Work-Life Balance

Negotiating accommodations when you have a disability

Written by Guest Contributor

Unless you’re the next Mark Cuban, Jeff Bezos, or Barbara Corcoran, chances are you enjoy negotiating about as much as you enjoy a root canal. When you’re on the job, though, sometimes you need to do a bit of haggling to make sure that your work actually works for you. That’s especially true if you have a disability.

No matter whether you’re a new hire or an established employee when you have a disability, your condition may require specific accommodations to enable you to perform your job effectively.

But asking for those accommodations can be tough, particularly if your employer is unaware of your disability. The most important thing to remember, though, is that you have the legal right to reasonable workplace accommodations, and to be protected from any potential repercussions or retaliation for invoking those rights. This article shows you how to negotiate for the reasonable accommodations that are your right.

Know the facts

The first and most crucial aspect of negotiating accommodations when you have a disability is knowing your legal rights. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you have the legal right to reasonable accommodations that would enable you to do your job effectively but would not cause undue hardship for your employer.

But, of course, that’s a pretty murky definition. After all, one person’s “reasonable accommodation” is another’s “undue hardship.” So it’s a good idea to have some hard numbers to back you up when you go into your negotiation.

For instance, studies consistently show that the average costs of workplace accommodations are less than $500, and many require no financial outlay at all.

When you decide to request accommodations from your employer, though, remember that you are only obligated to disclose information about your disability that directly relates to your ability to do your job, and how the requested accommodation will facilitate that. You don’t have to discuss your health history or details that don’t pertain to your job performance, nor is your employer allowed to ask.

Remember, as well, that your employer is legally prohibited from discussing your disability with others in the workplace. Your medical information and status are confidential and can only be shared with relevant staff in the context of your employment.

What is “reasonable?”

As we’ve already seen, the term “reasonable accommodations” is pretty broad and quite ambiguous. But on the whole, the average workplace accommodation doesn’t require a significant investment of money, time, or effort to achieve.

Going into your negotiations with those facts in mind will help you come to the conversation from a position of strength. What you are asking isn’t going to be detrimental to the company.

Quite the opposite: having the accommodations you need will allow you to add significant value to the company for years to come. And that should be the primary thrust of your negotiation strategy. Emphasize what you bring to the company, and how the accommodations you request will not only help you to sustain that value but also to increase it.

And when you’re doing this, bring in the numbers to back you up. If you’re an established employee, present your employer with the facts on the revenues you’ve generated, the contracts you’ve landed, or other accomplishments of the previous 6-12 months. If you’re a new hire, remind your boss of what you’ve accomplished in similar job roles for other companies.

But that’s not the end. You also need to help your employer compare the cost of the accommodation with the return on investment (i.e., you and the value you bring). So, if you need adaptive equipment, for instance, then mock up a budget for the purchase of the equipment and any installation costs.

On the other hand, if you need to telecommute, whether full or part-time, present a clear and specific plan for doing so. Describe specifically how you will make the transition to remote work without compromising your productivity or performance. Show the technologies that you plan to use when working from home. Discuss issues such as security, functionality, and costs to establish a virtual workplace.

Again, compare those investments with the value you bring and how, in fact, the accommodation, such as the ability to telecommute, will increase your value and your longevity with the company. For instance, you might remind your employer that businesses that employ workers with disabilities produce 30% more revenue than those that don’t.

Get a move on?

It’s possible that joining or remaining with a company will require you to relocate. That’s a tough decision for anyone, but it can be especially challenging when you have a disability.

You may find yourself searching for accessible housing or transportation. You may need to locate a new medical team. So if you’re considering relocating for a job, there are many factors beyond the job itself that you need to keep in mind. Bear in mind the financial impacts, the potential effects on your family and your health, and even your ability to locate suitable housing and transportation.

Negotiating reasonable accommodations in such a case may well include negotiating support with relocation costs and even, perhaps, healthcare expenses. After all, you will likely need to work to establish relationships with a new medical team in a new town.

The takeaway

Negotiating is rarely fun. But it can be even more stressful when you have a disability, and the accommodation isn’t just about a job perk, but about meeting a need that will help you do your job. The key, though, is to go into your negotiations knowing your value and how the accommodations you request aren’t just reasonable, but also fair and appropriate.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

About the author

Guest Contributor