Cost of workplace accommodations for individuals with disabilities: with or without personal assistance services

Tatiana I. Solovieva, Ed.D., Richard T. Walls, Ph.D., Deborah J. Hendricks, Ed.D., Denetta L. Dowler, Ed.D.

Disability and Health JournalOctober 2009 Volume 2, Issue 4, Pages 196–205



This study compared the expense associated with use of personal assistance services (PAS) for individuals with disabilities to the expense incurred by individuals with disabilities who did not use PAS. The intent of this investigation was to assess the disability accommodation costs and benefits of PAS and non-PAS cases.


The study uses 1,182 follow-up telephone surveys and 24 telephone interviews of employers who had previously contacted the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) to discuss disability-related accommodations for an employee or potential employee that were conducted from January 2004 through December 2006. The survey included 69 employers who had considered PAS. The surveys were conducted by the University of Iowa’s Law, Health Policy, and Disability Center, which contacted employers who had previously contacted JAN for consultation on workplace accommodations. The interviews were conducted by the International Center for Disability Information at West Virginia University.


Key findings point to the costs associated with PAS cases and with cases not involving PAS accommodations. As reported by the employers, the median “one-time cost” of accommodations (not $0) for non-PAS cases was $500. The median “one-time cost” of accommodations (not $0) for PAS cases was $1,850. When $0 cost of accommodations on PAS cases was factored in with “one-time cost” of accommodations for PAS cases, the median cost was $0. For non-PAS cases of accommodations, when $0 cost of accommodations was considered, the outcome was a median cost of $0. The annual cost for PAS accommodations was a median cost of $8,000 in comparison to $2,000 for non-PAS. The median dollar amount estimates of direct benefits were $1,600 for PAS accommodations, similar to $1,500 for non-PAS. The most frequently mentioned benefits from PAS accommodations were (a) increased productivity, (b) increased diversity, (c) retention of a valued employee, (d) improved interactions with co-workers, (e) increased overall company morale, and (f) increased overall company productivity.


The findings heighten awareness of the cost and benefits aspects associated with PAS for people with disabilities. Many non-PAS accommodations cost nothing to the employer (e.g., changing the work schedule, moving the individual to another location). When dollar cost was involved, the costs for PAS accommodations were more than three times greater than non-PAS accommodations.