When I started my internship, I was nervous about how to ensure I received the disability accommodations I would need to do my job well. Sometimes it is not easy to discuss something this personal with a supervisor you just met. With my example, I hope I can give you some insight as to how you might approach addressing similar situations.
First, it’s important to be honest from the very beginning, as it will establish trust. After I received an internship offer, I informed my supervisor that I use a wheelchair, which would require appropriate accommodations. I assured them that I was confident it would not affect my ability to complete any tasks that may be assigned to me. I recommend not saying a statement of that nature if you feel your disability may affect the type of assignments you could be given and the deadlines associated with them. You know your needs better than anyone else, so make sure you communicate those as authentically as possible.
Over the phone, my supervisor and I talked about an accessible workplace, as well as transportation to and from the workplace. I work for the federal government in the Office of the Parliamentarian in the U.S. House of Representatives. Therefore desks, doorways, and bathrooms are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Additionally, the building was equipped with multiple elevators. If you work for an non-governmental organization that may not adhere strictly to ADA guidelines, I suggest talking about the building prior to your first day to ensure your placement will work out. Most office spaces in D.C. are modern, but some buildings have been converted into office spaces and may not reach ADA compliance. My supervisor also told me about how to access my office building from the Metro system. Luckily, my office is across the street from a stop, so the commute would not be an issue.
On the first day of my internship, not only did my supervisor and I ensure that the disability accommodations mentioned above worked, but we also went over emergency procedures. My office is on an upper level of a large federal building.
If the unthinkable happens and I need to be evacuated, Capitol Police know my location. They will be able to safely rescue me as quickly as possible, which comforts me. Furthermore, an employee from the office of the Sergeant-at-Arms came to my office and taught me what to do in different events, such as a fire or an active shooter. Talk to your supervisor about these scenarios and plans so you can determine what is best for your safety.
If you are upfront about your disability from the very beginning, establishing an open line of communication for the remainder of your internship should take little effort. Do not be afraid to be vocal about what you need. Sometimes I feel if I ask for something, I am burdening someone else. It’s important to remember you’re not burdening anyone, as all the accommodations you request are legitimate, available, and necessary for your success in the workplace.