Some disabilities, such as the need for a wheelchair, are obvious to a recruiter or hiring manager at the interview. Many others, from allergies or ADHD to dyslexia or depression, may not be known until (and if) the employee discloses and requests accommodations. Invisible Illness Awareness Week reports that nearly one in two people live with a chronic condition, and about 96 percent of those people suffer silently with invisible illnesses and disabilities.
Provided granting a request doesn’t cause a company undue hardship, employers are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to offer reasonable accommodations. Here’s what you need to know…
Although providing accommodations that you weren’t initially aware of when hiring an employee can be challenging, sometimes the individual doesn’t even know what specific request to make, meaning the disclosure opens up a conversation about what may break down barriers related to the disability. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which offers free, confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues to companies and employees, suggests designating a person to handle these requests, plus training all managers to consult with that person about any requests they may receive. The need for confidentiality is a key training point, as well.
Not surprisingly, considering the vast pool of disability types, a potential accommodations list could be nearly endless. A few seen by career development coach Barbara Bissonnette of Quincy, Mass.-based Forward Motion Consulting, who works with those with Asperger’s and other communications challenges, include:
- Having a longer training period with smaller segments.
- Getting job-related instructions in writing.
- The use of checklists or icons for tracking work.
- Hearing an explanation about purpose of tasks.
- Sensory processing modifications, such as natural lighting, a quiet workspace or use of noise-cancellation headphones.
Bissonnette generally advises clients who aren’t in need of accommodations for the interview or on day one of work to wait until getting a job offer before disclosing needs. “Some employers are very nervous still about hiring someone with a disability,” she says. Meanwhile, major companies such as SAP, Microsoft, and Freddie Mac are recruiting individuals on the autism spectrum to fill a need for workers with particular skills.
“The point for employers,” she says, “is that there are many low- and no-cost accommodations that enable them to benefit from talented, capable workers.”
A multiyear JAN study found 58 percent of workplace accommodations cost nothing. Plus, employers reported multiple benefits, including retention of valuable employees and improved productivity and morale.
View past posts about hiring resources and advice…