Whether you are a student or in the workforce, you deserve to have your needs met. Asking for accommodations can be intimidating — this article will help you figure out your first steps.
Living with a chronic illness or disability can make studying or working difficult at times. From the stress of high-stakes responsibilities and deadlines to long hours and inaccessible environments, living with a chronic condition can make it particularly difficult to stay on top of your work or school schedule.
The situation can be complicated by the fact that schools and workplaces often lack adequate support for people with chronic conditions and disabilities. This can result in students who live with chronic conditions dropping out of school or employees needing to quit or struggling to find accessible work.
Moreover, accommodations that were provided during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to employees are now being scaled back. The lack of willingness to keep these accommodations in place is continuing to negatively impact employees living with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
The world of accommodations can be complicated, and sometimes, people aren’t even aware of the help and accommodations they are entitled to. There are several adjustments that you can and should ask for if you need them.
It’s always good to start off by finding the equality and diversity policy at the institution you are studying or working. By reading these, as well as information about disability equality often provided by charities, you will get a sense of what support you are entitled to.
Moreover, if you’re a student, investigate what financial support schemes are available for disabled students specifically. For example, in the United Kingdom, this takes the form of Disabled Students Allowance, which can be used to fund travel to your place of education, as well as resources or mentoring you may need along the way.
Whether you’re at school, college, or university, the accommodations that you are entitled to as a student are all very similar.
Here are some examples of accommodations that you may be entitled to, depending on where you are and which may be helpful:
These centers are often responsible for drawing up unique tailored support plans for individual students. These plans are carefully crafted documents that outline specific accommodations.
These might include:
If you’re not studying but working instead, here are some accommodations that you might be able to access, depending on your workplace and the nature of your job.
Start by meeting with your human resources (HR) or occupational health department to draw up a tailored plan to support your unique needs.
This plan can include some of the following accommodations:
It’s important to speak up about what your needs are currently — and what they may be in the future.
Whether you are a student or an employee, it’s important to explain to your company or school’s support team that, due to your condition, your needs are different than others. You may need more days due to symptoms and appointments. You can request that when this happens, you are kept updated and allowed to continue working remotely.
Think about your physical needs. Is there particular equipment that you may benefit from? For example, an ergonomic chair in the office or classroom to use.
Ask if you are able to bring your own equipment into the office or classroom. For example, digital audio recorders, mobility aids, or medical devices. Would you benefit from bringing snacks and beverages with you?
You can also ask if it’s possible to work or study, at least partly remotely. The flexibility to continue your work or studies remotely can remove the pressure to attend in person when your symptoms are flaring. This can be particularly significant if you are immunocompromised and would be safer avoiding crowded settings.
Asking and requesting accommodations can feel like a daunting process. I’ve seen firsthand that there are times when such requests are unfairly refused. I’ve learned that these are the moments when I need to advocate harder for my needs.
Remember: You have a right to access these accommodations. You have the right to work or study in a way that supports you. Many countries even have laws in place to protect your rights as a student or employee.
Medically reviewed on July 12, 2023
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