Job accommodations for people with disabilities

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 20, 2017 # Mobility

Employing people who are disabled is a win-win situation for both the employee as well as the employer. For the employee, having a job brings a sense of purpose and the satisfaction that a piece of normality has returned to their life. For the employer, it provides the opportunity to enhance their business by utilizing the skills and talent of people who happen to be disabled. People with disabilities can offer employers a competitive edge, helping diversify and strengthen the workplace through different perspectives on how to confront challenges and solve problems.

Despite the positive outcome for both employer and employee as noted above, the reality of employing people who are disabled is reflected in the following statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for September 2017. The labor force participation rate for people with disabilities is 21.2% while the rate for people without disabilities is 68.7%. The gap extends to the unemployment rate as well: which is 7.5% for people with disabilities as compared to the 3.9% rate for people who are not disabled.

For those who are about to enter or re-enter the workforce needing accommodations in order to be able to perform their job duties, there are many resources available to you to help you along the way, such as the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN is the leading source of expert advice on workplace accommodations and provides one-on-one consultation to employers and employees, as well as service providers, all free of charge!

Accommodations vary, of course, from person to person, depending upon their individual needs. However, in general, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides for reasonable accommodations in three areas: in the job application process; in necessary changes to the physical environment or modifications to the way the job is performed; and in other changes that would enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its employees without disabilities. Instituting flexible work hours is also a reasonable accommodation that employers can make to attract and keep their valued employees. Working together, the employee and employer can decide which accommodations need to be made or implemented.

On a personal note, I have a spinal cord injury and have found that one should not be afraid to ask for accommodations as many are no or low cost. An example of a no cost accommodation would be asking for a table to be raised on blocks so a wheelchair could fit under it. Asking for a reacher to be purchased might solve the issue of reaching materials on high shelves and is low cost. A special mouse might be needed for those with impaired hand function who need to use a computer for their job.

The Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center has a factsheet on employment for people with disabilities and on a variety of other topics as well. If you have questions or wish to obtain more information, please call (800) 539-7309.

By Donna Lowich. Donna is a Senior Information Specialist and has worked at the Paralysis Resource Center at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for the past fifteen years.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.