Is your employer prepared to accommodate your disability?

You may have worked for a company for several years, but a recent vehicle crash has left you with a physical disability, and now you require a wheelchair.

You are looking forward to returning to work, but you are concerned about company policy. Will your employer provide accommodation that will allow you to perform your job to the best of your ability?

Protection under the law

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must accommodate people with disabilities. For example, you can request that your workspace be wheelchair-accessible. You can make the request verbally and you do not need to use terms like "reasonable accommodation" or "disability."

There are many kinds of disabilities, and not all are physical in nature. People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia have protection under the ADA, just like people who are vision or hearing impaired or who have epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled employees unless this would require significant company expense, lower the production level, or make disruptive changes to fundamental job responsibilities.

Appropriate reactions

Your employer should consider requests for accommodation on a case-by-case basis. Your request for wheelchair accessibility will be different than a request from a person who is vision impaired and needs a brightly lit space. If your employer cannot provide the exact accommodation you have in mind, the two of you should discuss the matter and find a satisfactory alternative solution.

Benefits for the employer

Your employer should be aware that the Internal Revenue Service provides incentives for employers who make their businesses more accessible to people with disabilities. These include the Small Business Tax Credit, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction, which rewards employers who provide wheelchair-accessible entrances, walkways, ramps and restrooms.

Options for you

If you find that your employer is not open to reasonable accommodation for your disability, remember that you have rights. You should first pursue those rights administratively, but if you continue to run into roadblocks, you can take your case to court.

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