Disabled Employees Often Hesitate to Disclose or Request Accommodations

Date:

Key Takeaways

  • Asking for disability accommodations is still a large hurdle for those entering or currently in the workforce.
  • Practitioners are seeing younger people be more and more confident in their identity.
  • There is still a divide between how visible and non-visible disabilities are perceived in the workplace.

Good news! After years of struggling and figuring out how your disability works in your body-mind, you’ve finally been offered an interview. This is the opportunity that could lift you out of poverty, allow you to have good health insurance for once, and afford both your medications and a new wheelchair.

But there’s a catch. For the first time, you have to figure out how to disclose to your employer that you have a disability and that you need accommodations. Now the law is on your side. The Americans with Disabilities Act made sure of that in 1990, but will society’s perceptions make you stop before you even get started?

That’s the issue many disabled employees face before, during, and after employment. However, mental health professionals say, whether your disability is evident or not, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month and we want to talk about it.

How Employees See Their Disabilities

Miriam Davis EdD, LPC, NCC, clinical director and therapist for Newport Healthcare in Virginia says that in her many roles throughout the industry she’s started to see a shift in how her clients view workplace accommodations and their disabilities.

Miriam Davis (EdD, LPC, NCC)

There’s a label on you that you may or may not be ready to accept. And it’s like going back into school and being like, ‘Cool. Can I just put the t-shirt on it that says I’m different and I don’t like it?’

— Miriam Davis (EdD, LPC, NCC)

“What I have found is younger generations are much more open to asking from the beginning, even from the interview process…because they don’t view it necessarily as a bad thing. They’re like, this is part of who I am and what I need to be successful, which is really the way I hope, I wish everybody kind of looked at it.”

Davis says that one of the barriers she sees for her clients is that employers, on the whole, are more concerned about the cost of accommodations than how access needs can help an employee work at their best.

“I feel like a lot of times, they’re not overly enthusiastic about addressing it [accomodations] anyway. Because for them, it’s always like cost, cost. And you’re like, ‘It doesn’t have to be about cost. It’s about having that employee at their optimal performance.’ And usually, the employee is so good about so many things, it’s just they need a couple of supports to put in place to bring them to their optimum performance.”

Mark Debus LCSW, MSW, who advises companies about accommodations via his role at Sedgwick, agrees. For him, companies need to understand the value of accommodations rather than seeing them as unnecessary or a hindrance.

“Employers should always be looking for ways to reduce employee stress and accommodate disabilities, even if those disabilities might not be immediately noticeable. Managers should want employees to work at their best and feel good about their performance and working for you which might mean making accommodations to help them achieve success. This will ultimately create a better workplace culture and help retain good employees by listening and being flexible to their needs,” says Debus.

How to Navigate Accommodations

Davis says employees who are facing this conundrum of whether to disclose their disabilities and their access needs should ask themselves three questions.

“Is it [your lack of accommodations] affecting your work? Can you ask for it? And do you need it? It’s always really important to address it as soon as possible, especially if it’s going to affect your work performance.”

Davis says that accommodations for someone with ADHD might look like electronic reminders, or a desk space in an area of the office that is less chaotic, but cautions that this process can take time.

First comes identifying what needs you think you need, then talking to your healthcare provider, and then talking to human resources or an equivalent.

She says that the unfortunate reality is that many companies are going to need to be “sold” on why you need an accommodation rather than providing them because that’s the decent thing to do and that preconceived notions of what a disabled employee can and can’t do still have impacts in the current workplace when it comes to asking for support.

“There’s that fear of if I do request these [accommodations] will these come out? Will people ask me about this? Will my boss know? And will that affect my future career?”

How Employers Can Improve

Debus says that employers should be thinking about accommodations as more than just a one-and-done as the demographics and needs of the workforce change over time. 

“Disabilities can change over time, so managers should also look to create an open dialogue with employees. If an employee is returning from a leave of absence, proactively reaching out to inquire what they might need will create an environment where feedback is welcomed from employees that will help them do their job better.”

Mark Debus, LCSW, MSW

Employers should always be looking for ways to reduce employee stress and accommodate disabilities, even if those disabilities might not be immediately noticeable. Managers should want employees to work at their best…

— Mark Debus, LCSW, MSW

For him, there is a sense that employers shouldn’t assume that disabled people will automatically volunteer their needs.

“You can’t always rely on employees to raise their hand when they need help, but managers must reach out to ask how they can assist to create the best work environment possible for individuals.”

And for Davis the question is how we can build a world where people can be their authentic selves at work, support and all, instead of what she sometimes sees now: people who are wrangling with the same feeling of discomfort they had in high school when they first realized that perhaps they had a disability. 

“There’s a label on you that you may or may not be ready to accept. And it’s like going back into school and being like, ‘Cool. Can I just put the t-shirt on it that says I’m different and I don’t like it?’ And if you’re not ready to go through that, or you haven’t gone through that process, and you’re not okay with who you are, that’s terrifying.”

What This Means for You

If you’re struggling to choose whether to disclose your disability at work or ask for accommodations, know that some mental health professionals are equipped to support you and that the tides of inaccessibility in the workforce are slowly shifting.

Read the full article here

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Subscribe

spot_img

Popular

More like this
Related

Human rights damages can be awarded for judicial findings

I missed this at the time and only saw...

Europe Struggles to Accommodate Migrants As Number of Asylum Seekers Hits Record

European countries are struggling to accommodate the large number...

COP15: Real work on hard targets gets underway at UN biodiversity conference

Representatives from nearly 200 countries are to begin the...