While many disabilities are apparent to outside observers, as many as 10% of Americans live with some form of non-visible disability, and many don’t disclose them to their employer. Though there are many forms of hidden disabilities with a range of effects, examples include:
Physical: such as hearing loss, cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, pain, or fatigue disorders. Neurological: such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), learning disabilities (LD), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, and others. Mental: such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc.
While many of these conditions don’t fall within the building standards of the ADA, creating a culture of acceptance and support for “hidden” disabilities is the gold-standard of inclusivity. It places the value of each visitor and staff member in their contributions and acknowledges their limitations in a proactive and supportive way.
Steps you can take to create a culture of inclusivity within your office: • Go beyond the letter of the ADA by taking extra considerations in the design and layout of space and ease of navigation. • Encourage employee-led accommodations and feedback and provide good support for requests, such as standing desks or ergonomic chairs. Create a culture where employees can take the steps they need to feel comfortable. • Provide space for employees to meet their needs in an autonomous way. This may include spaces within the office where employees can control light or temperature settings, limit sound, or take advantage of opportunities for rest when needed. For those who struggle with sensory overstimulation, empower them to move around the workplace through privacy and autonomy. • Create effective policies that promote flexible work and inclusive culture.