Disabled individuals make up a significant and necessary portion of the workforce. No matter what your disability is—and yes, mental illnesses like depression and neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism are disabilities—you deserve to thrive in the workplace.
Self-advocacy for disabilities is one of the most crucial skills to have; here’s what you need to know.
Your Legal Rights
Certain laws protect disabled individuals during both the interview process and employment. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that individuals cannot be harassed, demoted, refused employment, paid less, or treated poorly compared to a non-disabled employee or job candidate.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is another crucial law to know. It ensures disabled employees can request “reasonable accommodation” to meet job expectations. Unless these accommodations would cause your employer significant expense or difficulty, they must provide them.
Requesting Necessary Accommodations
Legally, employers must provide requested, reasonable accommodations. However, that means the employee must officially request accommodations for their needs to have legal protection.
Reach out to your team lead, supervisor, or boss to ask about requesting accommodations. They should be able to redirect you to the proper form to submit or an individual in Human Resources to contact.
When requesting accommodations, it’s best to suggest specific accommodations yourself. Allowing the company to decide which accommodations are best for you removes your power and autonomy. It also means risking receiving worthless accommodations, as they are not tailored specifically to you.
Research which accommodations are typically provided to individuals with your disability. Also, consider your ideal work environment and ways you have self-accommodated to increase productivity in the past. Use this information to compile a clear list of your desired accommodations.
Use the Proper Aids
You know your body best, and you know what you need. Don’t allow snide coworkers or social anxiety to make you cause yourself discomfort. Always use the aids that you need.
This can be difficult for individuals with invisible disabilities like chronic pain, but keep your head up! Once you’ve chosen the right walking aid, take it to work confidently. People who don’t believe you’re disabled aren’t worth your time anyway.
Stim toys and sensory aids are also essential. Workplace environments can be difficult for neurodivergent individuals with ADHD and autism; provide yourself with a variety of sensory aids and stim toys so you’ll be prepared no matter what.
Self-advocating for your disabilities in the workplace is difficult, but it isn’t impossible. You’ve got this! Once you’ve got your accommodations, you’ll be so glad you jumped through all those hoops.