For many adults who have learning disabilities finding meaningful employment that plays to strengths can be difficult. The skills of searching and applying for a job, attending an interview, accepting a job offer and then keeping a job may be particularly difficult for an adult with complex learning disabilities.
What are some major signs an employer should watch for?
- Excellent spoken vocabulary with good sentence structure, but unable to write down thoughts.
- Capable of following printed instructions, but experiences difficulty with verbal instructions.
- Or, can understand and identify key elements in verbal instructions, but unable to identify important points when presented with information in print form.
Difficulty with Time, Space and Numbers
- There is confusion with up and down, left and right.
- May arrive late or unusually early for appointments.
- There are problems with preparing and following simple work schedules.
- Difficulty doing accurate numerical or mathematical work, trouble with budgeting and money handling.
- Misinterpreting different meanings implied by tone of voice.
- Inaccurately responding to non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, eye contact, body and hand gestures.
- May interpret language literally and may misunderstand figures of speech.
- Easily distracted by background noise and/or visual distractions.
- Oral instructions can sometimes be difficult. There may be difficulty paying attention to and remembering oral instructions.
- A short attention span.
- Ongoing problems completing tasks or assignments.
- Can be clumsy, awkward or accident-prone.
- Poor hand co-ordination.
- Difficulty listening and taking notes at the same time.
- Coping inaccurately with poor writing skills.
- Lack of organization with written work.
Disclosing in the Workplace
It is felt by many that the formal identification and disclosure of a learning disability can be a benefit to both the employee and the employer.
Benefits for the Employee
- Access to an appropriate job that highlights strengths.
- Improved prospects for appropriate workplace accommodations.
- A reduction in stress related to covering up mistakes and hiding the presence of the learning disability.
Benefits for the Employer
- A better understanding of the employee’s needs.
- The ability to accommodate the learning disability which may help other employees as well.
- Will meet the requirements to accommodate in the workplace.
Accommodations in the Workplace
Accommodations in the workplace may include, but are not limited to:
- Flexible work assignments.
- Access to assistive technology (AT) – speech to text/text to speech software, recorders, word prediction software.
- Quiet work environment or the use of headphones or ear plugs.
- Standing desks.
- Meeting notes provided ahead of time.
Employer’s Responsibilities: Duty to Accommodate
“Employers and service providers have an obligation to adjust rules, policies or practices to enable you to participate fully. It applies to needs that are related to the grounds of discrimination. This is called the duty to accommodate.
The duty to accommodate means that sometimes it is necessary to treat someone differently in order to prevent or reduce discrimination. For examples, asking all job applicants to pass a written test may not be fair to a person with a visual disability. In such cases, the duty to accommodate may require that alternative arrangements be made to ensure that a person or group can fully participate.” (Canadian Human Rights Commission)
The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has the Guideline on Accommodating Physical and Mental Disabilities at Work – it can be found HERE