Arthritis is a condition that includes inflammatory and noninflammatory diseases that affect the body's joints and connective tissue. Tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, and internal organs are also often affected. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but two of the more common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Pain and swelling are often associated with arthritis.
Arthritis and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Accommodating Employees with Arthritis
People with arthritis may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with arthritis will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
A customer service representative with arthritis had difficulty typing for long periods.
The individual was accommodated with an ergonomic keyboard and tablet computer.
A library assistant was limited in her ability to stand for long periods due to arthritis.
To assist her when standing, the employer purchased a stand/lean stool.
A laborer in a warehouse was having difficulty standing for long periods due to ankylosing spondylitis.
As an accommodation he was transferred to a position within the warehouse that allowed him flexibility to stand, walk, and sit, as he needed. The employer also purchased a heated cushion for his chair, gave him a stand/lean stool, and provided him with a cart.
An individual with osteoarthritis and walking limitations had difficulty accessing the work-site.
The employer contacted JAN asking for ways to improve access. JAN suggested an accessible parking space, office close to the entrance, and moving the individual closer to the common office equipment area.
A social worker with arthritis in her hands was having difficulty reading case summaries, manipulating paperwork, and taking notes.
She was accommodated with a page turner, bookholder, writing aids, and the option to dictate reports to her clerical staff.
An insurance clerk with arthritis from systemic lupus erythematosus was experiencing pain in her back, neck, and hands from sitting for long periods of time doing computer work.
She was accommodated with speech recognition software, an ergonomic chair, and an adjustable sit/stand workstation.
A machine operator with arthritis had difficulty turning control switches.
The small tabs were replaced with larger cushioned knobs and he was given gloves with non-slip dot gripping. These modifications enabled him to grasp and turn the knobs more effectively and with less force.
A receptionist with arthritis in his right hand due to an injury needed to input data into a computer.
He was accommodated with a left-handed keyboard, an articulating keyboard tray, speech recognition software, a trackball, and office equipment for a workstation rearrangement.
A vice president with osteoarthritis had difficulty maintaining her stamina during the workday.
To accommodate the fatigue, she was given a flexible schedule and allowed to come in later when necessary. Her employer also provided her with a recliner for her office so she could take additional rest breaks throughout the day.
A plant manager with arthritis was having difficulty moving throughout her plant to monitor assembly line workers.
She was accommodated with a motorized scooter.
A drafter with arthritis in his knees was having difficulty accessing his work-site.
He was accommodated with a reserved parking space close to the building, a first floor office, and push pad activated power doors.
A pharmacist was having difficulties standing for eight hours a day on a tile floor.
This employee was responsible for filling prescriptions for medication. The work area was carpeted using extra padding, which assisted in reducing fatigue and a sit/stand/lean stool was purchased to assist employee when standing. Employee was also permitted to take frequent rest breaks throughout the day. This was possible since the employee cut his lunch hour down to 30 minutes, which provided him with 30 minutes that could be used at other times of the day whenever a break was needed. Also another pharmacist was available to cover his breaks.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Arthritis
Consultants' Corner Articles
- A Support Person as an Accommodation
- Accommodations for Housekeeping/Janitorial Workers with Industrial Injuries
- Accommodations Related to Commuting To and From Work
- Best Practices for Addressing Requests for Ergonomic Chairs
- Confidentiality of Medical Information under the ADA
- Hidden Disabilities: Confidentiality and Travel