May 7, 2024

7 Key Points When Returning to Work with a Disability

7 Key Points When Returning to Work with a Disability

Returning to work either with a disability or after recovery can feel like walking through fog. It’s crucial to approach this transition in a way that your needs are met and your rights are protected. Whether you're dealing with physical or mental limitations, knowing how to discuss these can make a big difference in your work life.

It’s also critical to understand what help is available. For those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Ticket to Work (TTW) Program is specifically designed to support a return to work while protecting benefits during the transition. This removes a lot of stress when attempting to get back into the workplace.

TTW includes the services of an experienced Employment Network (EN) such as Allsup Employment Services (AES) to give you every advantage possible in your employment journey. AES gets you registered with the TTW Program (handling all paperwork), explains what can be a complicated program, provides coaching and handles all communication with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

A big part of returning is how to discuss it with your Human Resources team. The following are key steps when speaking with HR.

#1 – Get Prepared

Before you meet with HR, get properly set up and gather information.

  • If receiving SSDI or SSI, get signed up with the Ticket To Work Program through an EN like Allsup Employment Services.
  • Know what you need and what your rights are. Learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which helps protect people with disabilities and give them rights at work.
  • Collect any medical papers that show your physical or mental limits and what kind of help you might need at work. These will help form what accommodations to ask for, and your EN can assist you with that.
  • Ask HR for a formal meeting instead of just talking casually. This makes it clear that the conversation is important and makes sure you have their full attention.

#2 – Communicate Clearly

When it comes time to speak with HR, remember to be clear and open. The ADA supports having a talk with your employer, but it needs to stay simple and straightforward.

Explain your disability clearly and carefully, including how it impacts your work and what accommodations you need to do your job well. Be honest about what you can and cannot do. Make sure to mention that your needs are because of a medical condition, which is covered under the ADA.

Be ready to talk and listen to HR—they might have questions or other ideas. If some suggestions don't work, be prepared to think about other options.

#3 – Be Specific

Walk in with specific accommodation requests.

When you meet with HR, have clear ideas about what help you need. If you don't bring up these ideas, they might not offer them. Think about specific things that could make your job easier, like changing your work hours, getting special office equipment, using software to help with tasks, changing the layout of your workspace or working from home. Being clear about what you need helps HR figure out what is possible more quickly.

Your doctor should make suggestions and you can also draw ideas from the Job Accommodation Network.

#4 – Provide Documentation

Bring any medical papers or letters from your doctors that explain your health condition and why you need the specific accommodations you are asking for. These documents don't have to share your exact diagnosis, but should describe how your condition affects you and suggest ways to help you at work.

This proof shows your employer that your request for help is based on real medical needs. It helps HR and your boss understand that your requests are reasonable. This way, everyone knows what can help you do your job better, creating a supportive work environment.

#5 – Follow Up in Writing

Following up in writing after talking to HR about returning to work with a disability is important for several reasons. First, it creates a record which is useful for remembering exactly what was agreed on. This can prevent any misunderstandings in the future and makes sure everyone is clear about the agreement.

Writing things down also serves as proof if there are any disagreements or confusion later about what was discussed. This documentation can help resolve issues by showing what was originally agreed upon. Additionally, having everything in writing sets clear steps and helps everyone stick to what they agreed to do.

Lastly, if your HR contact changes, having everything documented means the new person can quickly understand your situation and ensure there is no disruption in the support you need. A written record helps ensure everything goes smoothly and that your rights are protected.

#6 – Know Your Rights

Understanding your rights is key to making sure you get the necessary support and have a successful return to the workplace. See the resources available below this article for some useful links.

First, knowing your rights helps protect you from being treated unfairly. If you know the laws (like the ADA), you can stand up for yourself if needed. Knowing your rights also ensures that you are treated with respect and given what you need to do your job well.

Understanding the law also helps you talk more clearly and confidently with HR. You can explain what you need and why, based on the law, which helps you to be taken seriously.

Additionally, knowing your rights gives you confidence. It lets you take an active role in discussions about your needs, making sure you are seen as an equal in these conversations.

Finally, when both you and HR understand what the law says, there are fewer chances for misunderstandings or conflicts. This can make your return to work smoother and more positive.

#7 – Use Support

If you’re unsure about advocating for yourself or need additional support, consider bringing a representative with strong, specific experience working with the TTW Program and workplace disability issues. Consider having a trusted colleague or friend attend your HR meeting as well.

Also, not all of your conversation will or should be with HR. Speaking directly with your supervisor is helpful as they understand the work you’ve done and the challenges and obstacles involved. Your manager can advocate internally with the HR team on your behalf and add a lot of insight to the process.


Getting back to work with a disability takes careful planning and clear discussion. From using Ticket to Work, to talking clearly with HR, to making small changes in your workload, every step helps you get back into your job in a way that looks after your health and respects your rights.

Remember, going back to work is not just about returning to your job; it's about doing so in a way that supports your health and keeps your rights safe. By following the steps we've talked about, like getting your papers ready, asking for specific help and knowing your legal rights, you ensure you're making smart choices. Also, writing things down and getting help when needed can make sure your move back to work goes well and lasts.

As you go forward, remember you're not alone. There are resources and support available to help you return to work. Stay active, stay informed and most importantly, make sure your workplace fits your needs and helps you do well.


Helpful Resources:

Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)

Employees' Practical Guide To Requesting And Negotiating Reasonable Accommodation Under The Americans With Disabilities Act (Job Accommodation Network)

Information for Employees About Accommodations (Job Accommodation Network)

A Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment ( / U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division)



Learn more about:

- The Ticket To Work (TTW) Program.

- What an Employment Network (EN) is and why they are important.

- How your SSDI benefits are protected under the TTW program.

- Frequently asked questions regarding the TTW program and Allsup Employment Services.

- How Allsup Employment Services’ deep experience helps you.


Allsup Employment Services can be reached at 866-540-5105 or requesting a call.