Job Accommodations Come in Groups of One
Like all employees, people with disabilities need the job tools and a work environment that will enable them to do their jobs effectively. While some of these "tools" or the job accommodations they require may be different from those traditionally used to do a job, they accomplish the same end—they help qualified employees to do the best jobs they can. Job accommodations can be an integral part of a successful employment situation for a person with a disability.
Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis. They are made as a cooperative effort among the employee with a disability, the employer, and other individuals when appropriate (e.g. the union representative, the rehabilitation counselor). The main issues to be considered are the job tasks that must be accomplished, the functional limitations of the person doing the job, and whether the proposed accommodation will pose an undue hardship to the employer. Accommodations may include specialized equipment, facility modifications, adjustments to work schedules or job duties, as well as a whole range of other creative solutions.
Offered below are examples of accommodations that have been made for employees. They do not necessarily offer the only or the best way to accommodate a particular functional limitation, but are given as a starting point. A good source of ideas is the Office of Disability Employment Policy's Job Accommodation Network, a free service. Dial 1-800-526-7234.
Problem: An assembler/operator with a severe vision limitation had the job of wrapping hose-pipe fittings with special tape. This required close examination of the work materials. Quality of work was very important.
Solution: A total view magnifier on an adjustable swivel base was installed. Cost: $450
Problem: A "quick service" restaurant grill operator had a severe learning disability; He could not read, and could recognize only specific single letters on orders for hamburgers.
Solution: Condiment bins were coded with the first letter of the item so that the worker could match the orders to the bins. In addition, he was taught three key words ("only," "none," and "plain") through flash card repetition. Cost: Less than $25
Problem: A technician in the telephone service industry used a hearing aid. The job duties included installing and repairing telephone lines, which included using a "butt-in" portable test phone that was attached to telephone lines being repaired. The test set interfered with the technician's hearing aid.
Solution: A "butt-in" test set equipped with an audio speaker was purchased which allowed the worker to test lines without having to place the test set against the ear. This device was also useful for workers NOT wearing hearing aids. In addition, the technician was provided with an amplified tone locator. Cost: $200
Problem: A person with an attention deficit disorder worked in a packaging facility and was having problems staying on the task.
Solution: The employer provided a tape recorder with headphones and cassette tapes which contained music and frequent reminders to attend to the work. This reduced distractions and helped prompt the individual to focus on the job. Cost: Less than $200
Problem: A clerk's hand had two large fingers instead of four fingers and a thumb, and her arms were unusually short. This made it difficult for her to perform some of her job duties, including answering incoming phone calls and accessing a computer to check information for customer service representatives.
Solution: A large button overlay was used on the telephone; and a ball-shaped device, with a pencil stylus going through it, was used to facilitate taking messages and typing. Also used was a strap-on hand stylus for straight typing. Cost: $15
Problem: A productive worker with schizophrenia that had been diagnosed and treated successfully years earlier had begun to show radical behavior changes.
Solution: When confidential talks with the employee were not beneficial, the employee and employer agreed that the employee would meet with a psychiatrist. The meeting resulted in a change of medication which regulated the problem behaviors. The employer paid for the counseling session. Cost: less than $200
Problem: An electro-mechanical assembly crew member acquired a cumulative wrist/hand trauma disorder which affected handling and fingering functions. This decreased his ability to use hand tools for the assembly of electro-mechanical devices.
Solution: A rechargeable electric screwdriver was purchased, to reduce repetitious wrist twisting. These were subsequently purchased for all employees as a preventative measure. Cost: $65
Problem: As the result of diabetes, a productive employee in a retail business was experiencing fatigue, and needed time during the day to administer medication. She was having difficulty performing her sales duties for a sustained period of time.
Solution: The employee's schedule was altered to allow for a longer meal break and for special brief time periods during the day to administer medication. Cost: $0
Problem: A legal department secretary in the cable television industry who was legally blind had to perform such duties as typing, answering telephones, filing and photo-copying.
Solution: The employee was given a specially designed work table to hold a personal computer, a printer and a VTEK (a large print display processor which replaces the smaller standard terminal screen), all of which could be easily accessed. An automatic paper feeder was added to the printer. Cost: $1,360
Problem: A data entry clerk had agoraphobia and had difficulty traveling during peak hours of traffic.
Solution: The employee's work hours were changed from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. to 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Cost: $0
Problem: A college professor with AIDS was having vision problems associated with the disability. His greatest difficulty was in grading student papers.
Solution: A video magnification system was purchased which facilitated his reading the papers. In addition, students who used the school's word processing system were asked to provide copies of their papers on computer diskette. This allowed the professor to utilize a computer speech synthesis system which the school had already purchased for students and staff with vision problems. Cost: $2,600
Problem: A sales manager in a computer supply company was diagnosed with severe chronic depression. Although treatment had been initiated, she continued to experience bouts of crying during times of stress.
Solution: After discussion with her employer, she was provided with the use of a small room for privacy. This room previously had been used to store office supplies. When she felt the need, she could take a break and use this private area to compose herself. A new cabinet was purchased to store the office supplies. Cost: $200
Problem: A large grocery store wanted to hire an individual with Down Syndrome and a mild hearing loss as a bagger/stock person. The concern was that he would not be able to hear the paging loudspeaker system that was used to call employees to different parts of the store for work assignments.
Solution: A personal paging device, which was worn on the wrist or belt and which vibrated when activated by an incoming signal, was purchased for the employee. When signaled, the employee immediately went to the office for specific instructions. In this way, the employer could be sure that the employee both heard and understood his assigned tasks. Cost: $350
Problem: A clerk whose job duties included delivering files and paperwork to various areas in a multistory building had multiple sclerosis which gradually made it very difficult to move quickly and to carry heavy packages.
Solution: A lightweight, motorized three-wheeled scooter with a basket was purchased for the employee. Cost: $2,000
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disabilitiy Employment Policy, October 1993