4 Co-Worker & Peer Resources Employee Engagement How-to Tools

Accommodations for Every Disability

Individuals with disabilities are actively engaged in the workforce and are successfully meeting the needs and expectations of their employers and customers.  (http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2007/Oct2007#3a ) In a University of Massachusetts Center for Social Development and Education study of randomly selected adults from across the United States, 75% of participants reported they had either worked with someone with a disability and/or had received services as a customer of a person with a disability. Ninety-one percent of those with a disabled coworker said that the job performance of his/her coworker was “very good” or “good.” Ninety-eight percent of those who had been served by a disabled worker were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the services they received. (http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/Documents/Press_Release_Employment_Study.pdf)

In order for disabled Veterans to perform at their best and meet the needs of an employer’s customer the veteran employee may require an accommodations.  These vary with every disability. Below are some general themes that address the needs of all persons with disabilities.  It is highly encouraged that employers look at the specific information on the disability for accommodations.

Flexible Schedule
Allowing the employee to have a flexible schedule is a general theme for reasonable accommodations. Whether the person has PTSD, TBI, is in a wheelchair, an amputee, etc., these accommodations may give the employee the time needed to perform daily activities, personal needs, cope with stress, or provide stamina, among other needs. This flexible work environment includes flexible schedule, modified break schedule, time to call/leave for doctors/counseling, work from home/flexi-place, or even distance travel for access to healthcare.

Enhance Concentration
Allowing an employee to concentrate can reduce the distraction employees may have and allow them to focus on their job functions. The employer can help the employee with concentration by reducing distractions in the work area. This can be accomplished by with providing space enclosures, sound absorption panels, or a private office; allow for use of white noise or environmental sound machines; allow the employee to play soothing music using headphones and computer or music player; plan for uninterrupted work time; and purchase organizers to reduce clutter.

Studies have also shown that increased natural lighting or providing full-spectrum lighting can help increase concentration. Providing memory aids such as schedulers, organizers, or email applications can also help the employee maintain concentration and help with memory.

Concentration includes more than just physical elements, but also can include the way employees are managed. Dividing large assignments into smaller tasks and goals may help the employee concentrate on a specific task and may help with the overall project. Restructuring the job to include only the essential functions may also help with employee concentration.

Working Effectively with Supervisors
The relationship between employees and their supervisors is critical to the successful engagement and job performance of all employees and employees with disabilities are no different.  They represent some of twelve elements of great managing supported by decades of research by The Gallup Organization. (12 The Elements of Great Managing, Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter, PhD)  Certain  accommodations can include providing positive praise and reinforcement, providing written job instructions, developing a procedure to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodation, providing clear expectations and consequences of not meeting expectations, developing strategies to deal with problems before they arise, allowing open communication to managers and supervisors, and establishing written long-term and short-term goals.

Use of technology
The increasing importance of computers and new information technologies has provided special benefits for workers with disabilities by helping compensate for physical or sensory impairments (e.g., using screen-readers and voice-recognition systems) and substantially increasing their productivity. A study by Krueger and Kruse (1995) found that a) people with preexisting computer skills at the time of a spinal cord injury had a faster return to work and b) computer use especially enhanced earnings among people with spinal cord injuries; in fact, they earned the same as other computer users, whereas a substantial pay gap was associated with spinal cord injury among people who did not use computers at work. (http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2007/Oct2007#2b)

Increased use of telecommuting and flexible work arrangements
New information technologies have made home-based work more productive, which can have special benefits for people with disabilities—particularly those with transportation problems or medical concerns that require them to be close to home. In addition, the past 15 years have seen growth in other types of flexible work arrangements that can help accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, such as job-sharing and temporary agency employment. Workers with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to be doing home-based work for pay, and to be in several types of part-time and flexible job arrangements [Additional information is provided in an issue brief on "Work-Life Balance and Alternative Work Arrangements"]. Though such jobs often have disadvantages and it is clear that workers with disabilities should have full access to standard full-time jobs, the growth of several types of flexible and contingent jobs is promising for enhancing the employment of many people with disabilities who benefit from these arrangements. (http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2007/Oct2007#2b)

Growing attention to workplace diversity
Most large corporations today have diversity programs, and a growing number are including disability as one of the criteria for a diverse workforce. [This topic is reviewed in more depth in the issue brief on "Corporate Culture" ]. (http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2007/Oct2007#2b)