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How do you request disability accommodations at work?

When do you bring up the conversation about disability accommodations at work?

In a perfect world, you could tell anyone about your disability and it would never negatively affect your career -- but it is far from a perfect world. That's why you should consider two important questions first:

1. Do you need to discuss your disability when you're first hired?

If your disability were obvious, you wouldn't be agonizing over when to tell your employer. Ask yourself whether there's really a good reason to explain your condition right away.

You have to be willing to take a realistic view of your condition in order to answer this question. For example, imagine you've just been diagnosed with a progressive condition that may take years to fully develop, like Parkinson's disease. If your symptoms are under control with medication, you may not want the specter of a disability overshadowing your career just yet.

On the other hand, if fatigue makes your condition worse or prevents you from working at the same pace you've typically done in the past, you can expect people to notice that something is different. It may be better to address the issue now -- before people start speculating about the cause behind the change.

2. What accommodations do you need to continue working?

If you decide that it's time to disclose your condition to your employer, don't do it until you've thought about the accommodations that you need. (If you can't think of any, that's a good sign that it may not be necessary to talk about your condition at this time.)

This is where you need to be particularly careful. You want to put your request for accommodations in writing so that you can prove that your employer was notified if that becomes an issue later.

However, you don't want to indicate that it will actually prevent you from doing your job. If you do, that could justify your termination. You want to state your condition, the specific symptom that's making work difficult and the specific accommodations that you need.

Handling a disability disclosure can be tricky -- and there's no guarantee that your news will be met with compassion. If you suffer workplace discrimination because of your disability, you may want to talk to an attorney.

Source: Monster.com, "Talking About Your Disability at Work," Dan Woog, accessed July 21, 2017

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