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Our May 2015 webinar titled Accommodating What You Can’t See: Accommodations for “Invisible Disabilities” is presented by Amber Cheek, J.D., of the University of Missouri.

In this blog post I give you a peek at the five best practice tips and the real-life examples Amber will share next Wednesday.Not Every Disability is Visible

The Invisible Disabilities presentation begins with a couple of facts about the prevalence of disability in general and then moves into a rhythm of sharing accommodation “success factors” coupled with a real life example of applying the success factor.

The five success factors Amber shares are:

  • Trust
  • Flexibility, Trial and Error
  • Clear Standards and Effective Communication
  • Managing the Supervisor’s Fears and Concerns
  • Creative Problem Solving

The real-life examples Amber uses to illustrate use of a success factor are:

  • The employee with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and short-term memory problems who was reluctant to disclose
  • The employee with depression and poor attendance who becomes the most productive employee in the office
  • The employee with aggressive behavior who failed to meet deadlines
  • The employee with diabetes whose supervisor has safety concerns
  • The employee with serious chemical sensitivity in a meeting-focused job

Let’s take a look at my favorite success factor: flexibility coupled with trial and error. One of the realities of managing a reasonable accommodation program is that today’s emphasis on “lean” staffing means we have to find ways to simplify the process. Using tools like the Reasonable Accommodation Management Software (RAMS) are a necessary first step. Then, as Amber will discuss, getting the employee who is making the request for accommodation to be very clear about the issue and their expectations, in order to set the stage for finding a safe and effective accommodation.

Flexibility in thinking coupled with an open trial and error approach to finding a solution presupposes that you have time to think! In reality, flexibility in thinking doesn’t seem to fit today’s hurried work environment. One solution to the burden of having to be creative under pressure is to share the burden with others. Here is a technique I use: the Request for Accommodation form found in the RAMS software has a space for the person requesting the accommodation to add his or her ideas for a solution. If a perfect and acceptable idea is not included in that initial list, assign to the person making the request the responsibility of coming up with 5 possible solutions. Change the number as you feel is appropriate but BE SPECIFIC ABOUT THE NUMBER YOU ASSIGN. This shares the responsibility while also demonstrating that it may be difficult to find a workable solution.

When you make this assignment, be sure to record it in the Interactive Conversation tab of the RAMS software. The system will automatically date stamp the assignment. Then set up an automatic reminder that the requestor is supposed to respond by the assigned date.

I find that when I am working with an individual who is making a difficult-to-provide request, an assignment of involvement and responsibility gives both of us time to be creative and flexible. And, magically, it lessens my burden to be the only one responsible for finding a solution. An added benefit is that logging this part of the interactive process in the software automatically builds the record of how I am doing my best to resolve a situation that to an outsider may not appear to be difficult.

To register for next Wednesday’s webinar follow this link: