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I have temporal lobe epilepsy (a form of epilepsy without convulsions and other physical symptoms). The seizures that I have usually last from a few seconds to 1-2 minutes. When they happen, they temporarily inhibit my ability to speak and understand speech, and I feel confused and disoriented and can't think straight. Sometimes this disorientation lasts for longer - up to 1 hour, but this is really rare. These seizures happen more often when I'm stressed.
Other problems include mood swings and extreme outbursts of feelings, usually fear or anxiety in my case. Paradoxically, some people say that I'm emotionless because I try too hard to control the mood swings. In general, people find the way how I look or speak strange.

I've been working as a software engineer for quite a few years and have a portfolio of successful projects (nothing grand, though) and recommendations from my previous employers.

I know that ADA requires the employer to provide "reasonable accommodations", but how far this can actually go in my case and what adjustments can I reasonably ask for? (Think of the standard interviewing process that companies like Google and Microsoft use that involves "show me how you're thinking outside the box" tasks, etc. This question is only about the accommodations in the job interview process)
What counts as "essential job functions" for a programmer, considering that the typical job interview is often an experience very different from everyday job and needs special "preparation" even from perfectly healthy workers?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Dukeling, Philip Kendall, TheGirlHasNoName, Solar Mike May 29 at 17:23

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    For what it's worth, Google stopped asking "thinking outside the box" tasks some time ago. I don't know about Microsoft, but I'd be surprised if you run into such questions at the other top tech companies (although you may find them at some smaller companies). – Dukeling May 27 at 20:27
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    @user855286 Interviewers look for a good fit for the role. If they believe your disability rules you out, or consider the accommodations to be unreasonable, then I wouldn't expect much help. If they don't, you can probably expect reasonable accommodations. This is going to be very company-specific. How likely it is would depend heavily on which accommodations you ask for, the types of roles you're applying for and probably to a large extent how lucky you are. – Dukeling May 27 at 20:47
  • How often do your seizures occur? Daily? Weekly? Do you think that it would happen more than once during the interview? You say that they happen more often when you're stressed, but what do you think the actual likelihood is that it will happen during your interview? The likelihood, and amount you expect it could happen, could change the best way to approach bringing this up. – David K May 28 at 16:29
  • @David K, the seizures aren't predictable, but having more than 3 seizures during a day happened to me before more than once. – user855286 May 28 at 17:03
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    @user855286 (just reread some of your edits) Its funny I have had the emotionless thing lobbed at me before, I feel like for me it is a result of my constant battle with extreme anxiety. This is going to make you laugh, but the life hack for that I landed on was "adopt a dog and train it to be a service animal". I adopted and trained my first service dog a year ago and I take him with me every where, it has blown me away how differently people treat me just because I have a dog with me. – Dataminion May 28 at 17:59
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My experience with the ADA has been that the bigger the company is the more likely their HR will be prepared for an accommodation request. And the smaller the company is the more likely that any mention of your disability until after they hire you will simply lead to them finding a technical reason not to hire you.

That being said, the ADA allows for you to disclose your condition at any time during an interview process and the employer must provide accommodation.

The strategy that I have taken that has worked well is to bring to the interview a print out from ADA.gov explaining their requirements under the law. This way if you find your self in a situation where accommodation would benefit you you can present it to them and let them decide what to do.

This probably sounds ridiculous but I have seen situations where when presented with a request to halt the interview and provide accommodation the interviewers had heard of neither the ADA or the disability in question.

I'm sorry that this is probably the best recourse there is nothing easy about having a disability its why the ADA exists in the first place. It is unfortunate that many industries specifically Tech tend to treat these disability as the exact kind of qualifier the ADA is designed to protect you from.


Edit based on comments read on OPs original post:

It's really disappointing to see how many comments on OP's post were replied with "be prepared" or simply "know your rights". These arguments quite possible come from a positive place wanting to encourage OP while failing to consider anything real having to do with disability or presenting any real strategies to cope with it.

Many disabilities covered under the ADA can be triggered by extreme moments of mental stress or duress. Epilepsy (as mentioned by OP) and PTSD are both examples of this.

As a person who has worked in the industry for years with one of these conditions I can tell you that the decision to disclose is very complex. I have been through incredibly difficult Technical interviews with zero issue. I have also interviewed at companies where I just didn't have the skills they were looking for even though I had no issues related to my condition in the interview. That being said I have ended up in everything from really hard to really really really entry level silly interviews where something about the tone or the pace or the environment put me in a state where I needed physical help leaving the building.

After tons of interviews in my career I still think it impossible for me to describe what it was that separated the interviews that became episodes from the interviews where I had no problems.

For years when I interviewed at companies where I felt an attack coming on I would simply stop the interview and say:

I appreciate that you took time out of your day to talk to me but I think that I have reached a point where I'm no longer interested in the position and I don't want to waste time we could both spend doing other work.

However the further I have progressed in my career the more that I am looking for a particular job rather than looking for A job. This is what has lead to me wanting more and more to seek accommodation. Because there are Jobs that where I know that I have the skills and competency to succeed massively at but where my condition has thrown a silly roadblock in my way.


Edit 2 An example based on reading more comments:

It is difficult for people without disabilities to really internalize the difficulty of actually having that disability. This is especially true when it comes to disabilities of the mind.

That being said these challenges are very real to such a degree that almost every industrialized nation on the planet provides disability related protections to workers.

Additionally in most countries where this accommodations exist it is a crime to claim that you have such a condition when you do not (in the united states it's a felony with a minimum penalty of $10,000 dollars).

Imagine if I was interviewing a candidate for a job who turned out to be in a wheelchair. Then imagine that as part of their interview process that candidate was required to climb some stairs. If they weren't able to climb those stairs we wouldn't be willing to hire them.

Most rational people would recognize that this would be an insane requirement to put on anyone let alone someone in a wheelchair. Many of the comments to OP's post rotate around haggling with the format.

In our stairs example this is functionally equivalent to saying "well I'm only asking candidates to climb 1 stair not 12" these types of half arguments attempt to rationalize a process that may be unfair or unrealistic no matter how you tune it.


Edit 3 Response to Question

In response to the question about things to suggest:

This is where the ADA printout is very important. It is actually the employers job to suggest alternate activities that would accommodate you. Requesting that they propose several alternate options will give you a list of things that you can pick from that actually accommodate you.

When I need to request accommodation the very first thing I do is request that we take at least a 1 hour break if not that we meet up to discuss a way forward the next day.

The next thing I do is ask them if there has been a previous time where the company interviewed a candidate but didn't use what ever type of exercise you were doing at the time. This is often a good suggestion because companies break their hiring processes all the time for candidates that they really want.

Finally and you shouldn't have to do this but I have found it helps say the following:

I recognize that this isn't an issue that you encounter all the time and I want you to know that no matter what happens the best legal outcome is one where both sides of this process believe that they have had a chance to demonstrate that either I can or can't do this job. I understand that may mean that you might need to work through several additional rounds of process with me that you don't go through with other candidates. However in the end I hope that the additional time will feel worth it for both of us.

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    Can you suggest some possible accommodations, from your experience? The advice to ask for the tasks in written form (from epilepsy.com) looks quite useful, but other than that it doesn't fit my situation. Probably I should dig for some resources on GAD as well. – user855286 May 27 at 22:51
  • My answer was long so I wrote it as an edit – Dataminion May 27 at 23:12
  • Thank you for detailed answer! I think it is useful, but could you spend some time to edit it so it is easier to read? Some people who will find it useful, might get distracted by length of the text. For example, (Edit 2) doesn't answer the question IMHO – aaaaaa May 27 at 23:44
  • I will move comment my original edit to the bottom this post has been moderated many of the comments I was writing to originally have been removed... – Dataminion May 28 at 0:16
  • might have to make those edits later... you are welcome to suggest an organizational edit to my post. Most of what I wrote was stream of consciousness as reactions to OPs question grew. I am hesitant to remove some of the peripheral explanations I made since OPs original post was so heavily contested and downvoted before moderation. I think this post can be valuable for people who don't have an ADA condition but want to understand it – Dataminion May 28 at 0:47
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As your disability affects you in episodes rather than consistently I would assume that your requested accommodations during the interview process are understanding that should a seizure occur that you will need up to an hour to recover. It seems to me that this covers the "What do you need to put you on a level playing field with candidates who do not have this condition?" angle. If no seizure occurs during your interview and no adjustments to the space need to be made then no additional special accommodation seem to be required to put you onto a level playing field.

  • I don't need working space accommodations. – user855286 May 27 at 18:30
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    @user855286 While that is good for you, for other users coming to this question in the future that may not be the case. What accommodations do you need? – Myles May 27 at 18:37
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    @user855286 Sorry based on your update I'm not sure if I understand the question. You are looking for accommodations in the interview process OR you are looking for accommodations in the job and asking for them during the interview? If it is the former I will edit for that. – Myles May 27 at 18:46
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    @user855286 As others have stated, the original form of the question was ambiguous in this regard. – Myles May 27 at 20:43
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    Epilepsy isn't all about the seizures, it affects the brain in many ways. – user855286 May 28 at 3:41

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