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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Disabilities In the Workplace? 292

mpol writes "The job market can be hard right now, depending on your background and location. Having a disability makes things even more interesting. Seven years ago I suffered from a psychosis, and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I have been recovering quite well, and last year I started searching for a paying job. I found one, but it didn't turn out to be the right place, so I'm back at my volunteer job as web developer. My current workplace is quite unique, as there are several people who have had a psychosis in the past, or have been diagnosed with autism. When I look at myself I know that I have some things that will always play a role: I'm very sensitive to the atmosphere in the workplace for example. I also need clear communication, more so than other people. Furthermore, a workweek of maybe 20-25 hours is the max for me. I tried self-employment, but motivation and discipline are a bit hard to come by, and it's not something that will work for me long-term. In theory it's perfect, in practice not so much. I'm not sure what my short-term future will look like, and for this year I'm quite happy where I am, but next year I might go searching for a salaried job again. I'm wondering if there are more people on Slashdot who have a job in ICT, or are seeking one, and also have disabilities. How did you land at your job, and what issues do you run into in daily practice?"
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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Disabilities In the Workplace?

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:26PM (#41223925)
    So your story of a workplace with "several people who have had a psychosis in the past" while yourself being a schizophrenic made me laugh when I imagined you working alone at home as I do while being surrounded by other "people" with mental problems.

    Sorry... I'm a bad person it seems.
  • From experience... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:31PM (#41223999) Journal
    My last job included an employee with well controlled schizophrenia and another with moderate autism. The employer did all the right things as far as I'm aware, shorter hours and short-notice time off were available, and all of the management were made aware of the issues. There were plenty of staff meaning that unsuitable or particularly stressful jobs (eg dealing with large crowds at busy periods) could be avoided and the members of staff in question would pick up on the jobs more suited to them instead.

    By far the most useful thing, however, were the pub trips after work. Both employees were quite happy to talk openly about their respective conditions, which took it from being a confidential, management-only issue to being an open one where people were encouraged to ask questions and understand how they could help the employees adapt. The chats over a beer/coffee were far more useful than any management policy could have been.
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:32PM (#41224023)

    Sitting in an office for 8 hours a day is not a big deal? I have whole weeks where I go without talking to a single person (except email updates). Even during meetings I often just sit there without talking.

    And when I get bored (or stressed) I stop the work and just zone out or listen to music until I feel better. Maybe you should try to find a job like mine (designer/programmer).

    • I don't even have his condition and sitting in an office for 8 hours a day would be unbearable to me.

      Some people are designed to be desk jockeys, some aren't.
      • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:20PM (#41224759)

        >>> sitting in an office for 8 hours a day would be unbearable

        Which is why I bring-in a USB drive filled with music, college lectures, and movies. Or listen to newsradio or It makes the boredom of the office less-bearable.
        And the guy below is correct:
        I tried to find a parttime engineering job and it didn't exist. So I just take the fulltime job, with 6 hours of actual productivity, and 2 hours zoning-out when the stress becomes too much (like now).

    • I think the part time hours are the biggest stumbling block. Most of IT expects a 40 hour work week, part time is difficult to find. You can see if you can find a place that allows flex play were you can make up some time during the weekend.

      • by Macgrrl ( 762836 )

        The 40 hours per week isn't always the biggest problem. It's the random out of hours work that some sectors of the industry requires. For many people with physical disabilities and mental disabilities, they need to manage energy reserves, sleep cycles and predictability to manage stress. Being on call is about the worst thing you can do to people in that situation.

  • but motivation and discipline are a bit hard to come by,

    For starters, If you get an interview, leave this part out.

    Honestly, it seems like you're going to have to settle for what you have now, change your expectations a bit, or get motivated to work on your own. Everything you wrote will scream "Undependable and Hard to Work With!" to an employer. We hire people who are disabled at my job, and make accomodations. But typically, the accomodations are more in line with giving them what they need (a first floor work space near conference rooms, specialized equ

    • by mpol ( 719243 )

      Ah, yes. I should have elaborated in the startpost, but it was too long already.
      At my workplace I'm really motivated, and do a lot of work. It's not a problem there.
      It's only a problem working from home, because of many different factors.

      • so you basically need an "in box" and a "to-do list" (you are fine once you get started its just the day to day getting started that gets you)

  • If you have a disability, you're at a disadvantage to the thousands of other job seekers out there. You have to make up for it in other areas, but if you lack motivation, then forget it. Without ambition and motivation, you're just another slug feeding off others.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      With schizophrenia, the lack of motivation is the disability. You can control the positive symptoms(hallucinations) with medication, but we have no treatment for the deficits in executive function caused by schizophrenia. Shrugging your shoulders and saying "try harder you slug" should not be acceptable in a modern society.

      • by na1led ( 1030470 )
        Hunger is a pretty good motivator in most countries.
      • The problem is we live in a competitive world. We have limited resources, the best of the best get picked up first, then Above average, then the below average and well below average get the short end of the stick.

        If live gives you something that gives you a disadvantage, you will need to find a way to work around it, it will probably cost you. You may be the worlds best programmer but if you can't output as much as the second best programmer, you are at a disadvantage, and you may just need to work as an a

        • by Hatta ( 162192 )

          The problem is we live in a competitive world.

          Maybe we should fix that problem. I'd far rather live in a cooperative world.

      • Why should someone who has a lack of motivation disability get a job over a person who doesn't have that disability?

        Asserting that we should sacrifice the able-minded because of sympathy for those who suffer from motivation disability should not be acceptable in a modern society. One might as well insist that the U.S. Olympic sprinting team include a 500 pound diabetic, and kick off someone who can actually run.

  • To be quite honest, it's going to be a tough road ahead for you. Companies usually are not very accommodating of the types of requirements you have laid out. I would suggest looking for work with your municipal or state government. They are more open to special needs employees. That's going to be you best bet.

    Something that did strike me as interesting is the requirement for a workweek of maybe 20-25 hours. Is this due to your mental disability or do you have other obligations in your life that would limit

    • by na1led ( 1030470 )
      Getting a job as a Politician should be easy for someone of his condition.
      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        No, he has the wrong sort of mental condition. You were thinking psychopath or sociopath. Both of those have no trouble at all with motivation or hard work... for their own goals. In fact, they tend to be very adept at getting themselves ahead, at least until someone gets wise to them anyway.

        The poster is having trouble with motivation, which is one way to ensure that you don't make it as a politician.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Something that did strike me as interesting is the requirement for a workweek of maybe 20-25 hours. Is this due to your mental disability or do you have other obligations in your life that would limit your ability to work? I would try to rectify that issue if possible, because even government jobs require that you work 37.5 hours a week. (Around here at least)

      That's for full-time employment. If you can only do 20-25 hours, don't look for a full time job because they'd want 35+ hours/week. Instead, look for

    • by mpol ( 719243 )

      A requirement for 20-25 hours a week is because I really need to have my restdays. I can work a week for 5 days, and maybe 2 weeks. But it does wear me out. I get tired, can't get out of bed anymore, and I'm just generally unhappy. And that's just not the right path to take.
      Right now I work 2 days, have a day off, and then work another day. There are jobs available that suit this rythm, but ofcourse not very much of them. I live in Europe, and the lifestyle is somewhat better. And I should take care not to

  • I'd suggest being an independent contractor for a company that performs IT work. You already mentioned that you are a web developer, if you have any other skills like systems administration or engineering then use those skills as well. Companies do not mind a independent contractor because frankly, they only have to pay you when there is work and there are no associated benefits (sorry).

    Being an independent contractor will give you the ability to work at your own pace. If you need a break, just don't tak

  • About success ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:39PM (#41224167)

    Sorry to hear about your conditions.

    > but motivation and discipline are a bit hard to come by
    While that may be true, success like anything else is learned. It starts the first thing you wake up, and ends when you go to sleep. In order to get good at it you have to keep practicing. They say a person becomes proficient at a skill when they have done it for at 1,000 hours. In order to have discipline you must reprogram your mind. With time + effort you can achieve it.

    WRT motivation no one can give you motivation. The trouble with companies that often times they should of focus on NOT DEMOTIVATING people. Being self-employed you need to find your own motivation. i.e. There has to be at least _one_ thing you enjoy doing, what is it? You say you are a web developer. Do any programming languages interest you? Any kind of computer science problems? The reason I ask is because:

    There are 2 hard things in life
    - finding your passion
    - finding how to make money at it

    Take care of the first one, and the second one will follow.

    You say you require clear communication. That's true in all relationships. Your relationship with your computer (i.e the compiler / interpretor requires clear syntax), relationships with your co-workers (miscommunication is the cause of many problems), relationships with friends and family. The point of all this is that there are courses you can take to help with this. Dale Carnegie is a popular one. Shelf-Help books are another.

    One of the secrets to happiness is to remove false expectations. You have to match you ideal world with the reality of your situation. Let's play a game for a moment. I have a magic wand; with it you can do anything you want. What would it be? Forget about all the impracticalities for a moment. If you could do anything in the world what would it be? The secret recipe is to now make a game plan on how you could achieve that big goal, but one small sub-goal at a time.

    Good luck!

    • by mpol ( 719243 )

      Thank you for your kind and insightfull response.
      Maybe I am too quick at judging that self-employment is not my thing. I don't think I had too high expectations. Some of my goals were to have this year a turn-around of 3000 Euro's, which I might make. And also to have fun at what I do. But during the first 8 months of this year I started to slowly have less fun. And that's not right. So I need that to turn around first, and then consider picking up my company again.

      And if I could do anything I wanted, haha.

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        I think it is a fine goal to have fun at what you do, but maintaining a serious business is not always going to be fun. You may, instead, want to consider what categories of work are considered obligatory and what is actually useless BS. You should definitely avoid useless BS, but there is no way around the obligatory stuff.

        For instance, paying your taxes is a pain in the ass sometimes. I don't mean paying them, but doing the paperwork. You have to do it, and you won't have a business unless you can, pe

  • Your diagnosis fits under the requirements of the ADA (if you are looking for a job in the US). Any employer (of sufficient size) must make reasonable accommodations and cannot discriminate against you in the hiring process or during employment if they are aware of your disability. That is not to say that discrimination does not occur. In order for you to be protected by the ADA, the employer must be aware of the disability which will then allow them to discriminate if they are assholes. Considering the lev

    • I have seen it discrimination at the hiring process and it's can be as easy as makeing some write out down some Q and A on on paper and not let them type it out.

  • by realsilly ( 186931 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:42PM (#41224213)

    When I was just starting out, I originally found work in my field because I showed an aptitude to learn and to help, and was constantly searching for more to learn, but I was unemployed student. I spoke with my professor and expressed my difficulty in looking for a job that suited me. Now granted, it was sheer luck for me, my professor came back to me a week later stating that he knew of a place I could / should apply to. He wrote a letter of recommendation and I submitted my resume / application. It took a month before I was offered an interview, but it happened. It started out as part-time work, and once I proved my eagerness to exceed, and I showed that I was responsible and truly cared about my work ethic, it was a word-of-mouth lead that landed me some additional work to get full-time.

    I didn't have a disability other than needing glasses, but I had to prove myself, that I was more than just some college kid. I think that is what you're in need of, is a little help from friends and a lot of proving yourself. Performing volunteer work is a good start, and I think you're on the right track. If you are a solid member in your community you might look to community associations to try to garner some work, or through your local congregation if you attend church. A good Samaritan is a great place to start, but remember, you have to prove that that Samaritan is right about you and show that you're worthy of that praise. Once you've established yourself again then you'll probably see a lot more open doors of opportunity.

    This is only my 2 cents, I hope it helps. Good luck.

  • I burned myself after working like hell for 15 years. After my first breakdown, I decided to move to country where it cost me much less money to live, and access to nature really help. I took some online classes and now im looking for venture capital to fund my patent and startup. I hope I can be successful enough to not HAVE to work unless I feel like it...

    This is my experience with deep depression... I hope it will help.

  • You say you don't want to be self employed, but from what you say that's simply because of "motivation and discipline". That can usually be helped by having people to work with. You seem to already be working with people who you get along with, so perhaps your solution isn't going self employment alone but starting a business with others.

  • I'm very sensitive to the atmosphere in the workplace for example.

    So work at home X percent of the time? Do you mean physical airborne atmosphere or emotional level?

    Furthermore, a workweek of maybe 20-25 hours is the max for me.

    For most of my "full time" coworkers that would be a heroic non-crunch time achievement. Do you mean 20 hours of "being in the building" with the usual ratio of 50% watercooler conversations about sports and TV / smoke breaks and 20% formal/informal meetings leaving about 6 hours of actual nose the the grindstone work, or 20 hours of actual nose to the grindstone work which would be pretty fabulous if anyone

    • by gagol ( 583737 )
      If your employer lets you spend half you time chatting around the water cooler and schedule you for a full day of meetings a week, start looking for another job cause the business cannot make a profit in any legitimate way.
    • by mpol ( 719243 )

      I'm somewhat sensitive to emotional atmosphere. People haveing an argument at the workplace which turns sour, that sort of thing. I can handle something, but too much wears me out.

      Ah, haha. I'm not a slacker, I do my job. Last year I started at a paying job, which I decided to not continue with. The employer offered me the same job again half a year later. He was really happy with me.

      Thank you for the rest, some others already pointed that out. I'm now with nice people at a volunteer setting. Setting up a c

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @12:56PM (#41224415) Homepage

    Furthermore, a workweek of maybe 20-25 hours is the max for me. I tried self-employment, but motivation and discipline are a bit hard to come by, and it's not something that will work for me long-term. In theory it's perfect, in practice not so much.

    I don't want to be self-employed either, but it's because I'm not a good salesman, not a good negotiator, hate the administrative parts of contracts and schedules and billing and I don't want my entire paycheck to depend on finding work. If you don't have the motivation and discipline for the work itself you're not going to be much of an employee either, on top of your other issues. If you want to find a job I wouldn't let that shine through, because I saw big red blinking "do not hire" signs that had nothing to do with your schizophrenia.

  • Basic Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:21PM (#41224773)

    Why hire you when there are probably hundreds of alternative applicants without your baggage? Either you have some crazy unique skill to bring to the table, or they have a financial incentive to hire you (pay less money than someone "normal", or maybe there's some weird tax writeoff).

    I don't mean this as an insult or anything, just as a shot of reality. You say you are happy doing volunteer work right now, which sort of implies that you are able to pay bills and stuff. If that's the case, stick with it. You can do that and some self-employment on the side as your motivation allows. You aren't going to find that kind of happiness with a salary job.

  • by PPalmgren ( 1009823 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:35PM (#41224973)

    While I know the problem is a serious one and its fully classified as a disability, it almost sounds as if you're using it as a crutch in the summary. What I'm trying to say is that no situation is ever going to be perfect, and everyone has some nag or another that wears on them whether it be a disability, family problems, or in my case severe OCD to the point of trichotillomania. I think that finding a manager who is understanding and willing to work with you is the best thing you're going to be able to do. If you demand they heed your every desire and consider everything else unacceptable, you aren't going to ever land a job in a positive work environment. This is something you're going to have to meet others in the middle on and try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Its all relative and everyone has to do this, whether its visible to the observer or not.

    In short: try to not wait for the ideal scenario, meet people halfway. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be open about your issues, it just means you shouldn't lean on the issue as an "out" when a less-than-perfect scenario shows up. Give it a shot, you may surprise yourself.

  • requiring degrees maybe discrimination.

    As there some people who can do tech work / apprenticeships and can take tech school classes and or Community College but are not cut out for college / not college material.

    Not all people can learn in a pure class room.

  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @03:13PM (#41226275)
    Government work. State or federal.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...