Low Cost, High Impact Workplace Accommodations

Photo of man using assistive technology and a computer.

Low Cost, High Impact Workplace Accommodations

Some businesses and employers assume that employing people with disabilities will affect their bottom line. Research is proving, however, that accommodating an employee can be low-to-no cost and benefit the workplace.

Employing people with disabilities offers multiple benefits to your business, including diversifying the worksite and creating a positive environment for all. Providing accommodations for new and established employees can be inexpensive and offer higher productivity, attendance, and better relationships with your employees.

Why It Is Important to Accommodate People with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations. However, there are reasons to accommodate people beyond the law. Employers find direct and indirect benefits of hiring and keeping workers with disabilities. An Economic Impact Study conducted by a research team at DePaul University found that employers “described their employees with disabilities as loyal, reliable, and hardworking.” They also found that providing accommodations increased employee attendance, increased employee and company productivity, eliminated the cost of training a new employee, and helped retain valuable employees. Over half the employers found that accommodations also improved interactions with coworkers and boosted company morale.

A common assumption is people with disabilities cost more, but this is not true. A study by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) found that over half of the employers surveyed made accommodations that did not cost them anything.

Low Cost, High Impact Ways to Accommodate

Employees with disabilities are not the only ones who benefit from workplace accommodations.  In fact, most work-place technology and equipment help get jobs done more easily and with less stress.  Some examples of work-place technology and equipment that may help improve job performance include:

  • Trackball mouse
  • Ergonomic keyboard
  • Computer with voice output
  • Larger buttons or text on equipment
  • Speech-to-text software
  • Text-to-speech software
  • A cart with wheels to move large items
  • Grip aids on dry erase markers
  • Memory aids such as timers or written reminders
  • Remotes that turn off appliances, lights, radio, or computers
  • Telephone auto-dialer
  • Colored labeling
  • Large-print materials
  • Recorded video or audio meetings
  • Adjustable desk heights or sitting-to-standing desk

For more information on Accessible technology, visit the AccessibleTech.org website.

Making Your Worksite Accessible

Only a small percentage of disabilities are visible; other disabilities require different types of accommodations. Consider these ways an employer can make an accessible and comfortable workplace for everyone:

  • Noise reduction practices or white noise machines
  • Enclosed office or meeting spaces
  • Fragrance-free
  • Soft lighting
  • Comfortable seating
  • Stools for standing or leaning
  • Fire alarms with visual and auditory alerting

Adjusting Work Practices and Schedules

Most people can benefit from a flexible schedule at some point in their employment.  Whether it is managing medication side effects, pain episodes, fatigue, or day care for an infant, sometimes a strict schedule may not work.

Restructuring a job can be as simple as sharing assignments in an email vs. verbally or relocating an employee to a shared space with better accommodations. Other ways an employer can restructure a job include:

  • Changing job requirements
  • Adding flexibility for breaks to those who may need to take medicine or become fatigued quickly
  • Letting an employee work part-time from home, if possible
  • Allowing an employee to temporarily reduce their hours to accommodate a health or family issue

Accommodations Benefit Everyone

The bottom line is that good employees are hard to find and retain, and employer accommodations can go a long way towards keeping them.

For more information:

If you are having trouble understanding how to accommodate an employee, JAN has a Workplace Accommodation Toolkit. 

Photo courtesy of the Healthy Community Living flickr page.