Accommodation 101 for Mental Health and Neurodiversity
A guide to reasonable accommodations for professionals with mental health conditions and neurodivergence, including ADHD, which are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Are things like depression, ADHD, autism, dyslexia and anxiety really considered disabilities?
Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: The ADA doesn't provide a comprehensive list of disabilities but defines a disability as someone who has a physical or mental medical condition that substantially limits a major life activity, or if they have a record of such a condition. This includes chronic and episodic conditions that are substantially limiting when active, such as bipolar disorder. This also includes someone with a history of cancer, even if the cancer is in remission.
Disabilities include but are not limited to: depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, PTSD, OCD, schizophrenia, brain injury, diabetes, epilepsy, chronic illness, and more.
What are accommodations?
Accommodations support professionals to perform the essential functions of their job, often by providing adjustments to:
The work environment
Existing training materials or processes
Work hours and scheduling
Access to resources or assistive technology
Accommodations require medical documentation from a healthcare provider, which can be a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, GP, specialist doctor, etc.
They also need to be reasonable, meaning they don't cause undue hardship to the business. Usually this means financial hardship, or disruption to business operations.
What are examples of accommodations for mental health and neurodivergence?
Below is a list of accommodations I've collected over my professional experience. This list isn't exhaustive but it should get your gears turning on what could help you!
Work Environment Adjustments
Noise cancelling headphones
Desk away from foot traffic for minimal distractions
Wall dividers on either side of desk to block visual distractions
Ability to use quiet room
Balance ball chairs, standing desk ergonomic adjustments, foot hammocks, etc.
Approval for emotional support animal
Ability to work from home a certain number of days per week
Maximum of 2 hour meeting blocks to allow for breaks
Adjusted schedule, such as shifting core hours to later in the day
Flexible schedule to allow time for medical appointments during workday
Intermittent leave to accommodate unplanned flare-ups of medical condition, including panic attacks
Ability to take unscheduled breaks
Uninterrupted work time, such as the ability to use DND for up to three hours per day
Adjustments to training materials and on-the-job learning
Extra time to learn new information
Additional time to obtain necessary certifications for job
Additional training tools. Example: a phone script for typical phone interactions
Ability to record trainings, use captions, review training materials in advance, and/or get transcripts
Weekly 1:1 time with a peer for job shadowing purposes. LPT: Be specific in your request. For example, 2 hours per week shadowing top performer on team for 3 weeks
Training materials in accessible formats. Example: digital copies of printed materials so employee can use text-to-speech software.
Adjustments to Supervisory Methods
Supervisor provides feedback in writing 24 hours in advance of 1:1 so employee has time to process feedback.
Supervisor provides feedback using Start, Stop, Continue method to ensure feedback is clear and actionable
Written instructions for tasks with explicit timeline, due dates, and clear expectations and measures of success
Written recaps after 1:1 meetings, detailing action items, expectations, and deadlines
Specifications for format projects should be in and examples
Ability to collaborate with manager on breaking down large projects to smaller milestones and deadlines, or ability to use 1:1s to review workload and prioritize tasks with manager
Adjusted Communication Methods
Adopting a succinct or explicit communication style in conversations and emails with employee.
Verbal or written recaps after lengthy or complex conversations
Using color or bolding to highlight action items and important questions in emails
Advance notice of public speaking events
Ability to turn off camera in meetings
Ability to record meetings, use captions, access transcripts
Ability to participate in meetings via chat instead of verbally
Access to Additional Resources and Tech
Job Coaching. Typically 10 sessions with a job coach over the course of 3 months, learn more here: https://www.vocawell.com/coaching-services
Note-taker for meetings or ability to use note-taking software
Reading & writing software such as Ghotit Dyslexia Software, Open Dyslexic Font, Pro Writing Aid, Grammarly, Otter AI Notetaking, RocketBook, Echo Pen, Dragon Speech Recognition
Task management software such as Todoist, Omnifocus, Notion, etc.
Will my accommodation requests be approved?
It depends! I’ve seen most of these accommodations both approved and denied, sometimes
both by the same employer. This is because it depends on the team's specific business needs and the employee’s medical needs. Accommodations are often a negotiation process to figure out what's effective and reasonable for both parties; there's no "rulebook" that outlines everything that's reasonable and unreasonable. HR, managers, and employees often work together to create effective accommodations.
The best way to find out is to start by requesting a confidential conversation with a member of your accommodations or HR team.
Still have questions?
I'm happy to help. Schedule a free consultation with me to get your questions answered and learn more about the accommodations process.
-Kate Broeking, VocaWell Founder and Principal Coach
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