Starting a new job can be a daunting prospect. For disabled people with particular physical needs, it’s especially so. To get by, you might need to make special requests for accommodations that your new boss might not even have considered. Invariably, it’s better to raise the subject early on, rather than soldier on. This way, you’ll give yourself the best possible start, and you’ll allow your employer to avoid embarrassment.
But exactly how do you have this conversation? Let’s take a look at the things to consider.
Speak to someone you trust
Your first step should be to identify the person to whom you need to speak. In most cases, this might be a line manager, or a member of the HR team. Once you’ve established a rapport with them, you’ll find it easier to raise questions in the future.
Know what you need
Making a list ahead of time will help you to remember all of the things that you’ll need to ask for. It’s far easier to get everything done in a single effort than it is to get it done in dribs and drabs over a long period. For example, you might be coming into work in an adapted mobility vehicle, and thus having a reserved space in the car park might make an enormous difference, at very little inconvenience to anyone else.
Know what you’re entitled to
Your employer will, in most cases, make accommodations without being compelled. But it can be useful to know when the law is on your side. If you’re at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ compared to other workers, thanks to the rules, layout, or equipment in your workplace, then your employer is obliged to make adjustments. If you can’t use the stairs, for example, then this would be considered a substantial disadvantage – and a ramp would need to be installed.
If you’re uncertain about approaching a member of staff face-to-face, then you might pose the question over email. Ask if you can talk about the accommodations that might be made to help you out, and go from there. If you rarely have the opportunity to get in touch with your line manager, then don’t just sit waiting for the right moment to arise – use every means at your disposal to get in touch.
It’s important to remember that your employer has a duty to maintain confidentiality when it comes to your personal life or your medical conditions. This duty is there to ensure that you can come forward and mention anything you like, without fear that it’ll spread around the workplace and that everyone will know the ins and outs of your life.
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