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How can I request job accommodations after brain injury?

A woman with a service animal

This article is adapted from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)’s “Accommodation and Compliance: Brain Injury” web page.

Every brain injury is unique and may have short-term or long-term impacts on one or more functional areas of the brain.

As an individual with a brain injury in the workforce, the impacts of your injury may entitle you to accommodations to ensure that you are able to perform your responsibilities safely and effectively.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines “disability” in general terms. An individual is considered disabled if they have any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. Information about this definition and the legal protections provided can be found at ada.gov.

Some individuals with brain injuries may have impairments that qualify them for work accommodation under the ADA. The following is a list of impairments and associated accommodations. These are starting points, not a complete picture of every accommodation that any individual with a brain injury might request.

Discuss with your employer what may be the best path for you in your role.

Difficulty Paying Attention or Staying Organized; Reduced Executive Function

  • Adjusted lighting fixtures (reduce flashing lights, change color)
  • Change of office space or location to reduce distraction
  • Desk organization tools such as filing cabinets, labels, binders
  • Timers and watches
  • Job coach
  • Noise canceling headphones or earplugs
  • Restructure job schedule or hours
  • Telework
  • Clear verbal or written instructions and deadlines from supervisors and colleagues
  • Uninterrupted time blocked off on schedule
  • Organizational software or apps
  • Additional time to complete tasks

Fatigue

  • Reduced hours
  • Flexible schedule
  • Telework
  • Job restructuring
  • Ergonomic equipment
  • Assistant

Photosensitivity

  • Adjusted lighting fixtures (reduce flashing lights, change color, anti-glare filters)
  • Change of office space or location

Emotional Control/Stress Tolerance

  • Counseling/work with HR
  • Job coach
  • Disability training for the rest of the team
  • Positive feedback from supervisor or colleagues
  • One-on-one communication
  • Support animal
  • Telework
  • Behavior modification techniques

Seizures

  • Designated responders/plan of action
  • Team training and cognizance
  • Flexible schedule
  • Telework
  • Transportation assistance
  • Support animal
  • Modified lighting
  • Padded edging
  • Protective gear
  • Rest area/private space

Reduced Mobility

  • Grab bars
  • Canes
  • Walkers
  • Scooters
  • Wheelchairs
  • Modified workspace

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is the voice of brain injury awareness and advocacy on Capitol Hill and a strong proponent of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sustaining a brain injury itself does not qualify you for accommodation. Accommodations are determined in direct relation to job responsibility and limitation. If you have questions about whether you qualify, or if you seek or have sought accommodation from your employer and think you have been denied wrongfully, BIAA recommends speaking with a disability rights attorney to determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances.


This article originally appeared in Volume 16, Issue 2 of THE Challenge! published in 2022.

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