Work Accommodations and Invisible Disabilities

Work Accommodations and Invisible Disabilities

It is estimated that about 15% of the population is living with some form of disability. 96% of individuals with chronic diseases live with an unseen illness. Not all conditions are easily noticed, yet they can be equally debilitating as those that are visible. Unfortunately, those living with hidden disabilities tend to be disregarded, excluded, and remain inadequately represented. Insufficient awareness and understanding of hidden conditions can not only influence negative attitudes but also hinder these individuals from reaching their full potential.

Promoting awareness of  unseen diseases is important  in the workplace and our society, as it helps address discrimination and enhance equality. Now more than ever, it is essential to establish an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable community  for individuals  living with hidden disabilities. 

What is an invisible disability?

Invisible disability, also known as hidden disability, is defined “as a physical, mental, or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities.” Invisible disabilities can include chronic fatigue, chronic pain, neurological conditions, cognitive dysfunction, mental health disorders, metabolic and autoimmune diseases, hearing and visual impairments. 

Why do many remain silent and do not disclose their condition?

There is a lack of awareness of the debilitating nature and impact of conditions like migraine and headache can have on an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Due to common beliefs and misperceptions around migraine many go without revealing the condition and lack the support needed to excel. Some may argue that their employer may struggle to understand what they are experiencing when it comes to living with migraine unless they or a loved one experiences migraine symptoms.

Unfortunately, many will judge others by their appearance and conclude what they may be capable of doing or not doing. For this reason many are in fear of disclosing their condition due to an introduction of discrimination and judgment, especially that their coworkers may not believe it is true. Some may also fear that disclosing their disability may influence their chances of getting the job or affect future job promotions. 

What work accommodations are available for individuals with migraine? 

Migraine affects approximately 1 billion individuals each year worldwide. Although migraine remains the third most common disability worldwide, this population continues to experience challenges when requesting work accommodations. Many living with migraine are able to continue with daily activities and continue being active in the workplace. On the other hand, some may struggle with getting through their day and some may even not be able to work. Work accommodations for employees with migraine may vary per individual depending on the severity and frequency of their episodes, and the debilitating nature of symptoms experienced alongside their attacks. 

Possible work accommodations for those living with migraine may include flexible schedules to allow for doctor visits. An option to work from home on days not feeling well enough to travel and work from the office. Provide employees a private room to allow recovery during a migraine episode. In addition, offer flexible breaks to take when needed and allow employees to keep medications, foods, and beverages in the workspace.  For those who experience photophobia they may need to wear sunglasses or tinted glasses. If possible, another option is replacing fluorescent light fixtures with natural or incandescent lighting. Allowing an office space away from any loud noises. Encouraging a fragrance-free environment for those who have sensitivities to odor. 

Advocating for those who live with disabilities will also contribute to a society and culture of acceptance  and allowing everyone to succeed. Furthermore, staying educated and informed on what is happening in the disability community can promote success beyond the work lives of these individuals. You can take action by informing coworkers of online forms and websites to help push new legislation. Share this information in team meetings to help improve access for those working with disabilities. As an employer, keep informed on what is available for your employees with disabilities and allow for a safe space for individuals to disclose their condition. Finally, it is important to also understand what rights are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Jasmine Bhasin, PA-C
Jasmine Bhasin is a Physician Assistant specializing in headache medicine, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
About the Author
Jasmine Bhasin is a Physician Assistant specializing in headache medicine, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to joining Neura Health, she worked in the Department of Neurology at UW (University of Wisconsin) Health where she specialized in migraine and headache disorders. Jasmine began her career in family practice and aesthetics where she adopted an interest in alternative medicine. She continues to focus patient care based on preventative medicine with a holistic approach, where treatment plans are incorporated with non-pharmacologic management such as lifestyle changes, alternative medicine, physical therapy, and supplements. She also performs botox injections, supraorbital nerve blocks, occipital nerve blocks, and trigger point injections. Jasmine completed her undergraduate degree in Human Development at UC San Diego. She went on to receive her Master of Science in Physician Assistant studies from Western University.

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