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About Guillain Barre' Syndrome
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) can affect anybody but is rare, affecting only about one person in 100,000. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs, which can later spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases the disorder is life threatening and is considered a medical emergency. Most individuals, however, have good recovery from even the most severe cases of GBS, although some continue to have a certain degree of weakness.
Guillain Barre' Syndrome and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having 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 Guillain Barre' Syndrome
People with Guillain-Barré Syndrome 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 Guillain-Barré Syndrome 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:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- 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?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
A new employee had only worked for a manufacturing company for four months and had not accrued paid leave at the time that symptoms of Guillain-Barré Syndrome developed.
The employer provided unpaid leave as an accommodation and were able to hold the employees’ position open for when they were able to return to work.
A nurse case manager recovering from Guillain-Barré Syndrome was not able to access the computer due to weakness and a loss of coordination in their upper extremities.
The employer provided speech recognition software, a telephone headset, and a head mouse as an accommodation.
An individual with Guillain-Barré Syndrome was released to return to work following an extensive recovery period.
The employee asked to work light duty. In lieu of this the employer provided a modified schedule and job restructuring while allowing a transition work arrangement. With this type of arrangement the employee gradually increased their hours and work duties over a short period of time and was able to eventually work a typical schedule.
An executive for a large corporation developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome and was not able to commute to work.
The employee was accommodated with a work-from-home arrangement and alternative input software to access a computer.
A teacher developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome during summer break, but was able to return to work at the start of the fall semester if provided with accommodations.
The employee used a wheelchair and was not able to access certain items in the classroom or the employee restroom. As an accommodation the employer modified the employee restroom so that the employee could access it independently, provided a smart board with a laptop and laptop tray for the wheelchair, purchased an accessible desk, and they lowered the shelves and bookcases that were inaccessible. The employee was permitted to come into the classroom prior to the semester starting to ensure that the classroom had been modified and prepared for her to successfully begin the new school year.