Epilepsy and the ADA

I have a phone call with our HR department this morning. Normally, I wouldn’t consider that a good thing: usually, the less I hear from HR, the better. But today is different. Today is my ADA wrap-up call.

In the United States, epilepsy is a disability protected under the ADA, the Americans With Disabilities Act. This means that you can’t be fired or excluded from a job simply for having epilepsy. Maybe there are aspects of your job that you can’t do because of your epilepsy. Maybe your job involves doing something that’s likely to trigger a seizure. Under the ADA, you’re allowed to ask your employer for accommodations to your work environment and requirements. If the employer feels these are reasonable, they are required to accommodate you so you can work.

For a long time, I told myself that I didn’t need any of these accommodations. I was doing fine. Those were for people who were “really bad off”. But then I started thinking. I do still have seizures. I need my lab tests, and appointments, with time off. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to drive. And I want work to be aware of all this. So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to formally apply for “reasonable accommodations”.

In my case, what’s important to me is recovery time after a seizure, avoiding seizure triggers around work, and getting time for epilepsy-related medical appointments. So I made a list for my doctor to sign off on:

  • If I have a seizure, I need the rest of the day off, and the next day (if it’s a work day).
  • I can’t have any work-related activity between 9 PM and 6 AM. I need to have as much uninterrupted night sleep as possible.
  • Since I can’t always drive, I need to be able to work from home. I knew this wouldn’t be a problem – I’ve been doing IT from home since March.
  • I need a half-hour break in the afternoon. My seizures usually happen then, and I need that time for stress reduction, sleep, or just getting some air.

While I was waiting for the neuro to sign off on that, I talked to my boss. Who talked to his boss. Who talked to her boss. I wanted to make darn sure, before I got into this, that everyone was good with it. I was lucky – they were.

So today I have this call, letting me know that I’m officially OK with all these requests. I’m happy.

So why am I going on and on about it? Well, it’s a big deal. For the first time in years, I feel absolutely assured that, no matter what happens, my health is going to be protected at work. Even if someone came along who didn’t care about me or my disability, I have these protections and nobody can take them away.

So, what about you? Are you completely comfortable at work? Are there things that you need that you think work might be able to adapt to? It’s worth talking to your neuro about. And it could be worth talking to your employer about. Being able to work is important; this could make the difference between getting there and not.

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