The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities in the workplace. As part of this policy, the ADA requires that workers with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations on the job. Most employers in the United States must act in accordance with the ADA. If you have a disability, you can make sure you receive the accommodations you deserve by declaring your disability to an employer.
For example, let’s say your disability is low vision. You’re not exactly blind, but your vision is very poor, even with the best glasses or contact lenses. You can’t drive, but you walk around without assistance or special equipment, so many people don’t realize you have a disability. You decide to go online and apply for an office job. You’re able to read the application on your computer in a large font and go about the interview process normally. However, it would still benefit you to declare your disability when you receive a job offer.
In most cases, when you’re offered a job, your employer should be able to provide you with a list of essential job functions you need to be able to complete to successfully handle your work. These can include sitting for long periods of time, frequently using the telephone to interact with customers, and completing written instructions. After reviewing these, you need to be able to tell your potential employer whether you can perform these functions. If you can’t perform them, even with accommodations, you aren’t qualified for that job. If you would be able to perform them with accommodations, this is your chance to suggest some reasonable changes that could be made for you.
For example, you can say you’ll need written work orders and all other documents in large type so you can read them, because you have low vision. You don’t need to name your exact diagnosis, although you can. If they choose, the employer is allowed to ask for proof that you’re disabled, such as a doctor’s letter for physical conditions or a psychological report for mental conditions. The documentation should have a description of your disability, recommendations for work activities, and the condition’s effect on major life activities.
The employer now must provide this accommodation, unless it would cause them “undue hardship.” This can be claimed if providing the accommodation would significantly affect the company financially or if it would change the way the business functions. Undue hardship can also be claimed if you later interact inappropriately with fellow employees, even if you do so because of your disability.
If the employer thinks there may be an issue with your accommodations, this is their chance to let you know. Providing documents in large type or purchasing a keyboard with extra-large symbols should be considered reasonable accommodations. Once you are hired, you may feel more secure knowing that the employer already agreed to provide you with reasonable accommodations, and that you were honest about your needs.
Here are some answers to common questions about declaring a disability:
Does everyone have to provide accommodations to people with disabilities?
No, the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t cover some entities. These include small businesses with fewer than 15 workers, private membership clubs, churches or religious schools, and Native American reservations.
Can I declare a disability before I get a job offer?
Yes, you can also declare a disability during the application process or interview process. However, there are issues to consider here. Generally, it’s not a good idea to provide more information than what is asked for on job applications. Declaring your disability during the application process or interview might also give the impression that you’re preoccupied with your condition. However, if you can’t complete the application or interview process without reasonable accommodations, you should mention your disability early. Unfortunately, if you declare your disability this early, the employer could discriminate against you while claiming they didn’t hire you for other reasons, and it would be difficult to prove they had done anything wrong.
Can I declare my disability after I’ve begun working?
Yes, you can declare your disability once you’ve already begun working, but your employer may feel suspicious or confused as to why you didn’t tell them sooner. While this may be a way to avoid discrimination during the hiring process, it doesn’t establish a trusting relationship with your employer. If the employer doesn’t end up providing you with reasonable accommodations, it could also make it harder for you to hold them responsible. Of course, if you develop a disability after you begin working, this may be your best option.
Do I have to declare my disability?
No, the ADA says you aren’t required to declare your disability. This applies to people with noticeable disabilities as well, such as those who are blind or use wheelchairs. However, until you disclose your disability to the appropriate person, such as a supervisor, your company is under no obligation to provide you with accommodations.
Can I declare more than one disability?
Yes, if you have multiple disabilities, you can declare as many of them as you want. You may be asked to prove you have all of them. Your employer should provide reasonable accommodations for each of your conditions.
Basically, the Americans with Disabilities Act was written to make sure people with disabilities are treated fairly. To ensure that you’re treated fairly in the workplace, you should consider declaring your disability to an employer. You can do so at any time, although declaring your disability after you receive a job offer is often considered the most appropriate. Remember, you are not required to declare your disability, although there are many advantages to doing so. The ADA puts you in control.