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A Retrospective Analysis of Recommendations for Workplace Accommodations for Persons With Mobility and Sensory Limitations

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A Retrospective Analysis of Recommendations for Workplace Accommodations for Persons With Mobility and Sensory Limitations
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    RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS   A RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PERSONS WITH MOBILITY AND SENSORY LIMITATIONS Dory Sabata, OTD, OTR/L 1* , Michael D. Williams, Ph.D.,* , ** Karen Milchus, MS, ATP,* Paul M. A. Baker, Ph.D.,* Jon A. Sanford, M.Arch * , ** * Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations, Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia ** Atlanta VA Medical Center, Decatur, Georgia    RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS  Acknowledgements: This research of the RERC on Workplace Accommodations was supported by Grant H133E020720 of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. Authors thank Tina Butterfield, Hunter Ramseur, Sarah Endicott and Glenn Moscoso for their contributions to this research. 1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dory Sabata, Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, Georgia Institute of Technology, 490 10th St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 phone: (404) 894-0953, fax (404) 894-9320    RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS   Abstract Many studies of workplace accommodations have primarily focused on a particular disability or functional limitation. The need exists for a broad based study of the types and frequency of accommodations recommended for a variety of functional limitations, including multiple limitations. Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of 266 persons who received vocational rehabilitation assessment to determine the frequency and types of recommended workplace accommodations. Computer systems/components and special tools/furnishings were the most frequently reported types of recommendations, regardless of functional limitation, while adaptive strategies were least likely to be suggested. In general, most job accommodation recommendations targeted the individual work space and were intended to assist in the completion of specific job tasks. Findings indicate that recommendations for workplace accommodations were surprisingly similar across all functional limitation groups.   Key words: workplace accommodations, functional limitations, assistive technology, adaptive strategies    RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS   BACKGROUND A large gap exists between the employment rates of persons with a work-limiting disability (20.7%) and persons without a disability (78%) (Cornell University, 2003). Moreover, of the estimated 33 million working age adults (16-64) living with a disability, nearly two-thirds (21.3 million) have a condition that directly impacts their ability to sustain employment (Waldrop & Stern, 2003). Workplace accommodations are an important strategy to reduce work demands and facilitate the completion of job tasks by persons with disabilities (Hendricks, Batiste, Hirsh, Schartz, & Blanck, 2005). Nonetheless, while workplace accommodations may be necessary to support persons with various functional limitations in the workplace, few studies have been conducted which identify the types of accommodations that facilitate job performance for persons with disabilities (Butterfield & Ramseur, 2004). As a result, additional research is needed to better understand the types of workplace accommodations recommended to people with various functional limitations (Butterfield & Ramseur, 2004). Workplace accommodations can include changes to the physical workplace facility, changes to the individual workstation, or adaptive strategies. Changes to the worksite often include design features (e.g. ramp or elevator) that facilitate movement in and out of the facility and around the facility. The individual workstation can be modified by rearranging furniture, adding assistive technology (e.g. special computer mouse/keyboard, speaker phone, alternative communication device) and using special    RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS  tools and furnishings (e.g. power tools, desktop tools, filing systems, seating, desk, workbench, and materials transport device). Flexible scheduling, task modification, job coaches, personal assistance services, and additional training are some adaptive strategies. Often studies on workplace accommodations have narrowly focused on a sample of people with a specific disability or functional limitation (musculoskeletal conditions, hearing impairments, visual impairments, and communication disabilities) rather than broadly addressing all the potential job accommodations that may support employment for persons with disabilities (Barrette, Garcia, & Laroche,   2002; Hogan, Stewart, & Giles, 2006; Inge, Strobel, Wehman, Todd, & Targett, 2000; Yasuda, Wehman, Targett, Cifu, & West, 2002; and Yelin, Sonneborn, & Tripin, 2000). For example, some studies of workplace accommodations have focused on people with physical disabilities. In one study, persons with severe physical disabilities used a combination of job restructuring, training, and low-tech assistive technologies to facilitate competitive employment (Inge et al., 2000). A review paper that identified factors that affect return-to-work after a spinal cord injury discussed the importance of workplace accommodations such as assistive technologies, addressing transportation needs, and training (Yasuda et al., 2002). Another study reported the most frequent workplace accommodations provided were personal assistance, frequent breaks, flexible schedules,
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