Arthritis in the Workplace, Part 1Tuesday, May 15, 2012 10:05
Arthritis, which affects nearly 43 million Americans, is the leading cause of disability in the United States. It costs the economy an estimated $65 billion annually in lost productivity and medical expenses.
Arthritis frequently strikes patients in their most productive years, and results in great personal loss. Reduction in employment opportunities, premature retirement and lost productivity are part of the toll taken by this devastating disease.
Despite these difficulties, many arthritis patients not only hold jobs, but excel at them. The key is knowing how to deal with the challenges of arthritis. This can mean the difference between working well or filing for disability. With planning, the right attitude and the use of effective strategies, arthritis sufferers can have many productive working years.
Now, more than ever, disabled citizens have legal clout against discrimination. Federal laws have leveled the playing field and protect workers in the private and public sectors.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Passed by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the most extensive bill of rights for the disabled ever made into law.
It outlaws discrimination by employers against qualified disabled citizens, while protecting employers from having to make unreasonable adaptations.
With the ADA, those disabled by arthritis can be their own advocates and work with employers for everyone’s benefit. Among other things, it ensures reasonable accommodations. These are defined as changes needed to enable an individual to
Apply for a job.
Perform the essential functions of their job.
Enjoy all the benefits and privileges of employment.
Reasonable accommodations can include
Changing duties to eliminate difficult tasks.
Training for another job.
Allowing a flexible or part-time schedule.
To be considered disabled, one’s arthritis must “substantially limit” a major life activity.
If the ADA can’t help, vocational rehabilitation (VR) is another option. It has a 50 percent success rate with arthritis sufferers. VR helps people develop job skills, and find and keep employment. Services usually include
Career counseling and guidance.
Help getting transportation and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs.
Help getting tools, equipment, supplies and licenses needed for work.
Job training and placement services.
Personal assistance services. The Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org offers a free brochure on VR and lists of VR offices. Working from Home
Many arthritis patients choose to work at home, either for themselves or an employer.
Working at home eliminates many difficulties of office life and provides flexibility. If you are independent and self-disciplined, this may be a viable choice.