How to ask for a fragrance disability accommodation from a business

Pumpkin spice is here, whether you like it or not.

For me, pumpkin spice is synonymous with death. I don’t just mean in the figurative sense–the end of summer, trees shedding their leaves, and the demise of sensible shoppers.

No, I mean literally. Before September, I already had suffocated from a displaced pumpkin spice broom in a home improvement store. The cinnamon pine cones are sure to follow, filling everyone’s lungs with harmful particles.

Listen, enjoy your latte, but there is no need for pumpkin spice kitty litter. The cats are already suffering.

The problem with seasonal fragrances is I have no idea where they are going to pop up. I usually smell them before I see them, and then it’s too late. Even with rescue medications, my reactions last at least several hours, if not days.

Last year, I had a major victory. I requested my local grocery store remove its cinnamon pine cones… and they did! It took some time–because corporate bureaucracy–but they eventually responded:

“Over the weekend we were able to get approval to remove this product from our floral department. We won’t have them in store after today. Thank you for your patience while we found a resolution for you.”

A few weeks later, I requested another business to stop lighting a candle near its cash register. Their response was even better:

“I am so sorry our candles caused a reaction. We have had a handful of concerns so we understand now the issues the fragrances can cause and will remove them. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to hear you and help.”

In the United States, fragrance sensitivity can be considered a disability and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable modifications for people with disabilities.

“ADA requires businesses to make “reasonable modifications” to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities… Anything that would result in a fundamental alteration – a change in the essential nature of your business – is not required.” – U.S. Department of Justice

Tips for requesting a fragrance disability modification from a business

  • Write an email to the business. It is important to keep a written record of accommodation/modification requests.
  • I prefer to call it a “fragrance disability” instead of a “fragrance sensitivity” when possible.
  • Be specific. Name the store location and product.
  • Be reasonable. The businesses can deny unreasonable requests (e.g. removing all fragrances at all locations). A reasonable modification might be moving fragrant products away from high traffic areas, such as the entrance and cash registers.
  • Be kind and thank the business for its modifications.

Example email for U.S. businesses

I am requesting an ADA reasonable modification for my disability at [store name] in [city]. Today, I had a severe reaction to [product] at your store. I am requesting you to [move or remove the product from a specific area] from your store. I have been a customer for many years; however, I cannot continue to risk my health to shop at your store. A 2019 research study found 32.2% of adults suffer from fragrance sensitivity; this modification will likely benefit other customers.

Thank you,

[Your name]


I’d love to hear your experiences requesting fragrance disability accommodations from a business! Email me at

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but pine cones will surely kill me

19 thoughts on “How to ask for a fragrance disability accommodation from a business

  1. How do you ask for accommodations when you work for the business? I need to wear tinted glasses to work for my migraines and cluster headaches since I work under bright fluorescent lights and stare at a computers screen all day but they just try to send me home.

  2. Any suggestions for how to approach my situation? I have medical and social transportation through Medicaid. They contract with a few local providers, who use minivans. A handful of drivers place air fresheners in the vents, in every drugging vent in the car. The hanging fresheners are bad enough, but directly poisoning the air I breathe?!? The outings themselves make me sick enough, without having to deal with additional unpleasant symptoms like migraine, weakness, and muscle pain from the transport vehicle. I’ve tried requesting no air fresheners when I schedule, explaining why I can’t be around them, but I’ve had mixed success.

    1. Phrasing it as a ADA modification request (a legal request) may help. You may also need to quote ADA law. I would email the manager of the transportation company once transportation is scheduled. I would also email your Medicaid case manager and explain it is negatively impacting your health and you have requested an ADA modification.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I know a lot of people who have to deal with this, so I plan on sharing this with them.

  4. I have never thought about even asking. But I know for sure it is a problem with me from the migraines, FM and asthma. I avoid a lot of things due to it. Fragrance infected aisles for example.

  5. Sharing those positive responses is very powerful. Thank you. It is great to have in kind that it can go well and what that might sound like.

  6. I will provide a report after my current attempts at fragrance free accommodations w/a national hotel . I resorted to calling the General Manager’s office within 48 hours of arrival, after documenting 2 months of asks and no responses from both the hotel and the conference organizers who is paying the hotel a lot of money to have a national conference there.

  7. I am about to be hospitalized for surgery for several days. Our hospital has air fresheners mounted in hallways, and caregivers are heavily fragranced. It is a nightmare. How would I pursue requesting accommodation for this? This is slightly different than requesting accommodation from a commercial place of business. It is truly a barrier to my safe care.

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