Friday, October 10, 2014

For Americans: the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)

A recent question reminded me of something that I've found invaluable: the ADA. (Sorry to my readers across the pond; inexplicably, American legislation only applies in America!) But for those of us in the US, the ADA is a piece of legislation that protects any and all Americans who have any kind of disability. And guess what? Lupus is most definitely a disability.

The ADA dictates that schools, employers, etc., have to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals. To be clear, this does not mean that, for example, an employer has to hire a lupus patient for a job (s)he is physically incapable of performing. But it does mean that employers and schools have to work with lupus patients (and others) if there are reasonable changes that can be made to make it so that a patient can perform tasks. For example, I know a lupus patient who worked at a bank. She was supposed to stand for her job. Eight hours of standing? Not so good. But standing wasn't actually essential to the work she was doing, so her doctor wrote her a note, and she was given a tall chair for her job. Boom. Problem solved.

I have not needed accommodations for work (yet). But I have certainly needed them for school. The downside is that you cannot just waltz into a classroom and request help. You have to document the hell out of your disability. But once you've done that (contact Student Disability Services for your school's policies), you're set. I've had Disability Services arrange for me to have everything from special parking so I didn't have to walk in the sun to extra time to complete assignments because I was too exhausted to keep up with everyone else. I didn't take advantage of the system, and, in fact, didn't often use it, but when I needed a little extra time it was invaluable.

A little known fact is that your state can give you a letter certifying you as a disabled worker. This allows you to certify once and for all that you have a disability, and can be submitted with an employment application when you apply for a state or federal job. This can actually help your employer, too, as they can show that they are an equal opportunity employer. So it's worth looking into. The State of Maryland issued me one such letter, which I submit with any federal job application I submit.

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