easily try it out to see if it will work for you.
Make your request.
In addition to your current challenges and your proposed solutions, you will also need a specific description of what is causing your workplace challenge. You do not legally have to disclose your disability under the ADA, but you do need a specific reason for your accommodation request. Be prepared for suggested alternatives, as employers are able to offer different solutions that would result in the same outcome.
If you make the request in-person, follow up with the same information in writing. Be brief. Clearly articulate your reason for your request and explain how the requested accommodation will help at work.
What if your accommodation request is denied?
If your employer denies your accommodation request, you have available options under the ADA.
Learn more about the denial. Send an email to your employer asking for more information. This information can help you determine next steps.
Consider an appeal. If you believe your accommodation is reasonable and that your employer’s denial is not valid, you can appeal the decision. Some employers have an appeal process. Start with your human resources department or manager.
Engage advocacy or legal services for support. Ideally, asking for more information about the denial and appealing the decision should lead to further engagement in the interactive process under the ADA, and a fair outcome. If this does not occur, reach out to your state protection and advocacy agency for this assistance.