Episodic disabilities (EDs) are long-term conditions that are characterized by periods of good health interrupted by periods of illness and disability. These periods may vary in severity, length and predictability. Some common examples of episodic disability include multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, chronic pain, some forms of cancer, and other chronic physical and mental health conditions. Episodic disabilities are periodic –the episodes of illness come and go – but because they are also often unpredictable, they can be more difficult to manage with regard to employment.
Figuring out how to create inclusive and supportive workplaces is a challenge faced by employees and employers alike. From Invisibility to Inclusion (i2i) is working to understand these challenges and to develop practical solutions for improving social, economic and employment opportunities for people with episodic disabilities.
The i2i project is:
- Assessing existing information about the prevalence and employment patterns of people with episodic disabilities;
- Examining laws, policies, and programs that currently shape workplace responses to people with episodic disabilities;
- Generating knowledge based on insights from employees, employers, and other stakeholders about barriers and challenges faced by people with episodic disabilities and about programs and successful practices for accommodating people with episodic disabilities;
- Developing and evaluating tools and resources that will enhance employers’ and co-workers’ attitudes and perceptions of episodic disabilities and facilitate organizational change that will help workplaces include and accommodate employees with episodic disabilities; more effectively;
- Developing practical guidelines for employers and employees that promote productive employment and income security for people with episodic disabilities;
- Developing a thorough body of knowledge about episodic disability in the workplace that will positively impact research and policy on people with episodic disabilities;
- Centring the lived experiences of people with episodic disabilities through our interviews and multimedia storytelling workshops.
The impacts of this work include:
- Increased participation of workers with episodic disabilities in the workforce;
- Increased understanding of the unique economic, employment and social challenges associated with episodic disabilities;
- Development of tools and resources that will enrich the inclusion of workers with episodic disabilities;
- Identification of gaps and changes needed in the laws, policies, programs and practices that govern responses to and accommodations for people with episodic disabilities;
- Development of a cross-sectoral, collaborative approach to addressing this growing area of economic and social concern that brings together senior legal, social science and arts-based scholars, policy makers, and professionals from the business, insurance, and non-profit sectors;
- Training of graduate students in cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral research;
- Development of scholarly and professional resources on episodic disability.