Self-Advocacy in Three Steps: 3 - Getting What You Need
Self Advocacy in Three Steps: Part Three - Getting What you Need
In Self-Advocacy Part Three: Getting What you Need, I will discuss some tips on how to communicate your needs and request accommodations in college and the workplace as a student or employee with a disability.
Disclosure and Request for Accommodations in The College Environment
If you have disclosed to your college office of disability services, you will be asked to fill out paperwork to request accommodations and will be required to submit documentation (an example would be a psycho-educational evaluation assessment) indicating proof of disability. It is best to initiate this process as early as you can. Visit the website of your college and contact the office directly to see what is offered in terms of assistive technology, learning support, tutoring, etc. Once you are approved for accommodations it is a good idea to set up meetings with your professors during their office hours. This is a time to review your accommodations and specific needs with your instructor. It is important to establish a collaborative relationship by reaching out, discussing your interests, your strengths, and your desire to perform at your best as a student in the course. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your instructors and doing your part by knowing your rights and keeping informed goes a long way. You may read more on your rights and responsibilities from Ed.gov HERE
Disclosure and Request for Accommodations on the job
Have you disclosed your disability to your employer? The decision to disclose your disability to your employer is a personal one. According to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), in order to benefit from the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, you must disclose your disability since an employer is only required to provide work-related accommodations to those who disclose their disabilities to the appropriate individuals in the workplace. To read more on disclosure, visit the US Department of Labor website HERE. Your employer may request that you provide him with proof of your disability, (psycho-educational evaluation) or other documentation, so it is important to find out which types of documentation your employer is willing to accept as proof and which type of provider you'll need to seek out to obtain this documentation if you have not yet done so.
As you begin to broach the subject of accommodations with your employer, it may be helpful to understand the ways in which he best communicates. Does your employer generally prefer face to face conversations, e-mail memos, or phone calls? Think about your own preferred style of communication. What are you most comfortable with? Have you researched and are you clear about the requests you would like to make? Are they reasonable? It is important to convey your message in an organized and respectful way. Preparing a list of talking points in advance can help you to prepare yourself. It will be helpful to maintain a positive and professional manner as you seek to inform your boss about your need for accommodations. Framing your requests in a way which indicates that the accommodation will help you to function at your best is more positive than merely complaining about your struggles and how you cannot manage your job well. Focusing on your strengths and communicating them throughout the conversation is key. Asking your employer to outline his expectations of you and requesting that he help you to explore possible solutions is a more proactive and collaborative way to communicate with him.
Ask JAN (Job Accommodation Network), offers a guide to help you with this process. You may read and download the guide HERE
When it comes to requesting accommodations in college or on the job, it’s important to be an effective self-advocate. Knowing yourself, focusing on your strengths, effectively communicating what you need, and describing how these supports will help you to be the best that you can be in school or on the job will help to position you for success!
Department of Education Website: Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post-Secondary Education - http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html
Department of Labor Website - Youth, Disclosure, and the Workplace. Why, When, What, and How - http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/ydw.htm
Job Accommodation Network Website (JAN) - Employees' Practical Guide to Negotiating and Requesting Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - https://askjan.org/EeGuide/IIRequest.htm
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