Epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by unusual brain activity resulting in seizures or convulsions. People with epilepsy may suffer from a range of symptoms, including involuntary movements, falling and dissociative behavior such as staring off into space or not responding to conversation. Some types of jobs are closed to people with epilepsy, but many jobs are not.
Epilepsy and Disability
Some people with epilepsy experience seizures on a frequent basis, have difficulty performing any type of work and eventually file for full disability. Others experience seizures only occasionally and are able to work full time, but may need accommodations from their employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some experience symptoms that are mild and infrequent enough that they may never even inform their employer about their epilepsy diagnosis. The range of jobs available to a person with epilepsy depends on the severity and frequency of symptoms.
Many states have laws restricting people with uncontrolled seizures from operating a motor vehicle. Those whose seizures are effectively controlled by medication, diet or other methods may be able to legally and safely drive depending on the state, but a person with uncontrolled seizures cannot work as a taxi driver, chauffeur, commercial truck driver or in any other position that requires the use of a vehicle. Any position requiring the use of dangerous equipment or machinery is out of the question for a person with uncontrolled seizures.
While restrictions on driving or operating dangerous equipment can make it more difficult to find a job, many jobs are practical for people with epilepsy. The Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor, assists people with epilepsy in arranging safe accommodations with potential employers. The JAN has helped engineers, laborers, welders, educational consultants, administrators, telemarketers, landscapers and others to keep working despite having seizures. Typical accommodations include extra protective gear, time off to get acclimated to new epilepsy medication, safety padding in work areas or the assignment of other employees to assist with duties such as driving. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, almost all available jobs that do not require driving can be performed by people with epilepsy as long as their seizures are under control.
Some people with epilepsy find it difficult to get hired despite laws against discrimination. Some find it difficult to get to work because of their symptoms. In this situation, telecommuting or working as an independent contractor can be ideal for a person with seizures. Working as a freelance writer or in a work-from-home phone sales or customer service position can be a practical option for people whose mobility is limited by seizures.