Whether you are making accommodations for employees with disabilities, or you’re considering hiring a person with a disability, educating yourself about reasonable accommodations is important. While some employees require little or no modifications to existing facilities and policies, others may need certain modifications to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
A disability, as defined by The Equality Act 2010, is “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” Developmental conditions like down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury, and intellectual disability are all examples of disabilities.
While running a business, all employers must be prepared to accommodate employees with disabilities.
Accommodating Employees with Disabilities
What Is a “Reasonable Accommodation?”
A reasonable accommodation is a modification to the application process, job description, workflow, or work facilities that gives an employee with a disability an equal opportunity to succeed. Accommodations are considered “reasonable” when they do not constitute a direct threat or an undue hardship on the employer.
For instance, if you are located on the eighth floor of a building, it would be unreasonable to request that you move the entire company to the first floor. It would, however, be perfectly reasonable to request that the elevator be handicap accessible.
No-tech accommodations are modifications that can be made with little or no money. They just require time, effort, and creativity to implement. These can include allowing additional prep time for an employee with a disability, reassigning an employee to a more accessible department, setting up a color-coded filing system for someone with dyslexia, etc.
There are hundreds of no-tech accommodations you can make to make your employees’ lives easier. If you’re not sure how you can help, ask! People with
disabilities have been adapting to their environments for decades and sometimes their whole lives. They know better than anyone what they need to be successful.
Low-tech accommodations are modifications that are technologically simple and easy to put into place. For instance, replacing a doorknob with a more accessible handle, laying down no-slip strips or rugs on laminate flooring, or installing a balance bar in the restroom.
If you receive an employee request for a low-tech accommodation, complete it as soon as possible. If their exact request is not possible for whatever reason, sit down with your employee and work together to come up with a reasonable solution.
High-tech accommodations are modifications to the environment or procedures that involve advanced or sophisticated devices. Installing speech-to-text software, screen reading software, or self-opening doors are all high-tech but still reasonable accommodations.
No matter the type of accommodation, when someone is requesting a modification in the workplace, you should listen thoughtfully. It takes a lot of courage to advocate for yourself and many people with disabilities are very conscious of being seen as different or difficult.
Even if the request seems impossible to you as the employer, sit down with the employee and hear them out about why they’re making the request and how it will help them be more efficient and productive at work. Even if you’re not able to meet the exact request because of building codes, historical designations, electrical functionality, etc. there will always be creative solutions you can employ to make their life easier.
Job restructuring is just re-imagining how or when work is completed by a certain employee. If changing how the job is performed will affect the finished product, consider reassigning certain responsibilities to another employee.
For instance, if you have two employees who create data reports and share them with clients, but one employee has a speech impairment, consider having one employee do
the reports and the other present them to the clients.
Job restructuring can also be as simple as where and when the work is completed. Say your data entry was traditionally completed by an employee in the office. However, with modern technology, this work can be done remotely. If you have an employee with mobility issues, consider allowing them to work remotely or on a flexible schedule so they don’t have to worry about transportation and/or getting around the office.
Modified Equipment and Materials
Updating your office equipment and furniture can make a huge difference for your employees with disabilities. Desks with adjustable heights, employee handbooks in braille, and large print instructions for the visually impaired are all relatively inexpensive and easy fixes that will help tremendously.
Sometimes you might have to invest a little extra time, money, and/or effort into providing appropriate accommodations for your employees. Adding wheelchair ramps to your entrances, replacing doorknobs, ordering special software, allowing space for interpreters, aides, or service animals, for example.
Whether or not you mean them to be, some policies are inherently ableist. Forbidding food at desks, for instance, can leave a diabetic in a pinch. Time limits on breaks can disproportionately affect people with mobility issues.
Not sure where to start? Look over your policies and consider the implications of each one. Or, better yet, ask your employees for feedback. They know which policies are impeding their functionality.
Ready To Make a Change?
Interested in making your workplace more accommodating for employees with disabilities? Contact Easterseals Arkansas today. We are more than happy to help you make your workplace more inclusive and talk to you about our job placement program for people with disabilities.