Business Solutions

Accommodations

Reasonable Work Accommodations for someone with a      Mental Health Disability

Reasonable work accommodation can be defined as modifying or adjusting a job application process or a work environment to enable a qualified individual with a disability to be considered for a job or continue to efficiently perform or maintain a job. People who experience mental health impairments that have been medically diagnosed as severally limiting one or more parts of one’s life can be considered as a having a disability under the AMERICAN WITH DIABILITIES ACT-ADA.  Under updated ADA laws, a person with a formally diagnosed mental health impairment is protected from discrimination and granted reasonable accommodation requests along with other types of documented disabilities. 

There are three categories of reasonable accommodations which include modifications or adjustments to: 

(1) Application process

(2) Work environment or the circumstances in which a job is customarily performed

(3) Policies that set out the benefits and privileges of employment

Reasonable work accommodations can be can alleviate or remove barriers to a person who experiences an impairment(s) that will allow one to be able to participate and appropriately function as a mutually beneficial contributing member of the workforce.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) (http://askjan.org/) offers detailed information and free, specialized, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. 

Examples of Reasonable Work Accommodations

Attendance

  • Allow flexible work environment
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Modified break schedule
  • Leave for counseling
  • Work from home/Flexi-place

Concentration

  • Reduce distractions in the work area
  • Provide space enclosures, sound absorption panels, or a private office
  • Allow for use of white noise or environmental sound machines
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using an earbud and computer or music player
  • Plan for uninterrupted work time
  • Purchase organizers to reduce clutter
  • Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting
  • Allow flexible work environment

Flexible scheduling

  • Modified break schedule
  • Leave for counseling
  • Work from home/Flexi-place
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals
  • Use auditory or written cues as appropriate
  • Restructure job to include only essential functions
  • Provide memory aids such as schedulers, organizers, or email applications

Emotions

  • Encourage the use of stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow the presence of a support animal
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Allow flexible breaks
  • Refer to employee assistance program (EAP)

Fatigue

  • Allow flexible work environment
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Modified break schedule
  • Leave for counseling
  • Work from home/Flexi-place
  • Provide a goal-oriented workload
  • Reduce or eliminate physical exertion and workplace stress
  • Implement ergonomic workstation design

Memory

  • Allow use of job coach
  • Provide mentor
  • Provide minutes of meetings and trainings
  • Use auditory or written cues as appropriate
  • Allow additional training time
  • Provide written checklists
  • Use a color coding scheme to prioritize tasks
  • Use notebooks, planners, or sticky notes to record information
  • Provide labels or bulletin board cues to assist in location of items

Organization

  • Use daily, weekly, and monthly task lists
  • Use calendar with automated reminders to highlight meetings and deadlines
  • Use electronic organizers or mobile devices
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals
  • Use a color coding scheme to prioritize tasks

Panic Attacks

  • Allow the employee to take a break and go to a place where s/he feels comfortable to use relaxation techniques or contact a support person
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises
  • Allow the presence of a support animal

Sleep Disturbances

  • Allow for a flexible start time
  • Combine regularly scheduled short breaks into one longer break
  • Provide a place for the employee to rest during break
  • Allow the employee to work one consistent schedule
  • Provide a device such as a Doze Alert or other alarms to keep the employee alert
  • Provide work areas with sunlight or other natural lighting

Stress

  • Refer to counseling and EAP
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Allow the presence of a support animal
  • Allow flexible work environment
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Modified break schedule
  • Leave for counseling
  • Work from home/Flexi-place

Coworker Interaction

  • Encourage the employee to walk away from frustrating situations and confrontations
  • Provide partitions or closed doors to allow for privacy
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors

Supervisors can also implement management techniques that support an inclusive workplace culture while simultaneously providing accommodations. Successful techniques include the following:

  • Providing positive praise and reinforcement
  • Providing day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Providing written job instructions via email
  • Developing clear expectations of responsibilities and the consequences of not meeting performance standards
  • Scheduling consistent meetings with employee to set goals and review progress
  • Allowing for open communication
  • Establishing written long term and short-term goals
  • Developing strategies to deal with conflict
  • Developing a procedure to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodation
  • Educating all employees on their right to accommodations
  • Providing sensitivity training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Not mandating that employees attend work related social functions
  • Encouraging all employees to move non-work related conversations out of work areas

Tools & Resources

http://definitions.uslegal.com/r/reasonable-accomodation/
http://askjan.org/media/Psychiatric.html

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