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Photosensitivity

There are many individuals who are sensitive to light, commonly referred to as photosensitivity.

There are many individuals who are sensitive to light, commonly referred to as photosensitivity. There are many different medical conditions or medications that can trigger photosensitivity, and problematic types of lighting may differ depending on the individual and their medical condition. Regardless of the cause of the reaction, individuals who experience photosensitivity may need accommodations to maintain or increase their productivity at work. Accommodations come in a variety of solutions for a specific limitation. See below for some ideas to help you get started.

  • Performing Outdoor Tasks: When individuals who are photosensitive need to perform essential functions outdoors, accommodations that employers may consider include: providing flexible schedules to avoid peak sun hours; providing UV protection clothing/accessories; allowing frequent rest breaks indoors or in shaded areas; combining tasks to limit exposures; limiting exposure to water, ice, and other highly reflective surfaces; and allowing flexible leave around low-ozone and sun-flare events.
  • Performing Driving Tasks: Whether an individual spends the entire work day in a vehicle or just part of the day, this UV exposure can prove problematic for individuals with photosensitivity. To address this issue, an employer may consider providing the following accommodations: allowing telework or flexible work schedules to avoid peak sun exposure, providing window tinting and shades on work vehicles, allowing frequent breaks indoors, and modifying dress code policies to allow UV protection clothing/accessories.
  • Performing Indoor Tasks: While it may seem like individuals who are photosensitive would be able to easily work indoors, there are many hidden UV light sources that may need to be eliminated or avoided. Examples of accommodations that may help include: providing alternate lighting, UV light filters, sheltered work spaces, UV protection clothing/accessories, and UV filtered computer screens; allowing telework or flexible work schedules to avoid peak sun exposure; and avoiding water, ice, and highly reflective surfaces around unavoidable UV sources.
  • Office Setting:
    • Consider allowing telework for some or all of the week so that the employee may work in a setting where he or she can more easily control lighting.
    • Consider use of floor to ceiling cubicle walls so that fluorescent light is blocked from reaching the employee's work station.  Other options to block out overhead lighting include an office with a door, a cubicle roof or even a patio umbrella installed over one's desk.
    • Consider installing filters in fluorescent light fixtures to reduce the negative effects of fluorescent lights. Turning off overhead lights and using lamps may allow more control over lighting especially for employees who need to work in dim light.
    • Consider use of full spectrum lighting to supplement natural light near employee's workstation if the individual does better with natural or full spectrum light.  If the individual is sensitive to full spectrum, natural light, or UV, consider other options.
    • For individuals who are sensitive to flickering, consider use of alternative lighting such as incandescent or LED lighting.
    • Consider modifying dress code to allow employee to wear items that may be helpful in reducing the effects of fluorescent light such as sunglasses or hats with brims.
    • Explore accommodations to enhance concentration such as reducing background noise or allowing employee to listen to music through headphones while working.
    • If the person does better with natural light, try to place them near a window.
    • If the person needs more control over the light in their workspace or is sensitive to UV, windows can be problematic.  Consider moving the person away from windows or installing appropriate window coverings.    

Solutions: