Disability and Accommodation

Disability and Accommodation

This is an unplanned follow up on my last blog post about employment and disability.

Today I was surfing the internet and came across this tweet from user @stephshantz (Steph Shantz): “I had two people tell me today that if I can’t sustainably work full-time in an office because of my medical condition maybe I should find a different job rather than try seeking a work accommodation. So that’s the state of the post-pandemic disability rights for you.”

My tweeted response: @JAdvocatingHere (JustAdvocatingHere) “Unacceptable, discrimination, ableism. They must learn about living with disability & how hard we work for what we have. We deserve any job we are QUALIFIED for. Accommodation is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT in EVERY job/role. Period”

I wish I were shocked that people (yes more than one) said something like that. Unfortunately, people with disabilities often hear things like this toxic, ableist attitude.

Finding meaningful employment with a disability can be challenging, and this is an example of the judgments we face. This is also an example of why so many people are afraid to ask for accommodations. After reading that tweet, I looked at the replies and saw people commenting that they’ve quit jobs rather than ask for accommodations.

That moment of “How do I ask for what I need, will they get upset? I better not say anything” is brutal. Rarely does accommodation cause hardship to the company and removing barriers and obstacles will always make a happier, more productive, successful employee.

If you find meaningful employment and are doing your job and realize you need an accommodation to continue to be an asset to the company, you must then decide what to do. Your decision is usually based on past success/trauma and current employee/er relationship, and making that choice is often scary.

This belief – {if you need an accommodation, you should find a different job} – What?! My ability to do my job, and do it well, has ZERO relation to my need for accommodation.  

Imagine if someone said something so ignorant to Stephen Hawking! You know he has accommodations, right? Imagine if he was told “you just need to find a job you can do without accommodations”. How ridiculous!

What about Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Ralph Braun? Helen Keller? John Hockenberry? Lenin Moreno? John Nash? Thomas Edison? Temple Grandin? Albert Einstein? Geerat Vermeij? Edwin Krebs? Leonardo Da Vinci? Gustav Kirchhoff? Richard Leakey? Charles Steinmetz? Farida Bedwei?

I could go on… but I think you get the point.  We deserve any job we are QUALIFIED for. Period. If we need accommodations to do that job to our full capacity, we deserve that too. Anything less is discrimination and can find you in hot water because the law agrees that accommodation is a legal requirement.

Disability is not lack of skills or abilities to be a phenomenally successful employee. Disability is a society-imposed obstacle or barrier (failing) placing people with disabilities at a disadvantage that may need accommodations to provide equity.

George Washington University explains the difference between equality and equity: “Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
 Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.”

We must do better.