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Successful Job Placement and Retention Through Workplace Accommodation Identification

My previous post provided an overview of the types of task challenges faced by people with disabilities, and the need to understand these challenges in order to determine the appropriate accommodations.  This post explores accommodation options for various types of barriers to work performance, as well as how to request them.  For the purpose of this article, accommodations refer to strategies, adaptations or job modifications that can be applied to allow the employee to work effectively and efficiently.  The following are some typical accommodations that are most often needed in the following areas of functioning:

Stamina and Work Speed:  extra breaks as required; elimination of strenuous activities, adjustment of duties or job sharing; permission to work at their own pace; flexible or reduced work hours; and permission to work from home

Mobility and Motor Functioning:  wheelchair accessibility; close proximity to facilities; positioning equipment and materials within reach; an ergonomically designed, adjustable height sit/stand workstation; assistive devices for motor control (writing/grip aids, touch pad, trackball or head pointing system); mechanical lifting devices; stand/lean stools or anti-fatigue mats; and adjustment of non-essential job duties

Vision:  printed material in larger font; natural or full spectrum lighting; tinted eye wear or shaded windows; colour overlays or transparencies; adaptive computer technology (text to speech, zoom magnification); Braille; tactile materials for the blind; and a global positioning system compass or other talking landmark device

Hearing:  elimination or reduction of sources of background noise; strategic lighting and seating arrangements to reduce glare and provide a good view of the speaker; adaptive telephone technology (headsets and speaker phones for hard of hearing); sign language (ASL) interpreter; close captioning; setting the context for messages; providing written material in advance; speaking clearly with an unobstructed view of the mouth; and maintaining eye contact

Literacy:  material that is written in clear language; converting written information into a checklist format; a reading pen that scans and defines words; voice output, screen reading or literacy software; and manual or electric handwriting, line, form cheque or column guides

Numeracy:  computer assisted instruction software such as MathTalk; a talking calculator with enhanced functioning (fractional, decimal, statistical, scientific, construction); talking measurement instruments (tape measure, scales, multimeter, micrometer, caliper, stud finder, level); and premeasurement guides or jigs

Attention, Learning and Memory:  a quiet environment or private work area; a noise cancelling headset or white noise machine; an alternative teaching modality that matches the person’s learning style; extra time to learn tasks; an extended probationary period; a note taker or voice activated recorder; job coaching or mentoring; job sharing or restructuring; verbal, written or visual cues; safely secured lists of important factual information; and verbal or email reminders of important deadlines

Organization, Time Management and Multitasking:  a flowchart of steps involved in a task and categorized flowchart of tasks to be performed simultaneously or separately; dividing larger assignments into smaller tasks; permission to complete one task or project at a time; a daily/weekly planner or electronic organizer with a colour-coded system representing the task or event and level of importance; and a workstation providing adequate space for writing, supplies and work in progress

Supervision:  a written contract outlining responsibilities, expectations and accommodations; ongoing support, positive feedback and encouragement or weekly/monthly check-ins with the supervisor to discuss progress, issues and ways of handling problems before they emerge

Mental Health:  time off for doctor’s appointments,; immediate telephone access as needed to a mental health professional; permission for time out to regroup; limiting social conversations to areas away from the immediate work area; freedom to refrain from job related social functions; permission to transfer to another team, department or shift in the event of interpersonal conflict; and advance notice of changes including a transitional meeting with the new manager

Environment:  a smoke, chemical and perfume free facility; avoidance of or protection from high levels of radiation; permission to take breaks for fresh air; alternative working arrangements during construction; and nontoxic forms of pest control

Transportation:  a car pool, designated company or personal driver or use of taxis; an electric bike or moped; assigning nonessential duties requiring driving to another employee; and coordinating work hours with public transit schedules

The Job Accommodation Network (jan.wvu.edu) and Tetra Society (tetrasociety.org) are good resources for help with identifying appropriate accommodations for individual clients, or for developing unique assistive devices based on individual need.

Once suitable accommodations are identified, it is important to disclose to an employer the need for such accommodations in an appropriate manner.  This can be done through an accommodation request letter, which can be presented before or after a job interview or when offered a position.  The accommodation request letter is a good self advocacy tool for asserting your client’s rights and needs while reiterating their strengths and suitability to the position.  It explains in a clear, concise and positive way:

  • the skills and experience they have to do the essential duties of the job
  • the existence of their disability and need for accommodations on the job
  • the type of disability they have, the tasks that are difficult for them to do, and how the disability affects their performance of these tasks
  • the adaptive coping strategies they used in the past; and
  • the accommodations they will need for the position offered to them

This letter is concluded with an invitation to the employer to provide feedback on recommended strategies and accommodations.

Given the current model of service delivery, recognition of and negotiation for job accommodations will improve the chances of job placement and retention while validating the effectiveness of the agency, thereby increasing the likelihood of continued government funding.

 

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Denise Feltham
Designer of D.I.C.E. (Disability Impact on Career/Employment). Owner/Operator of D.I.C.E. Assessment & Employment Counselling Services Bachelor of Social Work Degree (Ryerson University). Career & Work Counsellor Diploma (George Brown College) Life Skills Coach Certification (Levels I & II) - YWCA

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