Disclosing Your Disability in the Workplace

Disclosing your disability or disabilities in the workplace can be uncomfortable. Spinal cord injuries are typically visible, meaning a person with a spinal cord injury more likely than not uses a wheelchair or other mobility device. With visible disabilities, people are often aware of certain aspects that are involved with that disability, such as recognizing that someone with quadriplegia has no hand movement, or knowing that someone who uses a wheelchair may need assistance reaching things above a certain height. However, spinal cord injuries are complex. No one knows the effects of your spinal cord injury more than you do. Because of the complexity of spinal cord injuries, you may have to disclose certain parts of your disability that affect your work.

When talking about your disability to an employer, discussing the nature of your disability and how your disability affects your job performance is essential. You do not need to disclose every single aspect of your disability. Make sure to be simple and direct, and give all relevant information necessary for the situation at hand. Employers have a legal right under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) to know if an employee is disabled and in need of accommodations. Therefore, it is important to disclose your disability as soon as possible to avoid any problems that may arise due to a lack of proper accommodations.

Many spinal cord injury patients have health complications that may affect their work, but are too nervous to disclose certain aspects of their disability. However, disclosing certain aspects of your disability to an employer may prove to be beneficial. There are three main reasons why an employee may need to disclose further information about their disability.

Requesting Accommodations

The most common reason for disclosing information on your disability in the workplace is to request accommodations. Job accommodations are defined as adjustments to the way things are typically done in a workplace in order to meet the needs of a worker. People with spinal cord injuries often request workplace accommodations such as acquiring a computer system that a person with quadriplegia can navigate, allowing the employee to do remote work instead of in-person work, and adjusting the height of a desk at the office in order to accommodate a wheelchair.

Explaining Different Circumstances

Another reason an employee may disclose information on their disability in the workplace is to explain an uncommon circumstance. For example, if you are late to work because there was a problem with your accessible transportation, relaying your situation to your employer and explaining how you rely on accessible transportation to get to work may be beneficial. By disclosing information on your disability during an unusual circumstance that arises on the job, you are giving your employer a deeper insight into you as an employee, and often, the employer reacts with empathy and understanding.

Receiving Privileges and Benefits of Employment

The last reason someone may disclose information on their disability to an employer is to receive the privileges and benefits of employment that fellow employees receive. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide accommodations for employees with disabilities so all employees can reap equal privileges and benefits of employment. The ADA classifies privileges and benefits as transportation, cafeterias, social functions, trainings sponsored by the employer, and other workplace activities and amenities.

While disclosing information on your disability in the workplace can be nerve-wracking, it can also be incredibly beneficial for requesting job accommodations, explaining different circumstances, and receiving privileges and benefits of employment. Remember to disclose the relevant information on the nature of your spinal cord injury and the ways in which your spinal cord injury may affect your work. If you need assistance with or have questions about disclosing your disability in the workplace, contact us today.

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