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Accommodation and Compliance: Arthritis

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About Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that includes inflammatory and noninflammatory diseases that affect the body's joints and connective tissue. Tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, and internal organs are also often affected. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but two of the more common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Pain and swelling are often associated with arthritis.

Arthritis and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Arthritis

People with arthritis may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with arthritis will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Key Accommodations

  • Limiting lifting, reaching, pushing, and pulling by job restructuring
  • Extra time to complete paperwork
  • Voice to text software
  • Ability to dictate notes using a voice recorder and have another staff member input the notes (if inputting the information is a marginal function of your job)
  • Grip Aids, to help with holding a stylus
  • Reallocating documentation duties, if marginal
  • Handwriting Recognition Software
  • Reassignment
  • Using Proper Lifting Techniques
  • Reallocating lifting duties, if marginal
  • Providing assistance moving objects, to reduce weight
  • Organizing items in a way that reduces the need to move or lift items
  • Reducing weight to be lifted by separating items into smaller groups
  • Reassigning an employee to a modified duty position or modifying duties by removing the lifting duties
  • Periodic rest breaks to get up and move around 
  • Modified break schedule so that you can stretch your legs when needed
    • Using break reminder software to remember to get-up and move around
  • Alternating between sitting and standing while working by using a sit/stand workstation
  • Ergonomic/adjustable office chair
  • Work at home, where employee can lie down, sit, stand, move freely
  • Providing structured breaks as a physical outlet
  • Reducing stress triggers – these strategies will vary according to triggers, but see Dealing with Stress in the Workplace
  • Adjusting supervisory methods
  • Accessing EAP services for coping with stress
  • Providing a private workspace
  • Reducing distractions
  • Allowing breaks for mental fatigue, including short walks, getting up for a drink of water, and rotating through varied tasks
  • Allowing breaks to contact a support person when anxiety is triggered
  • Restructuring job so the most difficult tasks are performed at the time of day the employee has the most mental energy or stamina
  • Providing/designating uninterrupted time for tasks that require significant concentration
  • Telework, Work from Home, Working Remotely

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Arthritis

Other Information Regarding Arthritis


American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
American Chronic Pain Association
American Occupational Therapy Association
American Physical Therapy Association
American Society for Surgery of the Hand
Arthritis Foundation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Institute for Chronic Pain
Job Accommodation Network
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institute on Aging
National Organization for Rare Disorders
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Remedy's Health Communites
Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network
The Hand and Wrist Institute