If you are going to work every day with a disability, know that you are not alone. Recent studies show that around 30% of white-collar workers have a disability. While this may seem surprising, keep in mind that not all disabilities are obvious to the naked eye.
You or someone you know might be dealing with an invisible disability, one that cannot always be seen by just looking or talking to someone. These could include anything from depression to attention deficit disorders to autism or even asthma. If you are working while having one of these issues, help may be available. Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding Your Rights
Before you take any next steps, it is important to know your rights, as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are also many resources available for job seekers with disabilities, including how to find a position and write your resume. If you are currently working, the most important thing to remember is that you are not legally required to disclose that you have a disability. However, if you need accommodations or specific help from your employer, then you may have to make it known.
If you ask for an accommodation but don’t tell them you have a disability, they are not legally required to provide one. However, if you do let them know, they are required to try. Also remember, if your disability affects your work to the point of slowing down your production, you may want to discuss with your employer so they can can fully understand the situation and provide appropriate support.
You cannot be fired just for having a disability; if you are you may file a lawsuit against your employer for wrongful termination. However, if you don’t disclose your disability and you are terminated due to poor job performance, then you may not have the same option.
Informing Your Boss
If you decide to tell your employer about your invisible disability, explain the situation clearly, and with all the facts, so they have no questions about what you need. Know what you want to say ahead of time and write it down if you need to so you don’t forget anything. In some cases, it might even be easier to put everything in an email that you can review before pressing send. If you are unsure of how to proceed, then refer to your employee handbook, which should have information about disabilities.
Also, consider with whom you want to discuss your disability. Some people may not feel comfortable going to their boss with this information. In this case, it is okay to go to human resources as they are a neutral party, and they can give you all the required steps and communicate your needs to the manager.
Regardless of who you tell, there’s a good chance that they will ask to see some documentation of the disability from a medical professional. It might be a good idea to get this information ahead of time, along with any recommendations that your doctor has suggested, such as a modified work schedule or necessary equipment. Once you are done with the meeting, send an email thanking for their time, and ask any follow-up questions.
Asking for Accommodations
Now that you have disclosed your disability, this is the time to ask for any help you need to better perform the duties of your position. These needs will vary greatly based on the person and the condition, so state your requirements clearly. The change may be as simple as a revised work schedule so you can go to necessary doctor appointments or specific break periods when you need to take your medication.
If you have an invisible chronic pain disability, then you may need to ask for changes in your desk layout, like an ergonomic chair or a standing desk. If you have anxiety issues, then you may also require an emotional support animal. Ask for this accommodation as well. However, keep in mind that some requests may take longer than others, so keep in contact with management, so you can continue to work in the meantime.
The possibility may exist that you cannot do your current job at all due to your disability. If this is the case, then be open and honest about your feelings. One possibility might be to ask if there is a different skill or position you can learn so you can still be an asset to your employer.
Living with a disability is not easy for anyone, especially if you need to juggle work at the same time. However, by being open and honest with your employer, you can have an enjoyable experience at your job.