If you have an invisible disability or a mental health condition, you may or may not need accommodations in the workplace.
It can be difficult to know if you will need accommodations during your co-op work term, especially if you don’t have any past employment experience. A good strategy to determine whether you may need accommodations is to think of your academic experience. Do you need more time to take tests? Do you require extensions on project deadlines? Do you experience anxiety that interferes with your ability to give presentations or work with others? This could mean you will need adjustments in your daily work life.
What kind of accommodations can you ask for? There isn’t an established list of accommodations you must choose from; the process of finding an accommodation should be based on your needs and your employer’s resources.
The list below provides some examples of common workplace accommodations for individuals with invisible disabilities:
- Flexible scheduling: start times or end times that accommodate effects of medication, energy levels, or medical appointments; smaller breaks more frequently throughout the day instead of one long lunch break.
- Communication modifications: adjust the way instructions and feedback are given for those who may require written communication over verbal and vice-versa; having brief weekly check-in meetings with supervisor.
- Technology: implementing computer software to help with reading and comprehension; using recording devices to provide playback of information discussed at meetings; keep track of project deadlines and tasks with an online scheduler.
- Work station changes: relocating desk to setting that limits environmental stimuli such as overly bright lights or noisy distractions; reduce clutter in shared work areas: enforce scent-free policy for employees.
To see more details about accommodation solutions for your specific disability, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network website.
An excellent tool you can use to plan your workplace accommodations is the free Supporting Employee Success guide. It can help you assess and anticipate potential workplace issues ahead of time and provide your employer with proactive accommodation solutions. Remember that if you need accommodations, you do have to disclose your disability to your employer. For more information on talking to employers about your needs.