Asking for Medical Accommodations at Your Job
Last updated: September 2021
Having SMA and asking for help is unfortunately just a part of our disability. Although this may be difficult at times, we should never feel like a burden at home and especially at work. Our minds are sharp, and I might argue even sharper than most able-bodied people.
What you lack in one area you make up for in another. So, we must not let this go to waste in our professional life which means asking your job for accommodations in order to be the most efficient and productive employee you can possibly be.
What is an accommodation?
Medical accommodations range from the technology you might need like speech-to-text software, a modified computer keyboard and mouse, to allowing an employee to work extra days from home or bring a personal care assistant (PCA) to the office.
It’s important to identify what you need to get the job done properly and it might not be any different from what you do at home on a daily basis.
Accommodations that I ask for at work
At every internship or job I’ve ever had I typically ask for the same accommodations: the ability to bring a PCA, flexible work hours, a desk on the first floor in case of an emergency exit, and some basic modifications to my desk like attaching a keyboard tray so I can pull up with my wheelchair and reach the computer mouse.
As most people in wheelchairs know, finding an accessible bathroom or a single-person bathroom is a difficult feat especially at your place of work. I’ve found the most common accommodation for this situation is to ask if there’s a bathroom that’s rarely used and if it can be locked down at a particular time each day so you can use it comfortably.
This might not even be an official request to HR and might just take getting friendly with maintenance, office security, or the janitorial staff.
How to ask for a medical accommodation
Most companies have a formal process that goes through Human Resources, but the key to this part of the equation is to emphasize that your request will allow you to be your most productive and efficient self.
Never ask for accommodation without explaining how it will benefit you and, if possible, the place you work.
Of course, the benefit will be obvious to you but I can tell you it’s 100% not obvious to someone who doesn’t live your life. Instead of getting your accommodation denied because of lack of communication and then having to fight, lay the groundwork early so everyone feels enlightened and determined to make it happen.
What to do if the requests are denied
If your accommodation continues to get denied there’s always legal action as you are entitled to reasonable accommodations, but don’t let that be your first reaction. First, have discussions with your manager and HR to come to a compromise.
Maybe even make the purchase yourself, if it’s something like technology, to showcase the difference it can make in your work and then ask for a reimbursement.
Sometimes an accommodation can be as simple as asking a colleague to take notes for you in a meeting. People are always happy to help!
Have you shared your SMA diagnosis story with us yet?