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My Mom has Rheumatoid Arthritis; My Dad has Sleep Apnea. Can I Call JAN?

Consultants' Corner: Volume 02, Issue 02

JAN's mission is to facilitate the employment and retention of workers with disabilities by providing interested parties with information on job accommodations, self-employment and small business opportunities, and related subjects. JAN receives most of its inquiries from employers and people with disabilities; however, JAN also receives questions from family members of people with disabilities. Nearly 10% of all inquiries to JAN are from family members and friends. Many of these inquiries are from adult children asking for information on what is available to assist their parents with continuing to work with limitations. The following questions are just a few of the steps in the information gathering process.

First, is Mom or Dad having difficulty performing job functions? A diagnosis of a physical or mental impairment does not mean that an individual will need accommodations to perform a job.

Second, does Mom or Dad have a disability? Title I of the ADA has a three-part definition of "disability." Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Has a record of such an impairment; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

Therefore, every accommodation situation is analyzed on a case-by-case basis. So, Mom and Dad may or may not be entitled to job accommodations under the ADA. 

Third, if Mom or Dad needs accommodations, what accommodations are available? The ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. An accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. For additional information on potential accommodations, contact JAN to learn more. 

Fourth, should Mom or Dad request accommodations in writing? Though not required under the ADA, if an individual needs an accommodation, it is often helpful to request accommodation in writing. Also, a family member, friend, health professional, or other representative may request a reasonable accommodation on behalf of an individual with a disability. To request accommodation, an individual may use "plain English" and does not need to mention the ADA or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation." 

Fifth, what medical information can the employer request? It is likely that Mom and Dad will have to provide medical documentation to their employers. For more information on what an employer can request, read the EEOC's Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees under the ADA.

Finally, what additional resources are available? For additional information on accommodations and resources, contact JAN directly.