Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ask an MS Navigator: What are job accommodations and how do I get one?

Kris Graham
Employment Manager, National MS Society

We recently received a question about how to obtain accommodations when MS starts to get in the way of doing your job. What perfect timing! I was just about to write my first post on employment and MS …

First, you need to know whether or not the ADA applies to your situation.  You can request reasonable accommodation under the ADA if:
  • You work for an ADA-covered employer; 
  • You are “qualified” to do the job; AND 
  • You are a person with a disability as defined by the ADA.

ADA-covered employers include private employers with 15 or more employees, all state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions.

“Qualified” to do the job means that you have the “skills, experience, education, or other requirements” of the position, and you “can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.” (See Disability Law Handbook - Employment and the ADA)

Person with a disability, according to the ADA’s definition, now includes most people with MS, thanks to the passage of the ADA Amendments Act and updated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations. 

Accommodations can be things like new equipment or changes to existing equipment. Another example is a change to your work routines, such as hours worked. Read a few real-world examples of accommodations that have worked for people with MS.

Two important things to remember about accommodations:
  1. You must be able to perform the essential functions of your job. The ADA does not require employers to reduce essential job functions, but you can ask to change how you perform an essential job function. Usually employers decide which job functions are essential. 
  2. Your employer does not have to provide you with your first choice in accommodations. The employer has to provide an accommodation that is reasonable and effective, if available—so be ready to discuss alternatives.

Be prepared! Before you request accommodations, make sure you can answer all of the following questions:

  • How is MS affecting your job, potential job, or application process?
  • Why are you requesting accommodations?
  • What accommodations or changes to your work will be effective?
  • What information will you need to provide to your employer (or potential employer)?
  • When should you speak with your employer (or potential employer)?
  • Who should you involve in the conversation?
  • How should you follow-up on your request?
  • What are your rights if things go wrong?

These resources can provide more help and information:

SOAR (Job Accommodation Network’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource)

Not sure if your employer is covered by the ADA? Contact your regional ADA Center and the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) to make sure. Both organizations are free and confidential resources. JAN has staff trained in exploring possible accommodations for your particular situation.

If your employer is not covered by the ADA, contact an MS Navigator® at 1-800-344-4867 for assistance in exploring other possible legislation that may protect you.

Got another question related to employment? Comment below and check back in the coming months as we continue to navigate the employment world!

1 comment:

  1. I encourage everyone who works at an employer that qualifies for ADA modifications to do it. Your nuerologist should be familiar with the process and will want you to have the tools to keep you working and connected with the world. I went through this process with very good results. Luckily I still am walking fairly well but have a great deal of problems finding the right position for typing because of the numbness and pains that occurs in various parts of my right side while trying to type in certain positions and occasional steadiness issues while walking. Additionally, I am male and about 6'3" so normal furniture tends to be too short and causes problems. I have had to modify my own furniture at home to be taller.

    I have a state of Texas job and my employer was very accomodating. The state has people who are familiar with ADA accomadations and came and met with me. The result was quite satisfying. It was a combination of the same models of furniture pieces used in all the other offices combined with an electric adjustable table that raises and lowers for my computer and work layout directly in front of me and a rolling table as a side return next to it. That combinined with the credenza on the other side creates a U-shaped work space with the same working surface space as everyone else's, but with a rolling table that can be rolled to the opposite wall so I can stand and walk directly to the the door or roll into the middle of the office so that small meetings can take place around it. The layout is a little different than the rest of the offices, but the style and decor completely matches. The only "extra" furniture that has to be bought especially for me was the mechanical table and a chair that sits a bit taller. The mechanical table is not the same finish as all the rest of the furniture in the building (different manufacturer) but it is complementary. I'm happy with and I don't feel like I stand out as overly different.

    Please don't be afraid of this process. It's worth the effort and more people that anyone realizes need modifed offices for various reasons.

    Alan Michels,
    Lubbock, Tx