Vertigo is the sensation of spinning, whirling, or dizziness caused by a disturbance in balance. Vertigo can be described as either subjective or objective. An individual who experiences objective vertigo may feel like things in her environment are moving, while an individual with subjective vertigo feels as if she is moving. Vertigo can be caused by Meniere’s Disease, viral infections, central nervous system disorders such as stroke, migraines, multiple sclerosis, head trauma, acoustic neuroma (tumor), cardiovascular disorders, and sharp changes in blood pressure.
Vertigo can impact a person’s ability to work. Individuals with vertigo may be limited in activities such as getting out of bed; walking; traveling; working around moving objects, under bright or fluorescent lights, or at heights; climbing ladders; viewing a computer monitor; or working in an environment that has many colors or patterns (e.g., a patterned carpet).
Vertigo and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Accommodating Employees with Vertigo
People with limitations from vertigo may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people who are aging will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
- Providing structured breaks as a physical outlet
- Reducing stress triggers – these strategies will vary according to triggers, but see Dealing with Stress in the Workplace
- Adjusting supervisory methods
- Accessing EAP services for coping with stress
- Providing a private workspace
- Reducing distractions
- Allowing breaks for mental fatigue, including short walks, getting up for a drink of water, and rotating through varied tasks
- Allowing breaks to contact a support person when anxiety is triggered
- Restructuring job so the most difficult tasks are performed at the time of day the employee has the most mental energy or stamina
- Providing/designating uninterrupted time for tasks that require significant concentration
- Telework, Work from Home, Working Remotely
Situations and Solutions:
An employee with vertigo mentions that their dizziness makes it difficult for them to climb ladders but does not have this issue while climbing stairs.
The employer allows the individual to use a rolling safety ladder as climbing it is more akin to climbing stairs and it also provides the benefit of a hand railing for additional balance support.
A potential employee discloses that she has vertigo while being given a tour of the office and shown to a prospective workstation.
She states that the fluorescent lighting in the area is a trigger for her vertigo. The employer agrees to provide full spectrum lighting sources for the work area should she be hired for the position.
An applicant with vertigo is required to take a pre-employment screening test to be considered for the position.
The test is normally performed on a computer, but the applicant states that prolonged computer use causes her vertigo to flare up. To accommodate this need, the employer allowed the individual to take a written version of the test instead.
An employee with vertigo occasionally cannot make it into work due to her severe flare ups.
The employer has been allowing the employee to use paid sick leave during these occasions, but the employee requested that some other form of accommodation be reviewed to help her so that she may not need to use her sick leave on these occasions. After exploring the options, the employer allows the individual to work from home on these days as an accommodation.
An employee discloses that because of his vertigo, it is difficult for him to make it to work on time in the morning, as the vertigo is more likely to flare up when he gets out of bed.
The employer allows the individual to have a flexible start time and make up the time at the end of the shift.