ADD & Career

Making Accommodations in the Workplace


The "American's With Disabilities Act"

Heavily-edited from:

ADD/ADHD is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act and individuals can be entitled to certain accomodations at work based on their needs. Take the time to determine what you need, and why.

If the job involves meetings, you may want to have a tape recorder available so you can go over the important points again, with less distractions.

Your employer will want to understand why your ADD/ADHD causes problems. List symptoms of ADD/ADHD and how they can affect your job. Be specific: for example, instead of saying "memory deficiency," include information on inability to focus, becoming easily distracted, or problems with short term memory.

List every part of your job: emphasize the portions you already perform well, then mention the areas needing accommodation of some sort. Take each portion and find some reasonable solutions. All solutions need not be expensive or elaborate. Some solutions may simply be a general awareness of ADD/ADHD, to avoid friction/sarcasm/jealousy from other employees. Others solutions may just involve a simple reorganization of systems. Some may require equipment or assistance from other personnel.

Some examples of accomodations are:

  • Access to tape recorder for meetings.
  • Restructuring of deadlines or times when work is due.
  • Creating flexible work schedules or reducing work to part time schedule.
  • Room dividers to lessen distractions.
  • Ability to use "white noise" at your desk, or the use of headphones to reduce auditory distractions.
  • Modifying training materials to include audio or video tapes.
  • The use of a computer.
  • Organizational helpers such as dayplanners, PDAs, organizational/planning software, timers, or alarm clocks.
  • 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 work flow.

    (Not-So-Good Solutions:)

  • Moving to a private office.
  • Restructuring of job duties to redistribute portions of the job to other personnel.
Keeping your needs reasonable and accepting alternatives to accomodations may be necessary.

Talking with your employer is the first step. Find out what they believe is reasonable and what they may be willing to do to help you better perform your job. Although you may be entitled to many accomodations, some employers will not want to provide expensive and elaborate services. Negotiate for what you need to perform, but keep your employers needs in mind as well as your own.


Taking on extra work because you impulsively agreed to do it can be devastating. Talk with your supervisor or manager and let them know that you may sometimes take on more than you are able to complete. At the moment it may sound great, but later, you realize that you have over-extended yourself. Let your manager know that you would like time to think about additional projects before giving a commitment.

Keep your day structured to avoid impulsively moving from task to task.

Blurting out comments and answers can sometimes happen because you fear that you will forget what you wanted to say if you wait only a few minutes. Keep a small notebook with you at all times and when someone is talking, write a short note to yourself as to what you want to contribute to the conversation or discussion. When they have finished talking, you will be able to add your comments, without having interrupted or spoken without thinking first.

Finding Your ADD-Friendly Career

Start by listing your interests and likes. It might look something like this:


  • Reading Books
  • Talking with people
  • Spectator Sports, especially basketball
  • Swimming
  • Internet
  • Web Site Development
  • Health Care
  • Solving Problems

  • Answering phones
  • Paperwork
  • Large crowds
  • Early mornings
  • Working with numbers
  • Tedious projects
  • Public Speaking
Decide which items you are willing to change and which ones are not changeable. Don't accept a position where success would depend on an item that you have not yet strengthened.

Make an inventory of what you have liked best about previous positions that you held:

  • Flexible Hours
  • Lots of contact with the public
  • Worked without much supervision
  • Allowed creativity to come through
  • Received sense of accomplishment at completion of project
  • Boss gave credit for jobs well done
  • Deadlines forced me to complete work on time
List all of the functions and responsibilities that you've had, working & non-working.

  • Office Skills: Filing, Answering Phones, Customer Service, Telemarketing, Sales, Bookkeeping, Typing 60wpm, Receptionist Duties

  • Computer Skills: Desktop Publishing, Web site development, Programming Software: MS Word, MS Publisher, MS Front Page, Lotus

  • Office Equipment: Typewriter, Computer, Cash Register

  • Additional Skills: Accurate typist and proofreader, great spelling skills, quick learner

[RJ] Then narrow it down to what's REALLY available out there. Check the help-wanted & internet job ads & do a rough match. Don't be put off by "years experience" or specific degree requirements. They're playing poker. YOU have to survive, so flavor the resume accordingly. Just don't go beyond your REAL skills: match your present abilities to whatever degree or field they would dovetail with, and resume-it as a "degree" or a "years-experience" description.

EDITED from:

The Americans With Disabilities Act

Two federal laws—The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)—prohibit workplace discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The RA prohibits discrimination in three areas: (1) employment by the executive branch of the federal government, (2) employment by most federal government contractors, and (3) activities funded by federal subsidies or grants, including organizations receiving federal funding.

The ADA extends the concepts of the RA to (1) private employers with 15 or more employees, (2) all activities of state and local governments, including employment, and (3) "places of public accommodation," including most private schools and higher education institutions.

It is important to understand that being diagnosed with ADHD does not automatically make an individual eligible for protection or accommodations under the RA or ADA. The protections of these laws extend to individuals who meet four conditions:

  • They are individuals with disabilities under the law;
  • They are otherwise qualified for the position, with or without reasonable accommodations;
  • They are being excluded from employment solely by reasons of their disability; and
  • They are covered by the applicable federal law.

To be eligible for the protection offered by the ADA and RA, an employee must disclose the disability to the employer. The decision to disclose a disability to an employer or not can be a difficult one. On the one hand, an employer is not required to make accommodations unless the employee has disclosed the disability. On the other hand, discrimination often begins when the employee makes the disclosure. These factors must be weighed before making the decision to disclose.

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