Assistive Technologies Research: Employment

Assistive technology and employment: experiences of Californians with disabilities.

Yeager P, Kaye HS, Reed M, Doe TM.  California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, Sacramento, CA, USA.  Work. 2006;27(4):333-44.

For people with disabilities, work remains the best route to independence and enacting one’s own choices. Assistive technology (AT) is often crucial in removing barriers to employment, and in enabling workers with disabilities to work more productively. A participatory action research project known as Community Research for Assistive Technology surveyed people with disabilities using Independent Living Centers throughout California, in part to identify barriers to employment and study use of job-related AT to overcome such barriers. Across disability groups, disability itself was cited as the primary barrier to employment, with potential loss of benefits and lack of education cited as secondary barriers. A majority of working respondents reported using assistive technology (such as adapted telephones, wheelchairs, magnifiers, and adapted computer equipment) or services to perform job functions. The vast majority of those using job-related AT reported substantial benefits to their productivity and self-esteem. Employees’ requests for AT as a workplace accommodation were granted more often than not, but many other employees had to pay for their own workplace AT.


Assistive technology outcomes in work settings.

Schwanke TD, Smith RO.  Rehabilitation Research Design and Disability (R2 D2) Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA.  Work. 2005;24(2):195-204.

Successfully documenting the outcomes of assistive technology (AT) interventions in the workplace benefits people with disabilities, service providers and agencies. However, no work related system currently exists that comprehensively collects the data needed to analyze such outcomes. Part of the reason for this absence of an outcome system is that, while the concept is simple, the process is complex and depends on the acquisition of data that represent many outcomes related variables. This article describes the exploratory work of the NIDRR (National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research) funded ATOMS Project (Assistive Technology Outcomes Measurement System) and its efforts to identify existing data that might be used as the basis for an outcomes measurement system. Sample records from four assistive technology service programs were acquired and evaluated for the data they housed. This study discovered that AT service programs fail to collect consistent or sufficient data for outcomes analysis. However, discussions with AT programs that provided services to State vocational rehabilitation agencies revealed an interesting potential. Assistive technology service data in combination with data collected by State vocational rehabilitation departments might coalesce the needed data. The Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) 911 Report aggregates many variables of outcomes related information including employment status and the success of the vocational rehabilitation investment. This combined database could answer a range of assistive technology outcomes related questions of interest to service providers, people with disabilities, and vocational rehabilitation State agencies. This paper describes the data needed in an outcomes system, reviews the data that appear to be available today related to AT outcomes, and projects how data from two diverse programs might be used together to create a significant outcomes database.


A framework for providing telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation: some considerations on a comparative case study.

Kaplan S, Weiss S, Moon NW, Baker P.  Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA.  Work. 2006;27(4):431-40.

Telecommuting, whether full time, part time, or over short periods when the need arises, can be an important accommodation for employees with disabilities. Indeed, telecommuting may be the only form of accommodation that offers employees whose disabilities fluctuate a means to stay consistently and gainfully employed. This article describes one employer’s experience in considering a request for telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation for a particular employee. Drawing on real-life examples, both positive and negative, this article provides a win/win framework for decision-making that can help employers evaluate the use of telecommuting as a possible accommodation and facilitates open and ongoing communication between employer and employee.


Informed decision making on assistive technology workplace accommodations for people with visual impairments.

Gamble MJ, Dowler DL, Hirsh AE.  Job Accommodation Network, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA.  Work. 2004;23(2):123-30.

Underemployment of people with visual impairments is an important problem in the world of work. Barriers to successful employment include the lack of informed decision making concerning AT as a workplace accommodation. Choosing effective Assistive Technology (AT) as an accommodation solution is imperative to successful employment of individuals with vision impairments. While not all jobs require AT as a part of an accommodation, when AT is needed, an informed choice is the best approach. This article describes the five step process for selecting appropriate AT for individuals with vision impairments in workplace accommodations developed by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). Cases from the JAN database that involve people with vision impairments were examined. Resources to enable readers to further evaluate and implement effective AT solutions are provided.


User needs evaluation of workplace accommodations.

Williams M, Sabata D, Zolna J.  Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA.  Work. 2006;27(4):355-62.

This study examined the multi-faceted issues surrounding workplace accommodation for workers with disabilities. A user needs survey of 510 disabled individuals examined the types of technology and accommodations needed to perform work and employment-related activities. Workers with disabilities used a variety of workplace accommodations to overcome difficulties with functional limitations. Some differences existed in the types of accommodations used by older and younger workers who had the same functional limitation. Workers of all ages were not likely to report mental limitations, and those who did were not likely to utilize workplace accommodations, with the exception of some memory strategies. For those with hearing loss, younger workers used sign language more frequently, while pre-retirement and retirement age workers used more hearing aids. Working age adults with vision impairments used electronic documents, Braille, and CCTVs more than pre-retirement or retirement age workers. Regardless of age, workers reporting functional limitations often received no workplace accommodations.