Whether you have experienced a life-altering event or a relatively temporary setback, there is a period of readjustment to life with a disability. One area that can be drastically altered is the way in which you’re able to conduct your employment tasks. Adjustments may need to be made in order for you to carry out your duties comfortably and safely.
While there are certainly legal obligations upon employers, there is a possibility that disclosure of your needs may have a significant negative effect upon your career. There can also be the added stigma surrounding disabilities that aren’t visible, such as mental illness. It’s difficult enough to ask for help. This shouldn’t be exacerbated by the erroneous view that you’re incapable of doing your job well.
The legal issues should form part of the dialogue, but it is also important to understand how to present the other benefits of accessibility. Consider who you’ll be talking to and how their priorities may factor into the conversation. There are some effective strategies that can help you receive adequate accommodations. You should also be aware of your options in the case of non-compliance.
You Are a Valuable Asset
It’s always worth remembering that employees represent one of the primary investments in any business. In approaching your discussions regarding your needs, it is often useful to take into account your value to the company. While you should be clear that your requests reflect Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, there’s no harm in showing how these changes will help you continue to be a vital member of the company.
It can be useful to seek independent medical evaluation before this discussion. In this way you can be prepared with a doctor’s confirmation that you are still able to undertake the core tasks of your job. From there, you can enter discussions that make it clear that the accommodations you are seeking are to help enhance your productivity. What you’re asking for not only provides you with relative comfort and safety, but helps you push your workflow to a consistent level of excellence.
Be methodical in your approach. Do your research, perhaps provide examples of how industry leaders have been taking initiatives to be proactive in accessibility. If, for instance, you use a piece of software for your accessibility needs, such as speech-to-text, and it’s nearing the end of its life, you need to be able to convince management why the upgrade is worth it for both you and the company. Show how you’ve put careful consideration into affirming that your request is reasonable, not excessive. Talk about how changes can be integrated into your workflow, and what the result could be. Demonstrating that you’ve taken into account the company’s needs alongside your own highlights your continued commitment to being a valuable asset.
Compliance Improves the Business
Another route to being sure your needs are met is to approach discussions in terms of the benefits ADA compliance can have to the business as a whole. It may be the case that your employer has difficulty seeing why — beyond their legal obligations — making considerate changes to their company affects their success and longevity. By bringing this into the dialogue about your needs, you can demonstrate that you’ve thought beyond the benefits to you personally.
Highlight how accessibility improvements can encourage workplace diversity. Whether a private company or a public entity, your employer will benefit from making the workplace accessible to those with a variety of needs. Diversity in teams results in more creative ideas, which helps businesses to innovate in their field. It engenders an inclusive work culture, which in turn also helps to attract even more employees from a rich range of backgrounds. To put it bluntly, diversity significantly raises revenue.
Adhering to ADA compliance also helps to improve the overall reputation of a company. Investing in accommodations such as those requested, demonstrates commitment to ethical working practices. These accommodations also show that they are sufficiently prepared to employ disabled workers in the future. Being visible about ADA compliance often affects disabled customers’ likelihood of utilizing their services, and enhances their image within the community and the industry.
Opening discussions about your needs can be daunting, because history has shown us that it can leave you vulnerable to prejudice. While you can hope that taking a proactive approach to workplace accommodations will be met positively, the opposite may well be the case. Therefore, it is useful for you to know your employer’s legal obligations, and what courses of action are open to you if they fail in their responsibilities.
The requirement for compliance is not limited to whether your injury has occurred within or outside of the workplace. Regardless of the cause of your injury, the ADA requires steps be taken and changes made to guarantee you can conduct your duties safely. These accommodations must be considered reasonable, which in the case of the ADA means they are sufficient to allow an employee with a disability to function in their position. Your employer is also obligated to enter into a collaborative process with you to find reasonable solutions to their needs.
If your requests for accommodation would not result in undue hardship for the company, yet they fail to comply, you must be methodical about your next steps. Make a formal, written request to your management and the HR department, outlining their legal obligations under the ADA. It can be a frustrating process, but it behooves you to remain calm and reasonable in your actions. After all, it may be the case that your employer doesn’t fully understand your position, or even their legal requirements. However, if you remain unsuccessful or are met with repercussions, it may be worth consulting with a lawyer to make representations to your company on your behalf.
Understanding how to tackle the challenges you face following injury or disability can be a daunting process. When entering into discussions with your employer about what accommodations need to be made, it is also useful to take an informed, practical approach. Don’t rely purely on legislative aspects; present the case that changes help more than just a single employee, they offer vastbenefits for the company.
Author Info: Noah Rue is a writer, a digital nomad, and a graduate of the lessons of life (primary) and also the University of Idaho. These days, Noah teaches English as a second language in lovely Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and moonlights as a content strategist for an American based marketing company.