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This week, I focus on a webinar about invisible disabilities. On November 18, 2021, I attended a webinar from the
The topic was
“Return to Work After COVID-19 – Focus on Mental Health and Cognitive Limitations”.
Slides are available at the webinar link above. In this article, I will summarize what I learned.
The webinar discussed a variety of work-related subjects. For example, it was pointed out that there is a
COVID-19 page on JAN’s web site.
The presentation then transitioned to discuss the variety of topics.
Individual Workplace Accommodations
When considering accommodations, it is important to consider individual needs. A solution for someone with one particular disability is not always the answer for someone with the same disability. Conversations with individual employees is important to provide any necessary job accommodations. Disability needs are not always obvious. The presenters then discussed tele-work and essential functions.
Tele-work became commonplace due to the pandemic. If an individual has been working from home long-term, it may be beneficial for employee and employer for tele-work to continue. For example, employees have more control over the environment or distractions.
Employees with disabilities need to be able to perform essential job functions just like people without disabilities. If someone does not have a disability, accommodations are not relevant. It is important to ensure that job performance is not negative. JAN emphasized the earlier point about speaking directly to an employee to identify issues and possible resolutions. The presentation then focused on anxiety and use of service animals.
Fear, Anxiety and Safety Concerns
Fear is not a disability, but anxiety is. An employee with anxiety could express concern about serving customers without masks. In that situation, according to JAN, consider what would enable the employee to manage anxiety and serving customers. A modified schedule could be a useful accommodation. Alternatively, the employee could be relocated. People who have cognitive limitations may not always know what they need. In that situation, it can help to discuss performance standards with the employee and identify possible accommodations such as problem-solving accommodations. Reassignment might also be worth considering for people with cognitive challenges.
Service and Emotional Support Animals
If an employee request to bring a service animal to work, JAN recommended a trial period. If the service animal causes disruption or demonstrates lack of training, it may be necessary to consider alternate accommodations. If a medical provider states that mental health improves when someone uses a service animal, the ultimate concern should be meeting an employee’s disability-related needs. Service animals are tools to assist people with disabilities. Emotional support animals provide help to some people with disabilities even though they have not been specially-trained. It is important for people to distinguish the difference between emotional support and service animals. I encouraged my readers to read
Blake’s blog post discussing service and emotional support animals
To learn more about these two terms. The final topic discussed during Jan’s webinar was long COVID.
Long COVID being a disability depends on if major life activities are impacted. Again, it is important to consider employees on a case-by-case basis. A presenter emphasized the previous point about importance of figuring out possible ways to accommodate disability. For example, an employee who has difficulty standing due to COVID may need brief breaks. Whether the accommodation is acceptable or not can be dependent on the length and frequency of breaks. An alternate accommodation could be strategies to organize information to avoid stress. Bottom line: There are a variety of topics to consider to ensure sufficient work-related accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
Question for Readers
Of the many topics discussed above, which ones are you interested learning about and why? I will return with another article.