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Rheumatoid Arthritis, Work, and Disability

Understanding the impact RA can have on the workplace and your career.

What type of workplace modifications help people with rheumatoid arthritis?

The U.S. Labor Department's Job Accommodation Network has provided a list of recommendations for employers of people with arthritis and arthritis-related conditions. You can use the following list to help you discuss workplace accommodations with your employer. The recommendations include:

  • adjusting desk height if an employee uses a wheelchair or scooter
  • allowing a flexible work schedule or allowing the employee to work from home
  • implementing an ergonomic workstation design
  • installing automatic door openers
  • providing a page turner, book holder, or note taker, if necessary
  • providing arm supports and writing and grip aids
  • providing parking close to the workplace
  • providing sensitivity training to co-workers
  • reducing or eliminating physical exertion
  • replacing small switches with cushioned knobs that can be turned with less force
  • scheduling periodic breaks away from the workstation

Your right to have accommodations made for you is protected by law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination based on their disability. Federal law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity. It prohibits employers from:

  • not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of disabled employees
  • not advancing employees with disabilities in the business
  • not providing needed accommodations in training

What if I can't work and need to apply for disability?

You may qualify for disability benefits from Social Security if you are unable to do any substantial work and your medical condition has lasted at least one year. You can apply online by going to You may also call your local Social Security office to make an appointment and obtain the forms. Phone numbers for local offices are provided on the Social Security web site.

What type of documentation do I need to get Social Security disability benefits?

To apply for disability benefits, you will need to complete an application for Social Security Benefits and an Adult Disability Report. The report collects detailed information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Again, you can find all the requirements online or get the information by phone from your local Social Security office.

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