A reasonable accommodation is
"Any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities." (Source: EEOC)
Accommodations take the form of job restructuring, strategies, policy changes, environmental modifications, or the use of assistive or universally designed technologies.
One approach to making a job accessible is to change the job itself or workplace policies that impact how the job is done. Non-essential tasks might be eliminated or reassigned to another employee. Changes in where the job is performed might be considered. Job restructuring often allows an injured employee to return to work sooner, avoiding long-term disability.
Example: A professor has medical issues that prevent him from being on campus full-time. A possible accommodation might be for him to teach one of his classes via distance education for a semester.
Another non-tech approach to accommodations is to use strategies that help with the performance of job tasks. This may involve developing a procedure to follow, using alternative formats for materials, using qualified readers or interpreters, or finding another way to perform a task.
Example: A teacher with a mobility impairment has students come up to her desk to ask questions rather than going to them.
Modifications may be needed to make the job site accessible. This includes addressing issues of accessible parking, getting into and around the school and classroom, and using other areas such as the restroom. This may require changes to the built environment, including adding ramps or widening doors.
As discussed in the section on legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act mandates access to public facilities, and various guidelines and building codes provide specifications on how this should be done. It should be remembered, however, that these specifications are for access of the general public to the building, and they may not meet the needs of a specific employee. Thus, an accessible entrance may be provided, but it may not meet the needs of an educator who needs an accessible entrance closer to his or her classroom.
Technology solutions might also be tried. Assistive technology is technology that is used by a person with a disability to make a task accessible. An example may be a magnifier that can be used to help an individual read the display on a cell phone. Other examples may include:
In contrast, universally designed technologies are those designed with accessibility in mind. Thus, a standard off-the-shelf device may be usable without additional assistive technology. An example may be a cell phone that was designed with a large, high contrast display.
When a technology solution is needed, commercially available solutions should be considered first, followed by creative uses or combinations of commercially available technologies. If no effective solution can be found, a commercial device may be modified, or a custom device may be designed.
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