The original post had restricted access, but I don't work there any more so I'm not as concerned with sharing this, and I think it's an important consideration.
[Filtered, since I'm talking about my employer.]
Let me preface this by saying two things: (1) I am open about my vision problems; if somebody has questions I'll do my best to answer, and (2) I'm comfortable asking managers above me for what I need to do my job.
I've been having vision-related issues with my computer setup at work, mainly with software that doesn't play well with accessibility settings. As soon as you change font sizes or text/background colors, there are things that just don't work right. It's annoying, as I spend a lot of time finding work-arounds or just sucking it up.
As I wrote about back at the time, Office 2007 (specifically, Outlook 2007) is just plain not functional in a reverse-video environment. I use a reverse-video environment at work because the bright white pixels were hurting my eyes even before I started getting floaters that made it harder for me to read black text in that scheme -- especially for extended periods, like at work all day. (The Mac is actually worse for OS-level accessibility than Windows, but I don't spend 8-10 hours a day working at my Mac. Plus, the applications I spend the most time with -- Firefox, command line, emacs -- can be configured in the ways I need.)
Then the Windows 7 rollout came. Accessibility in Win7 is no better than in XP, and some things are worse -- maybe there are solutions I haven't found, but neither Google nor our IT department was able to help me. So, long story short, my computer is still running XP and Office 2003, and I get frequent automated nags to schedule my "upgrade". My manager is working with HR and IT on several fronts (one of which involves me exploring the Mac as a solution), and the word that filters down to me suggests that IT is not being very helpful (no surprise, given my past experience with them). Since I'm doing this experimentation in odd pockets of free time because I still have, you know, work to do, I haven't gotten very far -- but I was assured that I have until April (when XP is really and truly end-of-lifed) to have something in place.
Last week I learned that an impending Exchange upgrade is going to break email for me. So my manager is arguing with IT about that now, and who knows what will happen. While some people would take "can't get email" as a blessing, I really can't do my job without it. So... today I got email from our HR person instructing me to file a formal request for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes collecting a medical assessment from my doctor and a description of my job requirements at the level of "fine motor control", "sight", "lift up to 10/25/50/100 pounds", "climb ladders", and all sorts of stuff covering a range of mostly-physical disabilities. And they gave me a tiny little space to describe the problem and what I need.
You have got to be freaking kidding me, I thought.
This makes me feel embarrassed, awkward, and more than a little "on display". And it made me think about how someone who isn't comfortable speaking up for his needs, or who fears reprisal, or who just doesn't want to be a "problem", would react. And that's for disabilities that are socially acceptable -- now what if it was something you were trying to keep from sharing, like a mental-health issue? How many people who need reasonable workplace accommodations, ones that would not be an imposition on employers, don't get them because asking is too demeaning, or worse? (And yes, I know that there are many other types of needs that feel even more demeaning than workplace accommodations for disabilities.)
I don't know what the solution is, but there's got to be a better way.