National Epilepsy Week, which is running from 18-24 May, is an opportunity to support those in employment with epilepsy, according to barrister Lorraine Lally.
Lorraine, a specialist in mediation who is epileptic herself, is a media volunteer with Epilepsy Ireland.
She told Gazette.ie that people with epilepsy worked in all types of professions, from flight attendants to surgeons. She said there were people in the legal profession who also had the condition, but were sometimes not willing to talk about it.
Reach out and talk
Lorraine said she had had both positive and negative reactions when telling people in the profession about her epilepsy. “Some people told me I’d never work again,” she said, adding that there was still a stigma attached to the condition.
“Reach out and talk to people – peer-to-peer support is there,” she said.
Lorraine said the biggest problem for sufferers was deciding whether or not to tell their employers, who sometimes found seizures hard to deal with, and often had unfounded worried about health-and-safety or insurance issues.
She warned, however, that although workers did not have to disclose a disability, employers could not accommodate any special needs if they did not know about a condition.
“People with a disability have a very high attendance rate,” Lorraine said, adding that Epilepsy Ireland could provide training on the condition for workplace staff if necessary. Bigger companies tended to be more educated about the issue, she added.
There are four rules for helping a person who has a seizure: don’t panic; protect the person’s head; let the seizure finish; and only if it lasts longer than three minutes should an ambulance be called.
Lorraine pointed to the range of grants available to employers to deal with disability issues, including a wage-subsidy scheme, and grants for workplace equipment or adaptation.
She welcomed the trend towards working from home, as she believes some of the technology involved will help support people with a disability.