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10/24/2022 – “Invisible/Hidden Disabilities in the Workplace” By Kaylee McGrath

It should be no surprise if you see someone at work using a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, having a service animal, or using an assistive device, chances are you are aware the person has a disability. But not all disabilities are visual or obvious to the general public. These disabilities are known as invisible or hidden disabilities. For me, I like to refer to this type of a disability as a “Hidden Disability.”

An invisible/hidden disability is a physical, mental, or neurological condition that cannot be seen from the outside. But it can impact someone’s movements, senses, or activities, according to the Invisible Disabilities Association. Some examples of invisible/hidden disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, depression, diabetes, processing, and various developmental, and learning & thinking differences such as ADHD and dyslexia. Invisible/hidden disabilities can also include symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, and dizziness. It is important to understand that invisible/hidden disabilities in the workplace have been based on studies and statistics, that a significant portion of employees worldwide are more than likely to have one or more and manage their challenges ever day at work and out in the community.

According to recent studies, by the Center for Talent Innovation, among white-collar, college-educated employees, 30 percent have a disability. However, only 3.2 percent disclose as having a disability to their employers. And of all employees with a disability, 62 percent have an invisible/hidden disability. Most employees feel there is no need to disclose their disability with the opinion of “Unless I tell them, people do not know that I have a disability.” This is sometimes not the case in all circumstances. This means many individuals go through their day-to-day work lives without revealing what disability they may be experiencing or how it impacts them physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Why are people often silent about invisible/hidden disabilities:

1. Fear is a major reason why people with disabilities, invisible/hidden, or otherwise do not disclose them

2. Some individuals are afraid of opening themselves up to discrimination, harassment, or office gossip

3. Others do not want to be seen for their disability, which they may consider to be a minor part of their life, so therefore, they will not disclose the information

4. People with invisible/hidden disabilities may think that co-workers will not believe they have a disability, as there is no easy way to convince people you have something that no one can see with the attitude of “You look and seem very normal” how is there something wrong with you?

5. Job seekers may be hesitant when asked on an application if they have a disability. “Many fear that answering yes, will reduce their chances of getting the job

How employers can help employees with invisible/hidden disabilities:

1. Make employees feel comfortable disclosing their disability

2. Employees with invisible/hidden disabilities will feel more comfortable presenting their true selves if they know they work in an inclusive environment. This starts with communicating disability inclusion efforts across the entire company

3. Review the type of accommodations your company offers for people with disabilities and are open to what accommodations you need. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations. “People with disabilities, invisible/hidden or not, can perform their job at or above expectations if given a way to do it that meets their needs”

4. An employee who struggles with working memory due to a learning disability could receive written instructions for job duties instead of relying on verbal discussion

5. A person with a chronic condition may need a flexible start time or break time to take medication

6. An inclusive workplace that supports people with disabilities of all kinds leads to more than just bottom-line benefits. It promotes a culture of openness and creates an environment where all employees can and will succeed

Source of Information: Various Googles Searches and personal experiences

Until Next Week, Stay Safe and Well!

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