Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Koffman
- All of us with CLL / SLL are moderately to severely immunocompromised, even if we’re not in treatment, and we’re at significantly higher risk from respiratory infections such as COVID-19.
- COVID-19 is still circulating.
- Immunocompromised people are considered to have a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
- People covered by the ADA are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” that enable us to access healthcare safely.
- Good masking by patients and staff reduces the risk.
- Now that most healthcare settings have lifted mask requirements, we must be active in asking for the protections we need and are entitled to.
- Ask at least a week ahead if you have a scheduled appointment and as soon as you hit the healthcare setting if it’s an urgent visit.
- If we ask ahead of time, we are much more likely to get the help we need and are entitled to, and there’s a bonus — we’ll lay the groundwork for other people to get the protections they need, too!
- Call in advance to find out who to direct your request to
- Remember, many people who answer the phones or emails at healthcare sites will not be aware of the ADA protections.
- So treat them kindly, explain that this is new for all of us, and be prepared to ask to speak to clinic managers or compliance officers.
- We are NOT required to provide any medical or legal documentation of our health status to ask for these accommodations, but we can if we wish to.
- The attached document from the Vermont Center for Independent Living is an excellent overview of the law and the practicalities of requesting accommodations under the ADA.
- It has a list of the kind of accommodations that we can ask for.
- We CAN NOT ask that other patients be required to mask
- We CAN ask that all staff mask and that we are not placed in a position of sharing air with unmasked patients while we wait to be seen
Two Practical Points to Remember:
1. If you are denied a reasonable accommodation, document it. Write down the date, time, location, and name of the staff involved. Don’t give up — escalate your request up the chain! Then, file a complaint through the healthcare site’s patient relations office, and consider filing a complaint with the ADA.
2. You may want to carry a few new high-quality masks to offer staff so that if they say, “I don’t have a mask,” you can quickly fix that problem!
Resources and Links:
Here’s the link to the friendly and helpful resource from the Vermont Center for Independent Living: Making ADA Reasonable Modifications Requests.
Here’s a link to a supportive editorial from the well-respected medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine: For Patient Safety, It Is Not Time to Take Off Masks in Health Care Settings.