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Job hunting is tricky for everyone, but especially those suffering from epilepsy. The limitations imposed by this condition can make the job hunt extra stressful. From navigating which career to choose to deciding how to discuss your condition with coworkers, we’ve put together some tips and guidelines to help make the process more straightforward.
HOW TO IDENTIFY APPROPRIATE JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY
When starting your job search, it’s important to first identify what you’re looking for in a position and how well it fits with your skills, talents, interests, and capabilities. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you looking for part-time work or something full time?
- Are you willing and able to commute?
- How well is your epilepsy controlled?
- Will you need extra time off or a flexible schedule?
Creating a list of these wants and needs will help you narrow down your search before you even begin looking.
Another thing to consider when choosing your career path is whether your seizures have specific triggers. Flashing lights or sudden noises can be triggering for some epilepsy sufferers, while others find that high-stress situations bring on seizures. [source]
So, be sure to make a list of your known triggers and investigate whether they’re likely to be a major problem at your workplace. While most work environments would likely be willing to accommodate your needs, in some cases, these triggers can’t be removed.
It’s also important to consider how your condition will be received in your potential workplace. Note that you’re not legally required to disclose your condition in your interview, and by law, it can’t be a factor in deciding whether to hire you as long as you can perform the job with (or without) reasonable accommodations. [source] But being open about your condition can help you get a sense of how your requests for accommodations and assistance will be received.
A responsive and understanding environment isn’t only better for you in case you have a seizure at work, but it can reduce your stress, and thus the likelihood of seizures in the first place.
So with that, here are some work environments you’re better off avoiding…
THE WORST TYPES OF JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY
High-Stress Positions – Every job has its share of stress, but some are inherently more stressful than others. Avoid positions with a high degree of uncertainty. For example, a dispatcher position for a taxi company could be an excellent job for someone with epilepsy, but serving as a dispatcher for emergency services could be much more stressful and could act as a trigger.
Equipment Operation – Depending on how well your epilepsy is controlled, you may not be able to operate a vehicle or other heavy equipment. Factory work or other jobs that require regular use of heavy equipment aren’t likely to be a good fit for people with epilepsy, especially as your condition may change over time.
Also consider non-heavy equipment which could be dangerous, such as deli meat slicers, ovens, and other machines that require constant attention to be used safely. Even relatively minor focal seizures can disrupt your concentration enough to make their use dangerous.
Isolated Work – While it can be nice to work independently, working in complete isolation or in remote locations can pose dangers for people with epilepsy, especially if your condition isn’t well controlled. Avoid positions such as a park ranger or a night manager, which could put you beyond easy access to help if you need it.
WORKDAY TIPS AND TRICKS FOR PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY
Regardless of the job, you may need some help to get through the workday if you suffer from epilepsy:
- Wear a Medical Alert Bracelet or Other Identifier – While it may feel awkward to have such a visible reminder of your condition always on display, it can be very helpful not only to your colleagues but also to emergency medical professionals if you should need assistance.
- Make the Appropriate Personnel Aware – While your condition is private, it’s important that the appropriate workplace personnel are aware that you may require accommodations and what those might be. For example, if your building’s emergency alarm system uses flashing lights, you may wish to be alerted ahead of any scheduled drills or tests so you can avoid that potential trigger. The right people to talk to will differ from company to company, but your hiring manager or HR office is a good place to start.
- Communicate Your Needs – Stress can be a major trigger for many people with epilepsy, so help manage potential stressors by letting your supervisors and coworkers know what you need. Whether that’s time off, a flexible work schedule, limited screen time, extended deadlines, or other accommodations, being upfront with your needs won’t only help you better manage your condition, it’ll help put your skills and talents to the best possible use.
- Be as Open as You’re Comfortable With – If you work in an environment with other people, it can be helpful for them to know about and understand your condition. Epilepsy affects roughly 3.4 million people in the U.S. but not everyone is familiar with its effects and how they should respond. [source]Sharing information about epilepsy and how it affects you can be very helpful in making sure your coworkers know how to respond, and in helping them feel comfortable in your skills and capabilities.
THE BEST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY
Archival or Library Work – The slower pacing of library and archival work, as well as the lighting and temperature-controlled environment, can be ideal for some people with epilepsy. You don’t even need to be particularly bookish — today’s libraries also offer lots of opportunities to interact with all kinds of different technology and equipment, so if you’re more into pixels than paper, this could still be an excellent position for you.
Keep in mind that if your position involves interacting with customers, such as a circulation librarian, you may have seizures in a more public environment. If that’s a concern, look for reference or office positions that are less public.
Data Entry – Another excellent position for someone with epilepsy, this position typically allows for quiet, independent work at your own pace, within the parameters of a given assignment. It’s easy to pick up, not physically demanding and requires a high degree of intelligence and accuracy.
One thing to be aware of, however, is the possibility of errors due to focal seizures, which can cause episodes of confusion. If you typically have this type of seizure, be sure you know when to step away from your work until you’re able to work at full capacity again.
Work from Home Options – In this digital age, there are plenty of ways to earn a living on your own schedule and terms. These range from freelance art and design work to writing ebooks, taking surveys, or transcribing documents. Most of these options require very little in way of special equipment — a phone and computer are all you’ll need for most.
Some work-from-home options, such as blogging, even offer the possibility of “passive income,” meaning you don’t have to do a thing to continue earning. This works by selling advertising space or clicks, or through avenues like affiliate marketing.
With affiliate marketing, you earn a small commission for sales you generate for another company (such as Amazon) by introducing their products to your followers using special affiliate links.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
What jobs for people with epilepsy would you recommend? How have you dealt with epilepsy in the workplace in the past? Leave your comments below!
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