Lesson 4. Advocating for yourself

Self-advocacy is important when looking for a job. Self-advocacy means telling people what you need and being able to make sure they help you get it.

Let’s look at an example:

Joe works in an office, doing data entry. Joe uses a wheelchair that can’t fit under the desk, and it makes it hard to reach the keyboard. After talking to his supervisor, Joe gets a new desk that is tall enough to fit his wheelchair. Now he is able to do his job just like everyone else.


How did Joe get what he needed?


  1. Joe identified a problem he was having at work.
  2. He knew what accommodations, or changes, would be useful.
  3. He asked his supervisor to help him solve the problem.


What’s an accommodation?

By the way, what are accommodations? Accommodations are changes made to the job so that a person with a disability can have access to everything he or she needs to do the job well.

Once you have a job, you may have to ask your employer for the accommodations you would need so that you can do the job effectively. So it is up to you to advocate for yourself.

Let’s talk more about accommodations! Let’s get started with these questions:


Performing your work

  1. When you were in school, what did your teachers do to make learning easier for you? Maybe give you more time for tests? Read questions aloud to you? Partner you up with someone who could give you support? Explain ideas one-on-one after class?
  2.  Now, think about what strategies you use at home. Maybe these strategies help you to get your chores done, or help you to remember where you need to be at certain times.  List them below.
  3.  Do you use any types of technology that helps you in day to day tasks like doing errands or make appointments? (for example smart phone, ipad, online calendar on your computer).


Physical space

You also should think about the type of space you will be working in (what your office/work environment will be like).

For example, do you need:

  • A ramp to get into the building?
  • An elevator instead of stairs?
  • A place next to your desk for your guide dog?
  • A quiet room where you can go if you start to feel stressed out?

What other physical accommodations will help you succeed at work?


Changes to your schedule or workday

You can also ask for changes to your workday. These would be things like your work schedule, breaks, and time off. Think about these questions:

  1. How many hours can you work before getting tired?
  2. Do you work better in the mornings or afternoons?
  3. How many breaks do you need in a day?
  4. How often do you have appointments you might need to miss work for?


Now, think about accommodations you may need in each of the areas we’ve talked about:

  1. Performing your work:
    1.  _________________________________________________
    2.  _________________________________________________
    3.  _________________________________________________
    4.  _________________________________________________


  1. Physical space:
    1.  _________________________________________________
    2.  _________________________________________________
    3.  _________________________________________________
    4.  _________________________________________________


  1. Changes to your schedule or workday:
  1.  _________________________________________________
  2.  _________________________________________________
  3.  _________________________________________________
  4.  _________________________________________________


Disclosing your disability

When you “disclose” something, it means you tell people. So one decision you need to make is how, when, and if you will disclose your disability.

When you disclose, or tell someone you have a disability, you must know how much to tell them about yourself. When discussing accommodations, you must decide what and how much of this sensitive information you need to share.

When you let someone know you have a disability, it allows you to get accommodations. As we were talking about, accommodations are changes your employer can make to help you do your job better. The Americans with Disabilities Act says that it’s illegal for an employer not to give you what you need to do your job well.

See these resources:

The Americans with Disabilities Act Questions and Answers

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

JAN: For Individuals


How do you request an accommodation from your employer?


It is important to know how to ask for an accommodation. Here are some tips:

  • Be polite, and give examples. “These are some accommodations that help me in school, and I think that they can help me on this job. Could we talk about them?”
  • Have a conversation.  Be open to feedback and suggestions. “I looked at the requirements for the job and these are the accommodations I may need.  What are some of your ideas?”

Sponsored by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.

The EmployMe1st project is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the  Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services.