Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, disabling disease of the central nervous system that impacts nearly 1 million individuals in the United States.1 That’s nearly twice the number that was believed just a few years ago! With so many individuals at risk, it’s important now more than ever that we help individuals living with or caring for someone with MS by providing the resources they may need to continue performing well in the workplace.
Multiple sclerosis disrupts communication between the brain and body.
No two people are the same when it comes to how they’re affected by MS—it can affect different people with different symptoms. Many symptoms may not be visible, however some to look out for are:
Less Common symptoms
While local laws and/or corporate policies may differ, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations—modifications or adjustments to job requirements and the work environment. These modifications enable individuals with MS to have an equal opportunity to successfully perform their job tasks to the same extent as people without disabilities. Below is an excerpt from the Job Accommodation Network’s (JAN) Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Multiple Sclerosis.
Be aware that not all people with MS will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations.
Results from the Job Accommodation Network survey of 3,369 employers from 2004 – 2020
(n= 1,029 employers)
said accommodations cost absolutely nothing
accommodation resulted in an ongoing, annual cost to the company
experienced a one-time cost (median one-time incremental expenditure of $400)
accommodation required a combination of one-time and annual costs
(n= 986 employers)
Employers who had implemented accommodations by the time they were interviewed were asked to rank the effectiveness of the accommodations on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely effective. Of the 986 responding, the majority (75%) reported the accommodations were either very effective or extremely effective.
There are a number of organizations that provide free consulting services for employers and their employees. This includes guidance around the Americans with Disabilities Act and workplace accommodations. They include:
Have questions about workplace accommodations or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Ask Jan at askjan.org >
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America has comprehensive information on the challenges and opportunities involved with employment and MS.
Go to mymsaa.org >
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a brochure available for download called ADA and People with MS.
Download the brochure here >
The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is an organization focused on providing free services that address the critical needs of people with MS and their families.
Go to msfocus.org >
Caregiver Action Network (CAN) provides education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers free of charge.
Go to caregiveraction.org >
MS MindShift is an initiative built to help patients understand the impact that healthy lifestyle choices can have on MS. See how healthy choices can help patients manage MS >
Living with MS and staying in the workforce can be complex, but getting them the support they need doesn’t have to be. We’ve curated a select group of resources to help people with MS be proactive around discussions about accommodations and seeking outside support that’ll help you be as productive as possible.
References: 1. Wallin MT, et al. Neurology. 2019 Mar 5;92(10):e1029-e1040. 2. Job Accommodation Network (Updated 10/21/2020). Workplace accommodations: Low cost, high impact. https://askjan.org/topics/costs.cfm. Accessed December 15, 2020. 3. Job Accommodation Network (Updated 9/30/2019). Accommodations: and Compliance Series Employees with Multiple Sclerosis. https://askjan.org/publications/Disability-Downloads.cfm?pubid=382018&action=download&pubtype=pdf. Accessed October 19, 2021.
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