Learning Disabilities and Work
We most often think of learning disabilities that impact a student in school, however, LDs are lifelong and don’t magically disappear once a student has graduated and entered the workforce. The National Center for Learning Disabilities lists five areas where people with LDs may experience difficulties:
Inefficiency – this could be working at a slower pace than coworkers, having organizational challenges or needing additional time to complete tasks
High error rate – this could be errors resulting from poor reading or math skills or could be because someone takes longer to process information and react to situations.
Problems with sequencing – this could cause problems with completing tasks requiring multiple steps or following directions
Time management – this could be poor planning, tardiness or having problems with meeting deadlines
Social skills – this could be problems with interactions between coworkers, customers or vendors or in verbalizing the impact of a LD to the employer to receive needed accommodations/modifications
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with LDs, but only if the person has requested protection, identified their LD, and provided documentation to his or her employer and with needed specific accommodations included. In addition, a person must be able to complete the job, with modifications. Any company employing more than 15 employees is required to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities that interfere with the ability to complete the job.
Accommodations/modifications should be specific to the individual needs of the employee, therefore, there is no single list of acceptable accommodations. A person requesting protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act will benefit from understanding the job description and duties and knowing what accommodations/modifications will help him or her perform the job duties.
The following list of examples is to provide ideas only. Please adapt to your specific situation:
- Written instruction cards, laminated to help with performing multi-step job duties
- Adjusting the font or background color on the computer screen to help people with dyslexia
- Receiving company communications in written form, such as via email or memos. Written communication can be provided either before a company meeting to provide the person time to process information or after the meeting to allow the person to have a written copy of what was discussed.
- Use of spell-check software or having a coworker edit written work.
- Use of assistive technology, such as software that translates the spoken word into the written word
- Using a tape recorder during company meetings or when given instruction.
Again, these are ideas to help people with learning disabilities think about what may help them perform their job duties. By thinking about how you learn, how you work and problems you have had in the past, you will be able to determine what accommodations or modifications you may need in your job.