When you have a newly diagnosed disability, you want to investigate your options for participating in the workforce. (Please note that this toolkit focuses on employment issues; your healthcare team can guide you on the advisability of employment.)
There are both international treaties and national laws addressing disability rights. The United Nations (UN) sponsors the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006; as of May 2022, 186 nations have signed the agreement. The UN also maintains the list “Disability Laws and Acts by Country/Area,” which you can use to launch your research. In the United States, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the key federal law; but other legislation, such as the Rehabilitation Act, also addresses employment rights. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides several useful guides to an individual’s rights and an employer’s responsibilities on the EEOC website.
The ADA National Network defines reasonable accommodation as “any change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations are considered ‘reasonable’ if they do not create an undue hardship or a direct threat.”
Take a close look at each of the tasks required by your current (or prospective) position. Which tasks are essential to the position? Which can you perform without accommodation? Which could you perform with reasonable accommodations? The guide created by the Job Accommodation Network and the guide created by Equip for Equality can help you to answer these questions.
If you determine that reasonable accommodations are appropriate, you should familiarize yourself with your current or prospective employer’s policies regarding reasonable accommodation and the process for submitting a request.
By connecting with other persons with disabilities and other professionals in your field, you can learn from their experiences, receive guidance and encouragement, and explore employment options. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, for example, features information resources on its website and welcomes participation in local affiliate groups around the world. The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC), which sponsors this toolkit, offers resources and networking opportunities for individuals in this profession.
Lauren is a marketing manager at a university press in the United States. When they are diagnosed with a disability, they decide that they want to remain in the workforce. First, they learn about federal legislation establishing their rights as a disabled employee. Next, Lauren evaluates their current position to determine which job-related tasks the disability may impact and how reasonable accommodations might enable them to perform these tasks. The university at which Lauren works has an office of equal opportunity and compliance, so they visit the website to learn about the policies and processes regarding reasonable accommodation.
Lauren connects with others who share their disability and with others in their profession. This extended network provides Lauren with vital support and encouragement; it also opens the door to new employment opportunities.
ADA National Network, Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace
Civil Rights Division, U. S. Department of Justice, Guide to Disabilities Rights Laws
Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC)
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, Disability Laws and Acts by Country/Area
Equip for Equality, Job Restructuring as a Reasonable Accommodation
Job Accommodation Network, Employee’s Practical Guide to Requesting and Negotiating Reasonable Accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC Disability-Related Resources