If you have a disability but are still able to perform work, there are some things you need to know about your rights. Discrimination against individuals with disabilities is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act, yet every year, many Americans find it difficult to find gainful employment due to their disability, and still more individuals face discrimination when it comes to landing a promotion or even keeping their job.

In order to be protected under the ADA, one must have a disability that severely impacts everyday functions, such as speaking, seeing, hearing, walking, or breathing. The individual also must be qualified to maintain their position in the workplace via education or experience, and while an employer can make the decision to let you go if you are not qualified, they cannot fire you for not being able to perform tasks that are unessential to your job description.

Here are some of the best tips on how to become familiar with your rights and what to ask of your employer.

Know what constitutes discrimination

Discrimination can be any of the following:

  • Citing your disability as the reason for firing, not hiring, not giving you a promotion, changing or withholding benefits, and layoffs.
  • Harassment based on your disability.
  • Asking about your current or previous medical conditions.
  • Allowing the workplace to become or stay physically difficult for you to maneuver in.
  • Refusing reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable accommodations

Many individuals with a disability are unsure of what they can ask from their employer regarding accommodations for their needs. As long as these accommodations make it easier for you to get your job done and don’t create a momentous expense for the employer, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for these changes. These can include:

  • Working out a schedule that accommodates your needs
  • Providing equipment or software that allows you to do your job, such as a phone with large buttons
  • Adjusting training materials for your needs
  • Providing interpreters
  • Health and disability insurance
  • Job protection

Medical needs

An employer cannot interfere with your medical needs–such as requiring an oxygen tank–and they cannot ask you to have a medical examination prior to gaining employment unless that is a condition that all employees must face. If you do have an exam and it shows without a doubt that you can perform the job with no impairment, the employer cannot deny you the job on the basis of that medical exam.


Many individuals with disabilities are afraid of voicing their concerns for fear of retaliation by their employer. However, you have the ADA on your side. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel you’re being discriminated against, because you may be helping someone else who is experiencing the same thing.

What to do

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination due to your disability, it’s important to keep a log of exactly what was said and done and contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days. Be thorough and detailed in your notes and, if possible, speak to potential witnesses to see if they would be willing to back you up during an investigation. If the EEOC finds wrongdoing, you could be entitled to backpay, a reinstatement of your job, or payment for your legal fees.

Remember, you have the right to a fair job and a workplace that allows you to do that job in a safe way. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, there are laws in place to protect you and your livelihood. Speak up and make your voice heard; you may be helping someone who can’t use their own voice.

Photo via Pixabay by Unsplash