Respiratory Impairments

Respiratory Impairments

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Respiratory Impairments

Woman with her hand on her chestRespiratory impairment is a generic term that refers to a number of medical conditions that can affect the respiratory system and may result in limitations such as labored breathing or asthma attacks, fatigue and difficulty with mobility, heightened sensitivity to ordinary substances and chemicals, and compromised immunity to infection.

When a person has acute respiratory failure, the usual exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs does not occur. As a result, enough oxygen cannot reach the heart, brain, or the rest of the body.

Respiratory Impairments and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Respiratory Impairments

People with respiratory impairments may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with respiratory impairments will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  • What limitations is the employee experiencing?

  • How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?

  • What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?

  • What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?

  • Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?

  • Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?

  • Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Learn more on the AskJan website: Respiratory Impairments webpage


Oklahoma WorksOklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Oklahoma ABLE Tech have collaborated to provide this information and advice to those seeking accommodation in the workplace.  


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