Seeking Accommodation?: Try Honey, Not Vinegar


People who contact me about their fragrance sensitivity problem often recount how difficult it is to get landlords, employers, or others to accommodate their sensitivity. In most cases these people tell me that their approach has been to say that their fragrance sensitivity is a disability that should be accommodated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some of them have also read the following statement by Bennie Howard, former Acting Deputy Director for the Office of Disabilities at HUD: “Federal laws—specifically the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act—prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. HUD considers multiple chemical sensitivity to be a disability under these laws.”

I understand why people with serious reactions to fragrance take heart from Bennie Howard’s above statement or the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it isn’t easy trying to get accommodation on this basis. In the case of the ADA, you could spend a fortune trying to prove in court that your fragrance sensitivity constitutes a disability. Before wasting money on legal action, you would do well to read the “Legal Issues” article reached from a tab on the left side of the homepage of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation.

With regard to the statement made over a decade ago by a HUD official who left HUD shortly thereafter, that’s something that you may want to quote to HUD officials who are helping you with Section 8 housing, but bear in mind that they may say that statement is no longer HUD policy or that it was never “official” HUD policy.

I would urge any of you who want to persuade others to react in a positive way to your request that they be considerate of your fragrance sensitivity to approach them in as non-confrontational manner as possible. Try explaining briefly that fragrance gives you an asthma attack or a migraine headache, hand them a blue card for my Fragrance-Free Workplaces video, and say that you would appreciate it so much if they would watch even just a few minutes of the film.

My foundation would be happy to mail you a couple dozen cards at no charge. To see both sides of these cards, visit my personal website on the right of this page. If you try carrying a few cards in your pocket or purse, you will be surprised to see how frequently you want to give one to someone or a business or a medical facility. Bothered by the air freshener in a restaurant bathroom? Hand the manager one of these cards. One woman who ordered 50 cards sent me this testimonial:

I so appreciate these Wave of the Future cards!

Today I shared a few with my doctor. She almost cried. Seems she, too, is suffering from fragrances and air fresheners used in their office.

A few days ago, in my favorite local donut shop, The Hole, the young lady at the counter, a student of mine from years gone by, whipped out the bottle of Windex and industriously went to clean the door and windows. My companion, also someone who is coming to terms with a sensitivity to chemicals, had to leave. It is so much easier to have the gentle, brief conversation, with a smile, and hand someone the card. The card somehow lends authenticity. The young lady seemed genuinely interested.

The cards take the place of so much conversation I’d rather not have. Thank you. I will be ordering more.

Can’t remember if I shared with you or not, but I flew with Eastern Air Lines 1972-1991. I was one of many who ambled through the cabin after meal services asking individual passengers if they would like to see smoking banned on aircraft. So many laughed at us. “THAT will never happen!” Well, it did. Unfortunately, not until my last year of flying, but it happened. It gives me hope.

Please help me change the world one card at a time. You may not have money to donate to the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation to promote our fragrance-free workplaces campaign, but you can help spread the word by handing out these cards. And perhaps someone to whom you give a card will make a donation to our cause. That’s important because we have less than $3,000 in our bank account, which prevents us from doing things like sending ten cards and a cover letter to the members of various state legislatures.