Thanks to recent government efforts, companies are now more open to hiring employees with disabilities. This, coupled with regulations that ensure equal employment opportunities, makes it a lot easier to find a job as a disabled worker.
Even then, when you’re disclosing a disability during the job search, you may come face to face with quite a few difficulties. For example, many employers still believe that most disabilities are clearly visible, and they might not understand that there are disabilities that may not be evident just by looking at a person. For people with these types of disabilities, getting accommodations from their employers might become difficult.
Luckily, the law mandates that all disabled workers can request ‘reasonable accommodations’ to help them carry out their jobs.
What is a ‘Reasonable Accommodation’?
A reasonable accommodation is defined as any change or accommodation made to a workspace that gives employees with disabilities an equal opportunity to apply for a job and carry out its essential functions.
‘Essential functions’ include everything within the scope of an employee’s job description as well as any other requirements that an employee may have in order to perform a job to the best of their abilities.
For example, an employee may tell their supervisor that they are having trouble with getting to work on time due to taking a medication. In this case, the employer would be required to make a provision for a flexible work schedule, to help the employee carry out the job at their convenience.
Another example would be if an employee in a wheelchair requires his or her desk to be adjusted in order to create more space for the wheelchair or for easy accessibility to perform the job tasks.
When can you make this request?
An employer cannot refuse a request for reasonable accommodation on the premise that the request was made too late.
Even if you did not ask for any changes when you first joined the company, and you later realize that it’s difficult to perform your duties, you may submit a request for reasonable accommodations to your supervisor.
Also, the requirement for ‘reasonable accommodations’ doesn’t end with a single request. An employer cannot refuse an additional accommodation request just because they have already provided you with accommodations. They need to ensure that the workplace is a comfortable environment where you can carry out your duties as efficiently as possible.
How to ask for accommodations?
A request for reasonable accommodation can be made in a face-to-face conversation with your employer, and does not need to be in written form. Your employer may ask you to write a letter or memo and fill out a form before they adhere to your request.
Just to be safe, it’s best that you email your request or have some written proof in case there’s any dispute as to when the request was filed or whether it was filed at all.
Here are a few examples of accommodations commonly provided by employers:
- Changing an employee’s work schedule
- Delegating non-essential job functions of an employee to other employees
- Providing any sort of additional training required by an employee
- Giving special equipment, software, or devices required by an employee
- Providing any paid or unpaid leave to employees with disabilities
- Any sort of assistance that’s required by an employee during meetings and seminars, such as a language interpreter
Of course, this list is just to give you an idea of what you can ask for when applying to a job. However, if you have a legitimate reason that requires any sort of accommodation, don’t hesitate to make a request to your employer.
Keep in mind, however, that requests which cause any excessive hardship to an employer may be declined. Also, employers can choose to deny requests that may interfere with the essential functions of a job.
Before you apply for reasonable accommodations, be sure to read up the details of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is important to know what you can ask for, and rest assured that employers will provide what you need in order to perform your job efficiently and effectively.