Categories: Lime Connect Q & A: Your Questions. Our Answers.
During classes at college you received certain accommodations. Perhaps you received more time on tests or a quiet space to work or you used software to enlarge the screen or used a recorder for class lectures. Now you're starting a job and you know you'll need similar accommodations. My advice: Your employer may need some time to put things in place for you. So, get the ball rolling now before the summer internship officially begins.
If you know you'll need an accommodation, you might send a written note ahead of time with the request and follow it up with a phone call to your recruiter or new manager. As long as the request is for a "reasonable" accommodation (meaning, any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions), the company will oblige. And many will be grateful that you gave them some lead- time. Like we always suggest: the organization invested time and money recruiting you, so they want you to be successful. You don’t want to set yourself nor the company up to fail by not requesting an accommodation when you need one to be successful.
And when you do ask for an accommodation, do your best to bring some options to the table. Check out the Job Accommodation Network's list of accommodation ideas for different disabilities. Even if you don't need a "formal accommodation" there are tips, techniques and strategies listed that may help you to be more productive.
What if you don't know what you will need, if anything?
When you enter the organizational world you will be taking on tasks that you've not had to take on in the past. For example, one of our Network Members had not used Excel much in college. Her summer project required a great deal of spreadsheet work, unbeknownst to her. To make matters worse, she has a vision impairment which makes spending hours on Excel very difficult for her. Had she known ahead of time, she might have disclosed and discussed reconfiguring her project. Or, she may have been able to request software that better facilitates the experience for her. Or someone with ADHD gets thrown into a corporate culture of meeting after meeting. Keeping track and staying organized might be a challenge. Having a recorder handy, having a great note-taking and organizational software program installed on their iphone, may do the trick.
To figure out what you may need, you can do some upfront research. A good idea is to ask some questions of the recruiter or your new manager before you start the job. Questions like:
- How much of my time do you envision me spending on certain software programs?
- What will my typical daily tasks involve?
- Will I be working with people virtually or face-to-face?
- What is the meeting culture like?
- What is the commute like? What kind of workstation will I have?
It may be better to wait until you get there and know more about the environment and your task work. In that case, ask as soon as you get a sense you might need something. And certainly let them know before your performance declines. If this happens, and you haven't disclosed, you may not have a case to defend your performance.
How do I disclose effectively?
Read these past blog posts that speak about powerful ways to disclose. And remember, disclosing is a personal choice. In most cases, if you won't need an accommodation or support (e.g. someone with epilepsy may tell his co-workers what to do if he has a seizure), it may be wise to not disclose.
How did your school accommodations translate to the working world? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share.