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New Directions for Young Adults Blog: How to Ask for Workplace Accommodations

How to Ask for Workplace Accommodations

NDFYA Staff

If you or someone you know finds yourself needing specific accommodations in order to properly fulfill the requirements of a job, finding the right way to approach your employer can be tricky. More than anything, if you have some kind of challenge that has the potential to affect your work without accommodations, all you want is to not make waves or seem “too difficult.”

While it should never feel intimidating to advocate for yourself, it might be hard to figure out the best way to ask for reasonable accommodations. We have compiled some information that may be helpful when preparing yourself to ask for accommodations in your workplace.

When to ask for accommodations

It is perfectly acceptable to ask for workplace accommodations at any point in the application process if you’re aware of specific needs you have in order to do a job to the best of your ability, or in order to navigate the workplace. Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal for an employer or potential employer to discriminate against you because of a disability or your resulting needs. So you don’t need to worry about asking for accommodations at any point in the hiring process.

Sometimes, you might not be aware of a barrier in the workplace that keeps you from doing your job until you begin. Or you may become after working at your job for some time that your duties have changed. The best practice when asking for accommodations is to ask as soon as you realize that there is some kind of  potential workplace barrier. Perhaps you need parking accommodations, or structural changes in the employee lunch room to reach the counter. It’s a good idea to bring these up as soon as you can to give your employer the necessary time to adjust.

Understanding what a “reasonable accommodation” request is

If you’re unsure whether or not your request is deemed “reasonable,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a great list of guidelines to determine whether your request is reasonable or not. These include:

  • Altering existing facilities so they are accessible
  • Obtaining or modifying workplace equipment
  • Switching to a part-time or adjusted schedule
  • Providing a qualified reader or translator

With each of these instances, the request is a reasonable one because it is not asking to alter an essential job function. A pilot flying a plane is an example of an essential job function, so a pilot requesting to not fly a plane would be an unreasonable request.

The limitation to reasonable requests help to avoid the burden of many unreasonable requests. If your request causes undue hardship in the form of significant or costly changes within the workplace, it is causing undue hardship. Undue hardship can mean anything that substantially disrupts or alters the typical order of business, and should be avoided as much as possible.

Keeping your requests reasonable will make asking for a workplace accommodation stress-free. Focusing on how your request will have a positive impact, will improve your confidence. However you must adhere to the aforementioned suggestions that condone frivolous suggestions, and promote office equality.

How to properly prepare a request for accommodation

When you request an accommodation, it is important to express your medical needs for such an accommodation. You do not have to go into specific detail if you don’t want, but it is important to communicate your medical need. Here are a few examples of well-worded requests:

  • Example 1: “I’m having trouble getting to work at my scheduled time because of my medical treatments”
  • Example 2: “I need 6 weeks off to receive treatment for a back problem”
  • Example 3: “I’m having trouble getting to work on time, because I am taking the bus with my wheelchair. Can my 9 hour day start at 9:30AM?”

In each of these requests, the employee is expressing a specific medical need for an accommodation, when talking with their employer about their reasonable accommodations.

However, asking for a new chair because your current chair is uncomfortable is not specific enough. For starters, it does not express a medical need. However, asking for a new chair because your current chair aggravates back or hip problems, would likely fit as a reasonable request. Asking for lowered job expectations is also not a reasonable request, as it pertains to essential job functions. 

While you do not have to provide specific documentation or information on your disability up front, some employers may ask for proof of your disability. If so, you are required to provide this information to them. This is no need for concern because the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. So the information you provide to your employer will not hold you back in the long run.

The bottom line? Be honest and simple about your request for accommodations. Provide as much information as you think is necessary, but don’t feel like you have to share more than necessary.

Are you unsure of what can be considered a reasonable request? Or are you simply looking for advice on what accommodations will be most helpful for you? New Directions for Young Adults is happy to help. We regularly work with young adults who need accommodations, and know what kinds of accommodations can be most helpful to you. 

We work with our young people to create individualized service plans that advocate for their needs. Both in and out of the workplace. Contact us today to see how we can help advocate for your young adult’s workplace needs.

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