Module 8 - Assistive Technology in Work Settings (P.3 of 6)

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What Employers Should Know About Providing Assistive Technology

As previously mentioned, the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. These accommodations typically refer to either an AT device or workplace modification or job modification. The word reasonable also covers the employers in this case. A reasonable accommodation is one that would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation (EEOC, 1997). If the requested accommodation is seen as an undue hardship, the employer should work with the employee to find a solution that works for both parties. For example, an assembly line worker acquires a disability that requires him to use a wheelchair and from is wheelchair, he can no longer reach the part of the line he used to work on. If he were to request that the entire line be lowered so he could reach, that would be considered an accommodation that would cause undue hardship on the company. A better solution may be to find the employee another job within the company with similar pay that he could perform with simpler modifications.

Assistive Technology Factors For Employers To Consider

Providing employees with disabilities with work accommodations can do much more than simply bring a business to compliance with disability related laws. When forming a policy on AT usage and willingness to accommodate employees, the employer should consider these factors.

  • The willingness to use AT can be used as a means of retaining and recruiting employees.

    • Making an accommodation to retain an employee with a disability can often be less expensive than recruiting and training a new employee.

    • Companies with a history of willingly providing necessary accommodations to employees with disabilities have a recruiting edge when attempting to hire a talented individual with a disability. 

  • There is the old business saying that says “Diverse workforce may equal diverse clientele”. Willingness to accommodate employees with disabilities will reflect well on potential clients with special needs.

  • AT accommodations are becoming more commonplace in the workplace as what used to be considered AT is no being incorporated into technology as universal design elements and as the average age of adults in the workforce continues to increase.  

  • AT accommodations can be viewed as tool for increasing job satisfaction and morale among employees with and without disabilities.

Showing willingness to work with employees can be a great benefit to the company, not to mention, it is the right thing to do.

(Cleghorn, 2002).