Workplace Accommodations for Adults with ADHD

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

ADD/ADHD is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act and individuals with ADD/ADHD can be entitled to certain accommodations at work based on their needs.

A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder does not automatically justify accommodations in the workplace. There are many adults with ADHD that perform their jobs well and do not require additional or special assistance. However, some people do require accommodations, and can receive protection under the American's With Disabilities Act.

Before requesting special accommodations, take the time to determine what you need, why and how you expect the company to meet your needs. When requesting accommodations, you will want to supply your employer with information on your disability, the accommodations you are requesting, a reason for each accommodation and what benefit they will receive for supplying you with extra assistance. Providing this information will probably give you a better response from your employer.

The first step is to evaluate your job and your duties. List which parts of the job you do well now, and which parts you feel you could do better with assistance or accommodations. Be as specific as possible. For example, you may be required to attend meetings and be responsible for following up on ideas presented at the meeting. You may feel that you should have a record of the meeting to allow you to be more accurate in your presentations. You might want to request that you be allowed to tape record meetings. You may state that you will supply the tape recorder or request the company supply you with one. Remember to indicate why this will help you in your job, for example, by recording the meetings, you can go over the important points again, with fewer distractions and make sure that you have followed through on all-important points.

Your employer will need to understand why your ADD/ADHD causes problems. List the symptoms of ADHD, as they relate to you, not a list of generic symptoms. Include information on how they affect your job performance. Be as specific as possible. Instead of indicating a memory deficiency, include information on inability to focus, becoming easily distracted or problems with short-term memory. The more specific you are, the more detailed of a plan you can propose to your employer.

While preparing, list every aspect of your job, which portions you perform well and which portions require additional work. You will be listing solutions for each portion of your job. Search for reasonable solutions that are easily implemented. Although more elaborate solutions may also be considered, show your employer you are not trying to take advantage of them but trying to create an environment in which you can succeed and provide the company with the benefit of increase productivity or accuracy. You may need your boss to have a clearer understanding of ADHD and how it impacts job performance or you may need some additional organizational tools such as color-coding files or you may be requesting an assistant or restructuring of some job responsibilities.

Some examples of accommodations are:

  • Restructuring of job duties to redistribute portions of the job to other personnel.

  • Restructuring of deadlines or times when work is due.

  • Creating flexible work schedules or reducing work to part time schedule.

  • Modifying training materials to include audio or videotapes.

  • Access to tape recorder for meetings.

  • Color-coding supplies, such as color-coded filing systems, using different colored papers for important memos or using coding each project with a certain color.

  • The use of a computer.

  • Spell check and grammar check software.

  • Talking calculators or large screen calculators.

  • Organizational helpers such as day planners, PDAs, organizational/planning software, timers, or alarm clocks.

  • Room dividers to lessen distractions.

  • Ability to use "white noise" at your desk, or the use of headphones to reduce auditory distractions.

  • Moving to a private office.

  • Restructuring of files or workspace to create a more even flow of work, as well as reduce steps to completion of work.

  • Printed cards to make busy work easier, such as charts of fractions, abbreviations, maps of file cabinets, maps outlining workflow.

These examples are not meant to be an inclusive list or to imply that this is what adults with ADHD need. This list is meant to provide you with a starting point and to begin your thinking process of what may help you succeed. It may be necessary, at times, to accept alternatives the company offers or to scale down on some accommodations to stay reasonable in your requests. Don't assume that a company is not interested in working with you if they do not accept all of your requests. Remember, their job is also to keep costs controlled.

The first step is talking with your employer. You will want to find out what they believe is reasonable and what they may be willing to do to help you better perform your job. Even though you may be entitled to many accommodations, some employers will not want to provide expensive and elaborate services. Some accommodations you request may not be cost effective or may weigh heavily on co-workers. Negotiate for what you need to perform, but keep your employers needs in mind as well as your own.

You might also be interested in:

ADHD at Work

Self Advocacy in the Workplace

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.