3 things your disabled employee wants you to know

I’ve been disabled in the workplace for coming up on 10 years now. I’ve had my share of horror stories (lots of them) as well as my share of good experiences (less of them, but far more impactful). Here’s some things I wish my managers knew about working with me and my colleagues who have a disability, so that we can do our best work and come closer to thriving in our day-to-day life.

  1. We probably need accommodations, and we may not know what the best accommodations to ask for are. Collaborate together to find the intersection of accommodations that will work for your disabled employee’s particular set of needs and your company’s processes and resources, and then give those accommodations to them. Some examples are a large computer monitor for someone who has a visual disability, using subtitle software on Zoom meetings for someone who has an audio disability, or a quiet room to escape to for someone who has a panic disorder.
  2. Your disabled employee is not lazy. In fact, they may be working way too hard as a way to compensate for their disability (I know this is at least true in my case). Work together to regulate what tasks they should be taking on, and learn together where the line is between ‘doable’ and ‘too much’ lies.
  3. Abilities change over time. Some people are permanently disabled, some are temporarily disabled. Some people have long stretches of good days with a few bad days inter-spliced in between, some people have a bad day almost every day. Support your employee in using many different approaches to be able to get the work done. That could look like different start times, or a flexible work from home schedule. It could look like taking a few more short breaks during the day. You as an employer are not allowed to ask about disability status (seriously, don’t do it), but it’s a good idea to check in regularly on what adjustments your employee may need on their accommodation status.

There are many, many more things that someone experiencing a disability want you to know, and I’m sure many things that as an employer you wish you knew as well. If this is you, comment below with your thoughts!

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