Disclosing information about your disability in the workplace can be stressful, but it is often necessary when considering the accommodations you will need while performing your job. Asking for accommodations in the workplace is extremely beneficial as a worker with a spinal cord injury. With the right accommodations, people with spinal cord injuries can succeed and thrive in their professional lives.
Common accommodations that people with spinal cord injuries request in the workplace are as follows: purchasing necessary computer equipment for people with quadriplegia; lowering a desk at work to accommodate a wheelchair; shifting work hours to adapt to outpatient rehab appointments; and taking longer breaks for pressure releases or for bladder and bowel control.
Do not be afraid to ask your employer for accommodations! Not only are accommodations necessary for most workers with disabilities, but your employer will more likely than not be receptive to your requests. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide you with reasonable accommodations on the job if you have a disability. Requesting accommodations in your workplace before you have difficulties in your position is always best. You do not want to wait until your job performance is affected to bring up the topic of workplace accommodations.
Below are three things to remember while asking your employer for accommodations.
Choose Someone You Trust
You should always choose to request accommodations from someone you feel comfortable disclosing medical information to. Sometimes, employees feel comfortable requesting accommodations from their direct supervisor. Other times, employees may prefer to disclose information about their disability to the human resources (HR) department of their company. When you request accommodations through HR, they verify your disability under the ADA and store your confidential medical information in their files. HR will then implement the accommodations by taking action and providing the necessary, relevant information to your direct supervisor.
Be Direct and Concise
Asking for accommodations may seem nerve-wracking, but keeping it simple and concise can make the process easy. First, request a meeting with your employer or an HR employee. During the meeting, be direct and let the person know that you need an adjustment in the workplace due to difficulties you have because of a medical condition.
Present the difficulties you have on the job, and give concise, relevant information about the condition causing the difficulties. People might get nervous at the thought of disclosing certain parts of their disability to their employer. You do not have to go in-depth while discussing your disability; share as much information as you are comfortable sharing about what is affecting your work.
After presenting the difficulties you have on the job, describe the accommodations you wish to see. Remember to be open to other options, as well. For example, if you have difficulty getting to work on time due to a lengthy morning care routine, tell your employer you feel that shifting your work hours to later in the day would solve the issue, but you are open to other solutions as well.
Write Down Your Request
Although the ADA does not require workplace accommodations to be put in writing, writing down your accommodation request can be beneficial for both you and your employer. Putting your requests in writing will help you remember exactly what you asked for in your meeting. Writing your accommodation request down also benefits your employer, as they can re-read the document(s) after the meeting to ensure they understand every issue you discussed.
Come to the meeting prepared with a document that provides the current difficulties, the (brief) reason why you are having difficulties, and some ideas for accommodations. Attaching verification from a medical professional may help, but is not required. Give this document to your employer or an HR representative after you have discussed the accommodation request in full.
Requesting workplace accommodations can be extremely beneficial for workers with spinal cord injuries. Not only do accommodations help you, but they help your employer, as accommodations will help you perform even better as an employee. Remember to choose someone you trust while requesting accommodations, be direct and concise, and put your request in writing. If you need help with the process of requesting accommodations from your employer, contact us today.