In the past few months, I’ve been helping a friend out with a project involving disability rights. (I’ve always been interested in the law, so this has been a cool project for me!).
I’ve learned so much in the past few months that I wanted to share with all of you.
I know so many of you struggle with how to manage chronic pain in their daily lives. When it comes to work, school, and interacting with other institutions, you may actually have far more rights than you realize.
(In this post I’m going to be focusing on the US, however I very much hope that there will be similar legal protections available to you, wherever you are).
An accommodation can mean a change in policy that will make it possible for the person to participate fully. Sometimes, this can also refer to a “modification,” which refers to a structural change such as constructing a handicapped ramp, or installing grab bars into a shower.
If you have a diagnosis that impacts what is legally termed a “major life activity,” this means you are potentially legally entitled to assistance. What this means can be very individual, depending on the person’s diagnosis or situation. For example:
- Someone with a physical disability may require a parking space closer to the entrance of their apartment building.
- An individual with a learning disability may require extra time to complete a task, in an area free from distractions.
If you require an accommodation, your school or employer must engage in what is called the interactive process– essentially, they must have a conversation with you about what you need, and what they are reasonably able to offer.
Many people with invisible illnesses, such as SI joint dysfunction and/or hypermobility disorders, may be unaware of these rights. So many of us are used to being brushed off by medical providers, and struggling to get a clear diagnosis, that we may have sort of internalized the idea that we are a burden on others- and might not think to ask for help.
However, under disability rights and access laws, if you have a diagnosis that impacts a major life activity– such as walking and movement– you are entitled to protection.
This is also true for those of us dealing with immunological issues. Because guess what else counts as a major life activity? Things like digestion and breathing– all things which can be impacted by an overactive immune system.
Truthfully, I was not aware of these rights for much of my life. Looking back, there are definitely times when I would have benefitted from being able to articulate my situation more clearly.
That’s why I’m committed to raising awareness now! There is so much more to say, but for now, you can get started by checking out the following resources:
Always remember that you are worthy, and to advocate for yourself!