Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Workplace Accommodations

How does our family member seek workplace accommodations that tailor the job itself or the job environment?

If an employee or potential employee feels that they need adjustments to the job, the work environment, or the supports at work, they can apply to the employer for workplace accommodations as described in the Americans With Disabilities Act and its amendments. Some very small employers may be excluded from the law on accommodations, but most employers are required to make these adjustments.

Families can help their employed member to know the law and to prepare the request for accommodations. They can also help, if needed, to get documentation from clinicians who treat the family member.

The employee actually requests the accommodations (specific ones) and provides medical documentation of a disability that imposes limits to their work functioning. This does not mean that extensive information is provided by health care providers or that medical records are needed. It just means that a letter from a qualified clinician documents that the person has a disability and the implications for accommodations. (JAN)

What if an employer won’t provide the accommodations my family member requests?

There are two agencies which are readily available to all citizens at no cost that have great expertise in the ADA and all of its aspects.

The first is the Job Accommodation Network. This is a national organization that provides training and technical assistance to job seekers and their families, employees, employers and others involved in the vocational efforts. JAN operates a comprehensive website and has a toll free phone number.

The other resource are the ADA Centers throughout the country which have a regional base. The ADA Technical Assistance Centers (sometimes known as DBTAC‘s) employ legal experts who can answer questions like this on the ADA. A person might call an ADA Center if there is a concern about discrimination, failure to provide accommodations, worry about being fired or advice on how to deal with potential conflicts. These centers are set up on a regional basis.

What accommodations are most often requested by people with mental health conditions?

The most common accommodations for persons with mental health conditions are flexibility in scheduling and regular supportive supervision (relationship accommodations) with extra clear job descriptions. The accommodation that is least likely to be met to the success of the employee is relationship accommodation such as supervision. (BU DRRK)

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) created the accommodation ideas listed below. You can contact JAN directly if you need more information beyond what has been provided.

What accommodations work best for people with mental health conditions?

The three main types are task (adjusting the actual work tasks); routine (adjusting the work hours/ schedule) and relationships (specific type or amount of supervision). Sometimes accommodations that work for a person with a mental health condition are the same as the ones that are used for those with physical disabilities such as type of work space or parking arrangements. The “ramps” for people with mental health conditions tend to be people in the work environment who see them as people first, not diagnoses, and who are supportive and fair at the same time. Excellent supervision and time flexibility are two of the key accommodations. Those who have multiple accommodations tend to do better.

If someone wishes to apply for accommodations they need to have written certification from a physician or other licensed healthcare practitioner stating the there is a disability, how that disability limits the person and what kind of accommodations are needed. It is not necessary initially to say what the diagnosis is and for people with mental health conditions, it is probably best to leave that out. The more important requirement is statement of functional limitations and recommended accommodations. Often the physician or other clinical person will not actually know what the functional limitations are or what accommodations would be helpful. This information is best obtained through combined efforts of the employee, the family and the rehabilitation professionals involved in job retention.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has created a directory of accommodation resources by disability and functional limitation. Several examples are linked in the previous section.

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