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Understanding Invisible Disabilities

Understanding Invisible Disabilities

How Employers Can Help

Invisible disabilities could affect work performance. Employers should demonstrate understanding and provide reasonable accommodation if requested.

What Is an “Invisible” Disability?

This refers to a physical, mental, or neurological condition that significantly impacts a person’s daily functioning but is not immediately apparent to others. Invisible disabilities can have profound effects on a person’s work, social interactions, and overall well-being.

Some of the most common invisible disabilities include:

  • Chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dyscalculia
  • Chronic migraines
  • Chronic illnesses like lupus and Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)

Living with an invisible disability can present numerous challenges:

  • Others may not recognize the legitimacy or severity of the disability due to its invisibility. This can lead to skepticism, judgment, or disbelief. As a result, some people may hesitate to disclose their condition due to fear of being misunderstood or marginalized.
  • Invisible disabilities often involve fluctuating symptoms that can be unpredictable. This makes it challenging to plan or manage daily activities effectively. This unpredictability can increase stress and anxiety.
  • Friends, family members, coworkers, and managers may struggle to comprehend the impact of the disability, leading to strained relationships or misunderstandings. Lack of support or empathy from others can amplify feelings of frustration and loneliness.
  • Since the disability isn’t readily apparent, individuals may face resistance or obstacles when requesting reasonable accommodations in their workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with invisible disabilities, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes making modifications or adjustments to job duties, work schedules, or the work environment to enable employees with invisible disabilities to apply for jobs or perform their essential job functions effectively. This requirement applies unless providing the reasonable accommodation would create undue hardship for the organization.

The EEOC emphasizes the importance of engaging in an interactive process with employees to determine appropriate accommodations based on their individual needs and limitations. Failure to provide reasonable accommodations for invisible disabilities may constitute discrimination under the ADA.

US Government contractors have a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees with disabilities under several additional laws unique to their industry. Assisting disabled applicants and employees through reasonable accommodations helps contractors meet their affirmative action goals. More importantly, it helps empower applicants and employees to reach their potential and grow their careers. This benefits organizations by reducing turnover and discrimination. It also helps ensure qualified candidates are not overlooked.

Invisible disabilities are not well understood by some people, and this is where Syntrio can help educate your workforce

Syntrio helps employees, including managers, gain a greater understanding of disabilities in the workplace through a powerful suite of courses:

  • Reasonable Accommodations
  • Reasonable Accommodations and Government Contractors
  • Employment Discrimination: Disability
  • Diversity Essentials: Disability
  • Diversity Essentials: Religion

Contact us today to preview these courses. Create greater understanding about disabilities and reasonable accommodations while ensuring compliance with disability laws.

Stephanie Evans’ extensive training development expertise in employment law, compliance, DEI, cybersecurity, and business skills includes almost two decades at a Fortune 500 company. Her career encompasses training, human resources, and communications.

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