Americans with Disabilities Act and Reasonable Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990 and was written to protect both employees and employers in businesses with 15 or more employees. The intent was to create an inclusive workplace providing a framework to make the workplace accessible for people living with disabilities.
The way the legislation is written requires decisions to be made on a case–by-case basis. Presumably this allows for equal opportunities in selecting and hiring qualified applicants with disabilities and inclusive access to promotions and benefits.
Reasonable vs. Undue Hardship
The request for making an accommodation is the responsibility of the employee who needs the accommodation. This requires the employee to identify his or her needs and what accommodation(s) will be needed to resolve these specific needs. While you may know to some degree what your newly presenting deficits are, you may not know what the solutions are to assist you.
Please note that the employer is not the one responsible for identifying the solution to accommodate a certain need. What is required to request an accommodation for a disability is as follows:
- You will need to state that you have a disability and make an official request. However, this does not mean that you need to disclose your actual diagnosis, but you must identify the need due to a disability.*
- Explain how your disability interferes with your ability to do your job functions, that is, the job for which you were hired.
- You must also identify the accommodations you need in order to continue performing your job functions. The request must be “reasonable,” meaning that it will not cause “undue hardship” to the employer to meet the request.
* Requesting a letter from your neurologist identifying your disabilities can be done without disclosing that you have an MS diagnosis.
Working Proactively Toward Requesting Reasonable Accommodations
Deciding to ask for accommodations can feel daunting, but it is a process that needs to be approached one step at a time. All of the preceding sections in this booklet were designed to help you to think in advance of what you want to do and the best way to achieve your goals. By doing so in advance, when the time comes to ask something of your employer, you have already done some of the important preliminary reflection.
Knowing if you are still able to perform the job you were hired to do – with a few adjustments – is a good place to start. If the job has left you dissatisfied for any reason, knowing the benefits of staying…or leaving… will be very helpful when making choices. Reflecting on your work history in the company is important, as well as identifying and articulating the value you add by staying on with the company. This can lead to a positive discussion about your value to the organization.
Whether or not you can identify what your needs are or what accommodation might be essential, getting a referral for an occupational therapist (OT) could be valuable. Occupational therapists are professionally trained to help people make adjustments to maintain a good quality of life. You do not have to do this alone.