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Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations

A businessman with his arms outstretched, showing a number of electronic devices.

My time in the workplace has spanned nearly 25 years. During that time, I have used low tech and high tech equipment to do my job. These items have comprised my arsenal of assistive technology in the office. Some of these items include:

Because my vision loss occurred slowly over several years, I progressed through these various tools. Chalking up more and more knowledge about the process of requesting reasonable accommodations, implementing accommodations, and fine-tuning these accommodations.

Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodation

Here are a few tips to power up your request for reasonable accommodations.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Job Accommodations

    Woman sitting down looking at a computer screen with enlarged text

    If you are a student transitioning from college into the workforce, you are most likely familiar with lots of accommodations already. But, if you have recently been diagnosed with vision loss, you have some homework to do.

    Accommodations can range from workspace adaptations to assistive technology to flexible work schedules. Make it your goal to learn about the various accommodations that people who are blind or visually impaired use. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a very good place to start. By reviewing JAN, you will figure out what is relevant to your situation. You may learn about something you never thought would be helpful to you too.

  2. Educate Your Manager

    I found myself educating my managers about my eye condition and ways to maintain or improve my performance. Ask your manager for a meeting. Prepare to discuss ways you believe an accommodation could help you be more effective at work. Print out accommodation descriptions, bring a brochure of a product, a list of websites, or anything that gives your manager more information.

  3. Be Patient

    If you require screen magnification or screen reader software, your manager may engage the IT department. Together, they can determine how best to implement the software into their computer system. Whenever the technical jargon started flying, I stood back. Ultimately, the software needs to work with the company’s system, so I let the experts handle it.

    But, be patient. Sometimes the IT department takes time testing the software. Stay engaged with your manager during this time. It is not an opportunity to slack off. Ask for other tasks or duties during the downtime.

  4. Communicate Problems

    Businessman sitting at a table, talking with a businesswoman

    Anytime something new is implemented expect a few problems at the beginning. Again, be patient. Keep track of problems by making notes about them. Later, ask your manager for time to discuss them together. Because it is all in the interest of making you more productive and effective, your manager will listen. Caution though. Do not make it a gripe session. Be professional while you inform her of the problems. Most likely, she will not be in a position to give you answers on the spot. She will need the time to work with the appropriate department to resolve the problems.

  5. Kindness & Gratitude

    I remember feeling upset by the loss of control. Dealing with vision loss and the changes it caused at work became difficult. Sometimes I snapped at coworkers or felt hopeless when talking with a manager. What did I fail to realize during those moments? I was dealing with other human beings who have their own thoughts and emotions too. For the majority of them, I was their first interaction with visual impairment. They did not innately understand how to work with someone in my situation. Their learning curve was steep. Mine too!

    Regardless of the frustrations, I should have shown them more kindness and gratitude. We were all in a unique situation. I could have said more sincere, heartfelt thanks to my managers for their efforts. I could have thanked my coworkers a little more when they gave me assistance, but I was too focused on myself and my feelings to build better relationships with them.

    So, remember, even though you are the one going through the tough time, very few people around you know what challenges confront you. Professional courtesy dictates that you show kindness and gratitude to managers and coworkers at all times. It will pay off later.

Let me sum it all up now.

An older man and woman at a desk in business attire working on a computer together

Requesting an accommodation requires work on your part. Consequently, you may end up educating your manager and others about the need for it. Patience is important to practice during the implementation of the accommodation. Noting any problems or issues helps you communicate effectively with your manager after implementation. You should express your kindness and gratitude throughout the process to build better working relationships too.

Next time you need an accommodation, power it up!

Resources for Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Job Accommodations

What Does "Reasonable Accommodation" Mean?

Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Common Job Accommodation Questions and Their Answers for Employees with Visual Impairments and Their Employers

Facilitating the Accommodations Process

Employment and Workplace Adaptations for Adults Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

Low Vision
Planning for the Future

Struggling to Disclose a Visual Impairment

Lessons Learned from Experience

Let me start by saying I feel it is important to disclose a visual impairment during the hiring process. Especially, if a visual impairment is known and if a reasonable accommodation will be needed.

That opinion comes from trial and error in my own experiences.

I know the inner struggle very well though. I wanted to earn the jobs on my own merit and my own abilities. I did all I could to avoid my visual impairment from being interpreted as a weakness by others.

Shortly, I will share with you four times I was in this situation. As I recollect, I was conflicted about the timing of such a disclosure. My hope is that these stories give you a real life look into these kinds of situations and their potential outcomes.

If you have followed my previous posts, you know it took many years for my eyesight to deteriorate to the point that I can only perceive light. With that in mind, let me get started.

Story #1: Disclosing a Disability for a Part-Time Job

Two businessmen talking, one facing the camera and the other one facing away from the camera

I worked a couple of part-time jobs while I attended college. In particular, I worked for a credit union as a customer service representative. It was during this time that I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.

Naturally, I had to request time off for the doctor appointments. It forced me to communicate with my manager about the situation. Finally, after the diagnosis was official, I disclosed it to my boss. Primarily out of respect for asking days off and to satisfy her interest in my situation.

However, it created no major issues at work. In fact, they asked me to do more. Management cross trained me to work in two other departments, both of which required me to work face-to-face with customers. Amazingly, there was no need for me to request reasonable accommodations during my five-year stint with them.

Story #2: A Rough Transition

I touched on the next experience in my post called "Avoid a Rough Transition to Work As a Job Seeker Who is Visually Impaired." My first full-time employment opportunity came right after college. I interviewed for the position but did not disclose my visual impairment at that time nor did I disclose when an offer of employment was made to me.

Businessman sitting at a table, talking with a businesswoman

It was not obvious that I had a visual impairment, so after I began working for the company, I informed them of the issue. Managers were unprepared and totally devoid of any knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from my perspective. For the record, I was unfamiliar with the ADA as well. Sadly, the human resources department provided no alternatives or solutions either. In hindsight, my gut tells me no matter when I would have disclosed my disability the scenario would have played out the same way. This was a terrible experience, but when one door closes, another one opens.

Story #3: Deciding When to Disclose During the Hiring Process

The next employment experience was better. Even at this point, I still walked without a long white cane or a dog guide. Again, my visual impairment was not obvious. Although I did begin to carry a glass dome magnifier in my bag. I did not disclose before or during the job interview. However, this time, I immediately disclosed my visual impairment after I verbally accepted their job offer. Working with this company was a pleasant experience overall. Management listened and responded to my needs throughout my tenure.

Story #4: My Visual Impairment Was Obvious

My most recent opportunity to disclose my disability came about four years ago. This time my situation had changed quite a bit. A dog guide was now a part of my life. Needless to say, it was much more obvious that I was visually impaired now. I chose to disclose my visual impairment in my cover letter when I applied for the position. I interviewed for the job, and, of course, my dog guide was right by my side during the interview. Lucky for her, she had no need to prepare for it.

A man sitting at a desk with this guide dog looking at the camera

Unfortunately, I did not make the cut for the next round of interviews. But, I was comfortable with the way I disclosed my disability and how I presented myself during the interview. Which, in reality, is the goal, to be prepared and to give it my best with no regrets.

So, there are my stories about disclosing my visual impairment during the hiring process. There is no perfect way to do it. Disclosure can come at any time during the hiring process even afterward. There is no law which specifies when or how you must do it. But, your rights take effect when you disclose.

Ultimately, it is your choice, so prepare yourself. Get educated about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Learn it so you can advocate for yourself when necessary.

Connect with a mentor. Perhaps you can learn from his experience as well. Be sure to use CareerConnect’s free resources too!

CareerConnect Resources on Disclosure

Tools for Finding Employment: Disclosing a Visual Impairment

Tools for Finding Employment: Writing a Disability Statement

Interview Preparation: Self-Description for Job Seekers Who Are Visually Impaired

Get Your Disability Disclosure On and Embrace Your Diversity

Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future

My Evolving Perspective and Understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA logo: Americans with Disabilities Act, four squares with symbols for hearing, wheelchair, blind pedestrian, and sign language

Twenty-seven years ago, a historic piece of legislation was on the verge of becoming law in the United States. For millions of Americans, it was a moment which had taken years to finally arrive. Little did I know that this legislation would one day be significant to me.

Yes, you guessed it. The legislation I speak of is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It was the summer before I began my sophomore year of high school. I was preoccupied with strength and conditioning activities most days. My goal was to become a starting linebacker for my high school football team. All of my attention was focused on the upcoming football season. So, I did not notice when, two weeks or so before football practices began, the ADA was signed into law.

Unlike today, its significance did not penetrate my realm of worldly understanding. Hey, I was only 15 years old back then. My eyesight, as far as I knew, was perfect. But, almost five years later, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. That is about the time I began interacting with vocational rehabilitation counselors. I learned a little more about the ADA and its protections.

Life moved along as my eyesight deteriorated slowly. I obtained a college degree then landed my first full-time job. Not long after, the reality of my situation hit me. Really, for the first time, my diminishing eyesight began impairing my ability to distinguish letters and numbers on a computer screen and on paper. That is the moment the ADA became relevant in my life, big time.

Finally, 10 years after its passage, I understood its importance. It took a tangible, real life situation to open my mind. That is when I realized how important the ADA was to me and to other people with disabilities.

Since then, my knowledge about the ADA has increased. It is essential to know what my rights are in regard to employment, transportation, service dogs, and much more. Understanding comes from knowing the ADA. I am not an expert in it, but I know enough to protect myself from discrimination when it occurs. It gives me the confidence and the platform to advocate for myself when necessary.

Oh, let me give you a quick myth in the dog guide community. On several occasions, people have told me they still have a little eyesight, so they think that fact excludes them from obtaining a dog guide. My follow-up question is simple. Has your doctor determined if you are legally blind? Every time I asked that question the answer is yes. So, understand this. You do not need to be totally blind to obtain a dog guide. I worry that this myth is pervasive.

The reason I bring up that myth is to warn you that you do not need to be totally blind to fall under the protection of the ADA. Again, if a physician determines you are legally blind, then you are covered under the ADA.

You may have recently been told you will lose your sight. You may be a spouse or a caregiver to someone who is losing their sight. Maybe you are an employer, a teacher, or a counselor. Whatever brought you to read this blog, I urge you to learn more about the ADA this month.

Follow the links below to build your knowledge and evolve your understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act!

Getting Around
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future

Summer Work As a Digital Nomad? Could This Be a Suitable Opportunity for You

  • Are you looking for summer work?
  • Are your computer skills the envy of the dorm?
  • Do you have work or volunteer experience on your resume?

If you have not landed a summer job yet, it is not too late.

So check this out. First, let me say I had never heard the phrase, "digital nomad" until a few days ago. USA Today published an article called, "5 Summer Jobs You Can Take with You to the Beach." I like the beach. Just returned from one a week ago, so it caught my attention.

Have you heard of this before? Digital nomads are defined as "people who work from wherever they want, whenever they want, and for some, as many or as few hours as they want."

As the article points out, digital nomads are workers who rarely, if ever, step foot into an office. Thanks to the growth of the Internet and advancements in hardware and software, people who choose to work in this manner experience quite a bit of freedom.

Laptop on the beach

Becoming a Digital Nomad

Here is all you need to become a digital nomad based on the article:

  • A laptop computer
  • An Internet connection
  • Experience working remotely and independently

I would add the following skills as necessary to work as a digital nomad:

Jobs for Digital Nomads

Finally, the article highlights five job categories suited for summer job seekers:

  • Teaching or tutoring
  • Writing, proofreading, and editing
  • Online community management or social media management
  • Google Ad Words certified consultant
  • Virtual assistant or executive assistant

Working as a digital nomad is typically short term, perfect for summer. As an added benefit, you can compile valuable work experience. Oh yeah, extra cash in your wallet is great too!

Maybe some of you teachers reading this want a side hustle too. What a great way to earn more money and learn about being a digital nomad. Excellent experience for sharing with your blind and visually impaired students.

A word of caution: Learn how to investigate work at home job listings for legitimacy.

Lastly, toss the sunscreen into the beach bag before you go!

Finding Jobs As a "Digital Nomad"

Explore the following resources to determine which jobs can allow you to work as a "digital nomad."

Explore Careers for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Browse Jobs by Career Clusters

Low Vision

Advancing Your Career Depends on Your Next Step

Life is filled with accomplishments and setbacks. I have had my fair share of both. How about you?

Many of you may still be basking in the glow of graduation from either high school or college. Excellent accomplishments indeed! Some of you may be disappointed due to some academic issues that have delayed your graduation a bit.

Those of you in the workforce now may be experiencing your own accomplishments and setbacks too. Perhaps you were recently promoted to a new position on the job. In contrast, some of you may have felt the sting of being passed over for a job position.

Career advancement requires incremental progress. In other words, progress happens step by step. Frankly, accomplishments are generated from setbacks. Learn from them. Use what you learn to achieve new levels of success.

Caution. Dwelling on accomplishments or setbacks for too long distracts your focus and your attention. What happened yesterday, last week, or last month is dead and gone. What you do next is the most important step.

My Own Setback at School

I faced a serious setback when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in college. The shock of the diagnosis alone was like a punch to the gut. Naturally, it distracted me from the tasks at hand, and my grades plummeted. Before I knew it, the university placed me on academic probation, one step away from being kicked out of the university altogether.

No quick fix to this situation existed. Briefly, I considered leaving college. Thought I might give myself a little time to adjust.

I shook off that idea because I still had a lot of functional vision. Hard work, in spite of the eye condition, was the only solution though.

It took a tremendous effort to climb out of the pit I dug for myself, but I did it. The key was identifying the next step and doing it, not dwelling on the negative for too long.

Want another one? Okay.

A Second Setback: Not Getting the Job

About four years ago, I interviewed for the executive director position of a nonprofit organization. By this point in my career, I felt my work history gave me a good chance despite my vision loss.

I poured in a lot of time and energy customizing my cover letter and resume to the job description, practicing answers to interview questions, and learning to feel relaxed under the scrutiny of an interviewer.

The news was terribly disappointing when it came. I hoped to make it to the second round of interviews. It was not to be though. It was the kind of career setback that brought on a hefty amount of self-doubt.

Again, I considered departing from the course I had taken. Instead, I chose to re-evaluate my self, my skills, my training, and my career prospects.

I made my professional development my top priority. I began reading management and leadership topics in depth, learning about the hiring process, developing new skills, and recommitting to my profession of grant writing.

All with the goal to broaden my knowledge, learn from experience, and prepare for future opportunities.

The Take Away

Accomplishments and setbacks can propel our careers into different directions. But, just like the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Whatever accomplishment or setback you face today, should be history tomorrow. Of course, celebrate an accomplishment, but tomorrow is a new day. Always work at being better than you were yesterday. String enough days together like this, and your accomplishments will exceed your setbacks!

And remember this, a setback is never a failure unless you quit.

Go accomplish something today!

CareerConnect Resources for Finding Employment

Career Advancement Tips for Employees Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Maintaining Your Job and Succeeding at Work

Tools for Finding Employment: Writing a Cover Letter

Tools for Finding Employment: Building a Resume

Interview Preparation: Common Interview Questions for Job Seekers with Vision Loss

Planning for the Future