How people with long-term COVID-19 effects can take advantage of federal disability protections

ORLANDO, Fla. — People who suffer from the long-term effects of COVID-19 learned this summer that they can now be considered for federal disability protections.

Since then, federal agencies have been fielding constant questions about how it all works.

READ: Coronavirus: Total US COVID-19 cases top 40 million as death toll nears 650K

If “long COVID” or “long-haulers” syndrome substantially limits one or more major life activities, federal disability resources protections are now available under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Studies are fluid on the subject, and already estimate 10% to 30% of survivors in the workforce are dealing with significant health issues after getting the virus.

READ: See where you can find the COVID-19 vaccine in your county

“Some of my patients, they’re still suffering from headaches, fatigue, muscle aches,” internist Dr. Aftab Kahn said.

Helping those people navigate the disability benefits is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

“We really want them to know that there are supports out there, and that at the U.S. Department of Labor we are really committed to working with them so they can stay in the workforce,” said Taryn Mackenzie, who works for the office.

READ: Florida to issue $5,000 fines for businesses, schools who ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccine

That means the right to accommodations or modifications like rest breaks, telework or an ergonomic workspace, and finding out if your job can work with you to provide what you need.

“Their symptoms might be different on a daily basis and they’re trying to figure out how they can perform their job duties with these symptoms,” said Tracie Defreitas, an ADA specialist with the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).

READ: What are the 4 stages of COVID-19?

JAN is a free confidential service to guide individuals and employers through this evolving process, where there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Defreitas recommends people seek JAN’s direction to get started.

Here are additional resources to help:

Job Accommodation Network

U.S. Department of Labor coronavirus resources

EARN COVID-19 Resources

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.