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Requesting Work Placement Accommodations

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 revised 2004 requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation in the workplace to qualified employees and applicants with disabilities, unless such accommodations would pose an undue hardship (e.g. too costly, too extensive, too substantial, too disruptive). Generally, the applicant or employee with a disability is responsible for letting the employer know that an accommodation is needed to participate in the application process, to perform essential job functions, or to receive equal benefits and privileges of employment. Employers are not required to provide accommodations if they are not aware of the need.

Although an accommodation request does not have to be in writing, if you are an individual with a disability you might find it useful to document accommodation requests just in case there is a dispute about whether or when the requested accommodation was made. A request in writing is a good way to document this.

There are not specific guidelines or forms to be completed when requesting accommodations. Some employers have developed forms of their own. If so, you should use the employer's forms when available. Otherwise, you may use any method that is effective to request an accommodation.

If you plan to write a letter to request accommodations from your employer, please be sure to include the following information:

o identify yourself as a person with a disability
o state that you are requesting accommodations under The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 revised 2004
o identify your specific problematic job tasks
o write your accommodation ideas
o request accommodation ideas from your employer
o refer to attached medical documentation to establish you are a person with a disability
o request that your employer respond to you in a reasonable amount of time

For a sample accommodation request letter go to Accommodation Ideas for People with ADHD

Before deciding on specific accommodations for people with ADHD, it is important for both employer and employee to have a clear understanding as to what the individual's job duties are, which ones are problematic, and exactly what the person has trouble doing to fulfill his/her duties. This is called pinpointing the problem areas.

Some examples may be:

o spelling problems
o reading problems
o short-term memory deficits (are they due to lack of attention, difficulty with focus, distractibility, confusion, etc.)
o organizational difficulties
o distractions in the environment

Once the problem has been pinpointed then specific accommodations can be considered.

For example:

Deficits in Reading:

o recording for the Blind-books on tape
o tape recorded directives, messages, materials
o reading machines
o screen reading software for computer use
o color-coded manuals, outlines, maps

Deficits in Writing:

o personal computers/laptops
o voice recognition software
o spell checking software
o grammar checking software
o carbonless notetaking systems

Deficits in Mathematics:

o appropriate calculators
o large display screens for calculators, adding machines, etc

There are various other accommodations which can be agreed between an employer and employee for many other things below are a few that have been agreed by some folk in the past to give an idea of how some things can be worked out:

o If focus is a problem it can be agreed to have the person get up from a desk every half hour or so without any fuss and walk round the office or outside for 5 minutes - thing is when you come back you do twice as much work and therefore the employer is normally getting a good deal there!
o Getting phone calls done can also be something that gets put of by those who procrastinate so sometimes a closed office room with do not disturb on the door for a half an hour in the morning and same in the afternoon to go to with a list of calls to make and then in peace and quiet with no distractions these will all get done - if focus stops this then maybe someone popping a head into the room after quarter of an hour to see how it is going can be discussed
o Same with specific paper work as above a quiet office for a certain time in the day to do this
o Lists written up and taped somewhere visable
o An alarm or organiser or even a watch with alarm on to schedule things into - maybe an employer will agree to purchase one of these such as Motivaider or Watchminder from our Books and Resources Section!
o A good secretary or a good mentor is also a very good idea

Any other ideas which people have tried we are always keen to hear about.

Sample Accommodation Request Letter

The following is an example of what can be included in an accommodation request letter and is not intended to be legal advice.

Date of Letter
Your name
Your address
Employer's name
Employer's address

Dear (e.g. Supervisor, Manager, Human Resources, Personnel):

Content to consider in body of letter:

a. Identify yourself as a person with a disability
b. State that you are requesting accommodations under The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
c. Identify your specific problematic job tasks
d. Identify your accommodation ideas
e. Request your employer's accommodation ideas
f. Refer to attached medical documentation if appropriate*
g. Ask that your employer respond to your request in a reasonable amount of time

Your signature
Your printed name

Cc: to appropriate individuals

* You may want to attach medical information to your letter to help establish that you are a person with a disability and to document the need for accommodation.

Disability Disclosure and Interviewing Techniques for Persons with Disabilities
From the desk of Kendra

Spanish translation provided by Lilliana and Mayda

Deciding when to disclose a disability can be a difficult choice for a person with a disability who is job hunting. If you have a hidden disability such as a learning disability or a psychiatric impairment, when and how to disclose your condition can be a real dilemma. Below are some guidelines for dealing with disability issues in the pre-employment process:

Step one: Start with a Good Resume

Take time to write a good resume. This is a written summary of your education, training, work experience, and most importantly, contact information. A resume should have three basic components:

1) Name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
2) Education and training experiences; and
3) Work history and experience.

Do not overlook the value of non-paid work experience such as internships, volunteer activities, and work that you have done for non-profit organisations such as a church, civic organisation, or political party.

Step Two: Write a Cover Letter

A cover letter is used to introduce you to the perspective employer. It should briefly identify who you are and why you are applying for the position. It also should invite the employer to contact you for an interview. Be sure to enclose a copy of you resume with this letter.

A cover letter also gives you your first opportunity to disclose your disability. This would be to your advantage if:
You are applying for a job with a state or federal agency that must comply with affirmative action policies;
The job you are applying for directly relates to your experience as a person with a disability such as a rehabilitation counsellor; or
Having a disability is a qualification for the position.

For example a job as an addictions counsellor may require that an individual be a recovering alcoholic.

Step Three: Completing Applications

For most people, the employment process begins with a company's job application. How you obtain and fill out this application can be the first impression the employer has of you. If you go to the job site to obtain an application, be mindful of your appearance. While it may not be necessary to wear your best interview suit it is important to wear clothes that are clean, ironed, and free from tears or holes. Be polite and come prepared with a pen or pencil and a copy of your resume. If possible, take the application home with you. This will allow you to complete the information in a calm, stress-free environment. Remember that neatness counts.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) prohibits employers from asking medical or disability-related questions on a job application. The exception to this is that a government agency can ask an applicant to voluntarily disclose a disability for affirmative action purposes. Otherwise, if you encounter specific questions about your disability or medical history, leave them blank. If necessary, this can give you the opportunity to explain why you did not answer the questions instead of why you intentionally gave false answers.

Step Four: The Interview

For most job seekers, the interview is the "make it or break it" point. Remember that you have about a minute to make a good first impression, and first impressions mean everything during this stage of the employment process. Disclosure of your disability is critical at this point if accommodations, such as access to the building, are necessary to do the job. Do your homework! If you know the location for the interview is not accessible to you, contact the person who will be interviewing you and request an alternative location. It is a good idea to have a location in mind, just in case the interviewer needs some suggestions.

If you do not know if the location is accessible, call and ask questions about whether there are accessible parking spaces available or whether the building has an elevator. It is better to deal with these issues ahead of time than 15 minutes before your interview. This also shows your perspective employer that you are able to deal with these situations effectively.

The best way to handle difficult questions during the interview is to be prepared for them. Make a list of the questions you know you are going to have trouble with and formulate an answer, and then practice your delivery of these answers so you will be ready from them. For example, "I see that there is a two year gap in your work history. What have you been doing during this time?" This is an opportunity to talk about what you have been doing, not what you have not been doing. Think about valuable life experiences that you have gained during this time. Have you been taking care of children or a parent, going to school, taking art classes, or volunteering? This question may prompt you to disclose your disability if you have not already done so. Be sure to do it in a way that shows how you have dealt with a difficult situation in a positive manner. Remember to keep the past in the past, stating that you are ready to move forward and are qualified and able to do the job you want.

Remember to talk about your abilities, not your disabilities. Employers need qualified, capable individuals to fill positions. Find a way to show that you are that person. Sell them on what you can do, not on what you cannot do and the interview will go better than you expect. Be positive about yourself and be honest.

Good Luck! 2004

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