People with disabilities face a slew of unique challenges at work, so today I want to talk about managing your work life if you have a that isn’t apparent from the outside. (This isn’t to diminish visible disabilities, but it’s a different game in that case, and tends to be more about getting people to assume you’re not stupid because you sit in a wheelchair and that sort of thing.)
The first thing anyone with a non-apparent disability needs to do is to get your diagnosis. Seriously, you need a diagnosis or you cannot expect accommodations without one. HR offices can’t make adaptations for just anyone, and even small things can add up. For instance, I might really prefer a desk that I can switch from sitting to standing as I desire, but unless I have a documented medical reason for one, I couldn’t really expect my employer to buy me one—unless, of course, that’s something they do for everyone. The same goes for things like allowing for service animals or alternative work schedules or changing the way supervisors provide feedback. These are all things that are considered reasonable accommodations, but they are unlikely to happen for you without some official documentation of the reasons you need them. So get that diagnosis!
The next important piece of info is how to address the issue. I encourage my clients not to be tempted to reveal anything early in your process, unless you need a specific accommodation in the interview itself, like written questions or specific lighting. In that case, just ask for whatever it is you need when you schedule. If they are unwilling or unable to accommodate you, contact your local ADA office and ask for their help. Otherwise, you don’t need to disclose anything until you’ve signed the contract and been given a signed copy. At that point, you may choose to approach HR and have a discussion with them. However, you may also choose to wait until you need an accommodation. It’s important, though, to disclose before problems arise, as those can put your job in jeopardy and you are not likely to have any protections (or be able to expect any changes) if you don’t say anything until you’re about to get fired. Don’t let it become a performance issue! If you have your records in hand and ask before a problem arises, you have legal protection and you will be able to bring your best efforts to your job.