How and Why Employees with Disabilities Can Ask for Accommodations

Asking for disability accommodations is important for your professional growth.

Asking for disability accommodations is important for your professional growth. 

Starting a new job can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned employee. And for those with a physical or mental disability, the process of starting a new job can be even more intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. 

Requesting accommodations for your disability is vital for your success in the workplace. But when is the best time to send the request? Who do you ask? What kind of accommodations are available? Continue reading to find the answers to these questions and more, along with everything you need to know to request disability accommodations from your boss. 

Who Can Request Disability Accommodations?

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 to give rights to people with disabilities and ensure they have the same opportunities as everyone else. It is a civil rights law that "prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public."

The act states that for someone to have a disability that requires accommodation, they must have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Employers who have 15 or more employees are usually required to provide reasonable disability accommodations, though this may differ depending on local government and state mandates. 

If your disability is not immediately apparent or invisible, your employer is allowed to ask for documentation from your doctor. But don’t worry–under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, they are required to keep this information confidential. 

When Should I Request Accommodations?

If you’re starting a new job, you should ask for any accommodations you need as soon as possible. It’s best to ask during the interview process so you can ensure your employer has enough time to make the necessary changes. If you don’t feel comfortable asking during the interview, or if you’re afraid you may be discriminated against because of your disability, it’s still acceptable to ask after you’ve been hired. 

The longer you wait to ask for disability accommodations, the less enthusiastic your employer may be about accommodating you. Of course, if your disability began after you began working, you should ask as soon as you realize the changes that need to be made. Similarly, if you didn’t realize you needed accommodation until after you began work, it’s never too late to ask. The most important thing is to be honest with your employer, as they only want to see you succeed. 

What Accommodations Can I Request?

Under Title One of the Americans with Disabilities Act, anyone with a disability has the right to request reasonable accommodation in the workplace. The term “reasonable accommodation” is broad, but it includes any accommodations you need to help you be able to perform your job as well as an employee without your disability.

The ADA defines reasonable accommodations as “any change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities.” The ADA National Network also states that disability accommodations are reasonable only if they do not create an “undue hardship or a direct threat” to the employer.

Here is a list of reasonable accommodations provided by the ADA National Network: 

  • Change job tasks.
  • Provide reserved parking.
  • Improve accessibility in a work area.
  • Change the presentation of tests and training materials.
  • Provide or adjust a product, equipment, or software.
  • Allow a flexible work schedule.
  • Provide an aid or a service to increase access.
  • Reassign to a vacant position.

There are many different disability accommodations that an individual can request, but an employer can deny them if they don’t fall under one of the accommodations listed by the ADA. 

How Do I Request Accommodation?

If you’re starting a new job, make sure you request any necessary accommodations before you begin working. It’s also important to remember that according to the ADA guidelines, you must mention that you have a disability when you request accommodations in order for the employer to be held responsible. 

The easiest way to ask for disability accommodations is through an HR representative. If the company you’re working for has a large number of employees, it’s likely the HR department has gone through this process before. 

While you can ask your employer or HR representative in person, it’s best to also ask in a written format like email. This way, both parties can access all of the documents and correspondence at any time. 

The Takeaway

Asking for the things you need to do your job doesn’t have to be scary. Remember that your employer wouldn’t have hired you if they didn’t think you were capable, so try not to feel guilty or hesitant about requesting disability accommodations. At the end of the day, your success is also your employer’s success, so it makes sense to be sure you have access to the resources you need right from the start. 

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