The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to remove barriers for all Americans living with a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities" in accessing government services, public accommodation, employment, transportation, and telecommunication. Conditions covered under the ADA include respiratory issues, endocrine disorders, and digestive problems, as well as mental illness, learning disabilities, and even alcohol use disorder (alcoholism).
While you're probably already aware of the usual ADA considerations such as wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and allowing service dogs in your business, here's a few handy ADA considerations you might not have thought of:
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects an estimated 1 in 68 children in the United States today, making it one of the most prevalent disorders in the country. It's also often overlooked, thanks to the fact that many people with ASD have no visible signs that they need accommodations at your business.
Individuals with ASD may have difficulty with verbal communication, especially in situations that could be stressful (such as a performance review, interview or disciplinary meeting). A simple and effective consideration to help reduce barriers for people with ASD is ensuring that critical information is proved in advance, in writing - this helps to reduce the anxiety that comes with being put 'on the spot' and creates a more predictable environment.
Other ways to help make your business more welcoming to people with ASD include offering low-stimulation work spaces that are free from loud noises, bright lights, and other distractions that can feel overwhelming for a person with ASD.
Mental Health Conditions
Mental illness also impacts approximately 44 million American each year, and like ASD, it's often an overlooked issue that is protected under the ADA.
The ADA guarantees employees both the right to privacy (they aren't obligated to disclose their condition to their employer) and the right to reasonable accommodation related to their illness.
In most cases, accommodations for people living with mental health issues includes flexibility to allow employees to attend appointments, take medication, and manage their stress levels; they may also need support in reducing work-related anxiety, which could include flexible work hours, allowing for work-from-home accommodations, and help with concentration-related tasks.
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