Accommodating Laryngitis in the Workplace with Spartan Kick: an ADA Challenge

Posted by Diane Baren on

One of the times I wanted to Spartan-kick someone really hard in the chest was one of the times when I had laryngitis. As the head of Human Resources and Payroll at a university research center, loss of my voice for several weeks at a time was a problem. It was disabling.

This university lacked a proper piece of adaptive equipment for me to use.

For presentations, they had a sort of microphone that you could hold near your throat and it would magnify your voice. But when you have laryngitis like I did whispering into a microphone is not a solution; to heal, you’re supposed to prevent your vocal chords from rubbing together - by not speaking at all.

The solution I came up with for myself was to communicate in meetings by typing on my laptop and having people read what I was trying to say to them.

Fortunately, and amazingly, I could type very fast with accuracy. Hallelujah - something I learned to do very well as a teenager! (Not kidding, my rate was over 100 WPM accurately in high school…consistency breeds accuracy.)

However, in meetings I can’t have people sitting on my lap to read. Typing at an angle where people could read it caused a huge number of typos.

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One day in a meeting with 2 people I worked closely with, making so many typing errors really started to feel like another form of laryngitis. I’d lost another means of communicating. I instinctively sort of shook the laptop on the table in frustration.

The woman next to me had the nerve to chide me, telling me that shaking the laptop in frustration was childish behavior.

Losing my 2 primary forms of communication - speaking and typing - warranted reasonable accommodation in the workplace, in terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The reasonable accommodation I made for myself was the allowance to communicate my frustration by shaking a laptop in a meeting once in a while. That, or the freedom to communicate by Spartan-kicking this woman really hard in the chest.


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