The most commonly requested accommodation in the workplace is assistive technology such as adapted computers, hearing aids, wheelchair ramps, speech communication devices, Braille note taking computers, etc. In general, requests for assistive technology are seen as reasonable if no undue burden is involved. This means that unless an accommodation would incur unreasonably large expenses, an employer must make an effort to meet the needs of an employee with a disability.
Since 1990, assistive technology (AT) has improved opportunities for successful implementation of the ADA’s equal employment provisions. Unfortunately, employers may decide to not hire a disabled applicant simply because they lack knowledge about the use of assistive technology.
There are a number of AT services that are available to make the accommodation process easier. These services may include “(1) evaluation of the AT needs; (2) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise acquiring the AT; (3) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing AT devices; (4) coordination and use of therapies, interventions, or services with AT devices; (5) training or technical assistance for individuals with disabilities, professionals, employers, or other individuals providing services to individuals with disabilities.” See http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/hr_tips/ for more information.
As with most situations involving people with disabilities, there are several myths about assistive technology. These include employers believing that AT is a luxury, costs will be too high, execution is too complicated, and thinking that a medical or other professional must be involved. Next time you request accommodations or an employer is unaware of how to meet these requests, follow these steps.
- First, develop a partnership with the employer and work together to identify the most doable AT.
- Second, emphasize your abilities and not your disabilities. This will help prevent an employer from holding stereotypical beliefs. On the flip side, employers should not focus on your limitations, but rather individual capabilities.
- Third, we all have different needs, and developing a unique solution can be crucial. An employer should view each request on an individual basis.
- Fourth, try to keep requests simple to avoid confusion. Moreover, employers are more likely to accept the proposed accommodation if costs are minimal and will not involve expensive repairs.
- Finally, the employer should view the situation holistically by determining all the positives and negatives of the accommodation request.
Regardless, as people with disabilities, we have the right to AT as a reasonable accommodation. The ADA was created to guarantee equal opportunity for people with disabilities and AT is simply a means of accomplishing this goal. In your experience, do requests for accommodations result in a favorable outcome for both employer and employee, or is one disadvantaged by the end result? In knowing the viewpoint of each involved party, an outcome that is agreeable to both is possible.
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