It is not uncommon for your needs for accommodation to change as you progress through your career. This could be due to a change in the nature or severity of an existing condition, or the development of a new condition that requires additional or different accommodation. How do you communicate your changed circumstances to your employer? Or, if you are the employer of a member of staff whose needs have changed, what is the best way to reassess needs and discuss this with your employee? (Please note that this toolkit focuses on employment issues; your healthcare team can tell you about the advisability of employment.)
Potential best solutions for changed accommodations depend on the nature and severity of the change of need. For example, a gradual intensifying of an existing need may be sufficiently accommodated by incremental adjustment of an existing accommodation. On the other hand, a condition that has intensified significantly and has created a new disability will likely require additional, different, and/or more substantial accommodation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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.” You will have considered these factors when first declaring your disability and need for accommodation (or learning of your employee’s situation). Furthermore, It is important to bear in mind that accommodations should be regarded as productivity enhancements and not as “special treatment.”
Arriving at the correct accommodation can be a complex process, but it is always worth spending time to consider thoroughly all the issues pertaining to your new situation and drawing up an appropriate plan. A sample process may contain some or all of the following steps. Many of these may be familiar from when you were first considering discussing your disability with your employer:
Assessing the nature and intensity of your changed disabilities. Examining each part of your current role and determining how they may be affected by your new situation.
Consulting medical professionals to determine the most effective accommodation(s) for your new situation.
Discussing your new situation and any revised accommodations that might be necessary to your organization’s HR professionals. Some possible accommodations are outlined below:
Requesting different or additional work equipment or new changes to your work environment (or providing them if you are the employer).
Negotiating an adjusted working schedule that fits with your new needs.
Discussing revisions to the nature and/or scope of tasks associated with the position; for example, substituting some tasks with alternative work.
Additional information is available in the FAQ item I have a newly diagnosed disability, what do I do next?
Masumi has a chronic kidney condition for which she is receiving treatment, and which she disclosed to HR when she joined her organization. At a recent consultation with her physician, it was found that her condition had progressed to the point where she will soon need to undergo kidney dialysis three times per week. Masumi promptly contacted HR and her manager to arrange a meeting to discuss the upcoming change in her accommodation needs. Working together, Masumi and her colleagues devised a revised work schedule, including increased time working from home and an altered travel schedule, that will allow her to continue with her current workload and accommodates her need to travel to nearby healthcare facilities when it becomes necessary. The necessary changes were documented in full and signed by all parties. Both HR and her manager thanked Masumi for being proactive in addressing the upcoming issue and giving them a heads-up so that her revised needs could be documented in plenty of time.
Some additional resources and information that may be of assistance in planning and implementing revised needs accommodations are shown below: