The term “reasonable accommodations” refers to changes in the workplace that enable people with disabilities to effectively perform the tasks associated with their job. Accommodations can help people with learning disabilities do their work well, even when their disability gets in the way of doing the work. Accommodations can include variations in: work space and equipment needed to do the task; communication of the work; the tasks themselves; and the time and place that the work is done.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that reasonable accommodations be made by employers who have 15 or more employees. Accommodations should be based on the specific needs of the individual with learning disabilities. Employers can claim that a given accommodation is an undue hardship, and can propose a different one. The process of negotiating for reasonable accommodations is one of give and take.
You can request accommodations even if your employer has fewer than 15 workers on the job. It is to your supervisor’s advantage to help you be productive. Even people with learning disabilities who work for themselves need to think about how to incorporate accommodations into their work routines. They must identify their areas of strength and figure out how to get around areas of weakness.
The following can help you determine what kind of accommodations might be useful to overcome difficulties in the workplace:
Job Problem: You have severe difficulty reading
- Get voice output on your work computer.
- Ask someone to read to you.
- Have people read written notes on your voicemail.
- Request that your boss gives you oral rather than written directions.
- Ask that important information be highlighted.
- Use a reading machine.
- Have people talk to you instead of writing you letters.
Job Problem: Your reading problem is not severe, but it is still hard for you to read large amounts of material
- Attend meetings about the material.
- Discuss the material with co-workers.
- Obtain taped versions of documents.
- Ask someone to tell you the key points.
- Manage your work so that you have enough time to read what is required to get the job done.
- Get information from drawings, diagrams, and flow charts. Your supervisor, team members, or subordinates may be able to organize some information in this way.
- Use voice output on your computer.
- Request shorter versions of documents.
Job Problem: You have difficulty following spoken directions
- Ask people to tell you important information slowly and clearly and in a quiet location.
- Ask people to write things down.
- Request that people follow-up their conversations with an e-mail note.
- Ask people to demonstrate tasks, then watch you do it.
- Take notes and ask your supervisor to review them, or write a memo that summarizes the information.
- Repeat instructions back to people, making sure they verify that your interpretation is correct.
- Tape-record important procedures and instructions so you can playback and review as needed.
- Ask several people for feedback about how to do a task.
Job Problem: When you copy or calculate figures, you tend to reverse or confuse number sequences
- Say aloud each number as you write or type it to ensure that it is correct.
- Do calculations twice, checking to see if the answers are the same.
- Use a talking calculator.
Job problem: You have short-term memory problems (details such as names and numbers tend to be easily forgotten)
- Use mnemonic devices to remember sets of information. For example, HOMES is the acronym for the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.
- Create charts (often called graphic organizers) that allow you to quickly find the information you want.
- Use web tools such as Evernote which allow you to copy and paste information from websites, create diagrams, record information, and add comments and tags to information that you find. You can send the material to your computer, cell phone, or handheld device and access it.
- Think about new information and try to associate new ideas with facts that are already familiar.
- Make good use of your computer software. Sometimes, well-designed menus and help features can assist you.
- Use a miniature tape recorder or voice organizer.
- Have co-workers check with you to be sure that you understand. Repeat back while they confirm.
- ./=Obtain information ahead of time (such as a list of conference participants so you can review names and affiliations ahead of time).
These ideas may help you think about effective accommodations. Always try to get along without the accommodation from time to time to see if you still need it. Remember that you can do the job as well as everyone else even though you are doing it in a different way. On many occasions, accommodations for people with learning disabilities have been adopted by other people in the office, raising productivity for everyone.