Do you need reasonable accommodations in the workplace due to a disability? Do you know what steps to take to get the process started?

Disclosure: Let’s Talk About It

Sep 13, 2016

By Guest Blogger Melanie Whetzel
Lead Consultant on the Cognitive/Neurological team at Job Accommodation Network

In July, we commemorated the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA improves the lives of people with disabilities by protecting and ensuring their equal access employment, public entities, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications and more. It helps people with disabilities compete for employment and receive the accommodations and protection they need to work.  

Do you need reasonable accommodations in the workplace due to a disability? Do you know what steps to take to get the process started? Disclosure is the first and sometimes the most difficult step. Just thinking about this may sometimes cause anxiety and stress.

Disclosure is sharing personal information about your disability. It’s important for you to provide information about the nature of your disability, the limitations involved, and how it affects your ability to learn and/or perform the job effectively. Your employer has a right to know if you are asking for accommodations because of a disability. Ideally, you will disclose your disability and ask for accommodations before performance problems begin, or at least before they become too serious.

Let’s look at three main reasons why you may choose to disclose your disability to your employer:

  1. To ask for job accommodations. As an example, a bus garage employee with a reading disability missed instructions and important announcements that were sent by email. He asked for screen reading software.
  2. To receive benefits or privileges of employment. The ADA requires employers to provide accommodations so employees with disabilities can enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by people without disabilities working in similar roles. Benefits and privileges of employment include access to cafeterias, lounges, gymnasiums, auditoriums, transportation, and parties or other social functions. They also include employer-sponsored training. For example, an employee with Down syndrome signed up for a nutrition class but had trouble understanding the information presented. His employer asked the instructor to offer pictures of the types of food she recommended employees eat. The employee was able to use these pictures when making food choices.
  3. To explain an unusual circumstance. For example, someone with temperature sensitivities due to multiple sclerosis may need to explain to his employer why it would be helpful to work from home while the office air conditioner is being repaired.

Disclosure can be quite simple. You can tell your employer you need to talk about an adjustment or change that is essential because of a medical condition. You may request an accommodation in plain language. You do not have to mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” It can be as easy as saying to your supervisor, “I need to talk to you about my difficulty writing notes by hand due to my medical condition.”

If you have questions about disclosure or want to discuss an accommodation situation, contact a Job Accommodation Network (JAN) consultant online or call 1-800-526-7234 (Voice) or 1-877-781-9403 (TTY).

About Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

To learn more about Ticket Work, contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (Voice) or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket to Work Find Help tool.

About the Author

Melanie joined the JAN staff as a consultant on the Cognitive / Neurological Team in February 2008. She has a fourteen year history of teaching and advocating for students with disabilities in the public school system. As a member of the Cognitive / Neurological Team, Melanie specializes in learning disabilities, mental impairments, developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and brain injuries. She became a certified brain injury specialist in December 2014.

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