March 13 to 19, 2017 is Brain Awareness Week.
The Canadian Human Rights Act requires that employers ensure that all people are treated equally. This sometimes involves accommodating an employee’s needs, changing the work environment, or duties to enable full participation in their jobs. Duty to Accommodate applies only to needs that are based on one of the grounds of discrimination.
The following are brain function related disabilities:
Neurological Disability - A neurological disability refers to a group of disorders that primarily relate to the central nervous system comprised of the brain and spinal cord. For example, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, acquired brain injury, and multiple sclerosis.
Mental Disorder - A Mental Disorder is a syndrome characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. (5th ed.; DSM-5) For example, anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Mental Illness, like Depression, can cause memory loss and concentration difficulties and anxiety can lead to difficulty with organization of thoughts, concentration, and problem-solving. In fact, 80% of disability costs are related to mental health conditions (Conference Board of Canada 2011).
Learning Disorder - Disorders which may affect the acquisition, retention, understanding, or use of verbal or nonverbal information (Job Accommodation Network, 2013) For example, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia.
The above differences may be invisible to others, but certainly present real challenges for the individual experiencing the conditions, those working with, and supervising the individual. Cognitive performance areas often affected can include working memory, attention, concentration, judgment, calculation, sequencing, and more. Often, emotional regulation and sensory processing issues co-exist.
Sometimes employers are challenged with finding accommodations for employees without fully understanding (or without being provided with) the medical background related to the disability. When there are questions about an employee’s cognitive abilities, A Cognitive-Functional Capacity Evaluation can answer task-specific employee limitations and strengths. If it is determined the current job is no longer a safe match for the employee, a Psycho-Vocational Assessment can assist in determining appropriate job match criteria, further training and accommodations required.
Here are some workplace accommodation resources for brain function related disabilities:
Enabling Access Inc. assists employers with job accommodation services, including the assessments above, as well as, Stay-at-Work and Return-to-Work consultation.
Marnie Courage, OT Reg (MB)
Director of Enabling Access Inc.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada