Katie, a potential employee, interviews with your company. She is well qualified to perform the essential functions of the job for which she has applied. The new employee is a wheelchair user; therefore, you recognize that some reasonable accommodations should made to ensure equality in the work environment. You gladly work with the new employee, as you would any employee, because you want her to be successful in her position. What about employees or potential employees who may have a non-obvious disability? According to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, only 26% of people who have a significant disability that limits one or more major life areas use a mobility device, a common indicator of disability. Use of mobility equipment alone cannot be a predictor of disability.
As Employers, we must be mindful of the employee who may have a non-obvious disability. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five people in the United States will experience mental illness. Depression is the most commonly experienced mental illness and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Additionally, 18% of the US population live with anxiety disorders. Moreover, arthritis continues to be the leading cause of disability in the US. Nearly 23% of our population cope with arthritis and the serious impact it has on their quality of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 66% of working age adults have arthritis and 8 million working age adults report that their ability to work is compromised by arthritis. The CDC reports nearly half of our population experience chronic illness. These include cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. As the population of the US ages and medical advances allow people with non-obvious disabilities to live longer, the need for workplace accommodations will grow. Continue reading