RA and Workplace Accommodations
Living and working with rheumatoid arthritis can be a real challenge. Luckily, the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA for short) requires most employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to qualified disabled individuals. Reasonable accommodations are modifications to a job, employment practice or process, or a work environment to make it possible for you to successfully fulfill the duties of your job. (For general tips about requesting workplace accommodations, see Workplace Accommodations Under the Americans With Disabilities Act)
Since the ADA places the initial burden on the worker to inform his or her employer about the need for an accommodation, you’ll want to prepare before speaking with your boss. First, it is important to consider exactly how your rheumatoid arthritis makes it more difficult for you to do your job. Which specific tasks are most problematic? Does hand or wrist pain make it difficult for you to use a computer? Is it challenging for you to sit, stand, or walk for long periods? Do you have trouble maintaining your stamina during the workday due to fatigue? It’s important to remember that not everyone with rheumatoid arthritis will experience the same limitations – and the degree of the limitation will also vary.
Once you pinpoint the specific issues that are most problematic for you, it’s time to start brainstorming suggestions for improvements. What types of accommodations would best be able to reduce or eliminate your issues? Here are some general suggestions that may be useful for individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis to request.
- Nearby parking
- Accessible entrance or automatic doors
- First floor workstation or access to an elevator
- Accessible restrooms and break rooms
- Ergonomic workstation design – keyboard, mouse, chair, etc.
- Adjustable sit/stand workstations
- Cushions or heating pads
- Stand/lean stools
- Book holders and page turners
- Arm supports
- Writing aids
- Grip aids
- Replacing small switches with cushioned knobs
- Speech recognition software or option to dictate to clerical staff
- Space heaters or added insulation to control temperature
- Location closer to restroom, office equipment used regularly, or break room
- Reassign or reallocate marginal duties
- Reduce physical exertion required or provide mobility aids
- Reduce workplace stress
- Allow longer breaks or schedule additional periodic rest breaks
- Flexible work schedule
- Flexible use of leave time
- Work from home options
- Sensitivity training for coworkers
- Telephone calls during work hours to doctors or other support
- Shorter staff meetings
Make sure to identify which issues – and which solutions – you feel are most important to address before making an appointment to speak with your boss! For help brainstorming about your specific health/job situation, contact the Job Accommodation Network – a free, confidential, and personalized service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.
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