People with non-obvious disabilities have a choice about coming forward to disclose a disability. Assess your own organizational culture. Is there a climate of trust that will encourage people with non-obvious disabilities to come forward with an accommodation request? Will they feel safe in requesting an accommodation before the disability impacts job performance?
The social stigma around certain types of non-obvious disabilities (such as mental illness) can be a significant barrier to having a disability inclusive work environment. One company built awareness about mental illness and non-obvious disabilities by having short blasts of fact and fiction sent out on mobile devices.
People with non-obvious disabilities might need a range of different types of accommodations. The keys in creating accommodations for people with non-obvious disabilities (as well as any disability) are creativity, flexibility and listening to the person. Even for people with the same condition, a different accommodation might be needed given the person, the condition and the nature of the work.
Sometimes, a significant concern for the employee might be the issue of whom or if anyone else in the workplace will be told about the accommodation or the disability. According to the ADA and other laws, no co-workers should be told about the diagnosis or the type of disability. Only co-workers who will be directly impacted (will need to do something differently) by the accommodation can be told about the accommodation.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are two common types of disabilities among veterans returning to the civilian workforce. Sometimes, these disabilities are not obvious to others. Part of welcoming back our heroes involves ensuring that returning veterans can trust their employers to have an accurate understanding of their conditions and to be able to provide effective accommodations.