Job accommodation for people with learning disabilities requires a partnership between the employee with a learning disability and company representatives. If a labor union exists, their personnel can be helpful. All parties must work together to come up with the best way for the person to do the job. The job accommodation process is similar to many workplace problems which are solved through research and common sense. Teamwork results in effective solutions. During the problem-solving phase of job accommodation, Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a helpful resource.
JAN has a team of people with expertise in learning disabilities. The service is available free and can offer practical suggestions to improve productivity of workers with learning disabilities. JAN developed a large data base of solutions to accommodation problems and is available if the employee or person with a learning disability needs technical assistance. The phone numbers are: 1-800-526-7234 (nationally, outside of West Virginia) and 1-800-526-4698 (West Virginia).
The following sample accommodations for people with learning disabilities were developed in response to numerous requests from employers and people with learning disabilities who wanted ideas. They are not necessarily the only or the best solutions. Accommodations are made on an individual basis, one at a time, so there could be several possibilities if an employer or an employee faces a similar situation. However, they can give the person who is inexperienced in hiring people with disabilities ideas for some accommodations that have been achieved. They make it easier to begin working together for change.
An employee had difficulty reading instructions.
- A coworker was assigned to read to the employee.
- Written communications were put on the employee's voice mail.
- Supervisor gave instructions verbally.
- Important information was highlighted and the employee read only that information.
An employee consistently turned in reports that had misspellings and grammatical errors.
- The employee was instructed on how to use spellcheck and grammarcheck. Their articles were proofread by another employee to catch the errors that involved correctly spelled words.
- Secretarial services were provided for the employee.
The employee frequently made errors in following directions.
- The supervisor made sure that instructions were given slowly and clearly in a quiet location.
- The supervisor wrote down important instructions.
- The employee took notes on directions and wrote down the instructions for the supervisor to review prior to starting tasks.
- The employee repeated instructions to the supervisor.
The employee frequently forgot procedures.
- Pictures were put up at the workstation as a reminder of the procedures.
- Employee used mnemonic devices and acronyms.
- Employee drew diagrams/flow charts as an aid to memory.
The employee transposed numbers frequently while doing mathematical calculations.
- Employee stated numbers aloud when writing them down and touched numbers to be sure they were correct.
- Employee used a talking calculator.
Employee had difficulty in time management and meeting deadlines.
- Supervisor taught the employee to use daily calendar and an alarm feature on the computer which rang and put a written reminder on the screen for specific deadlines.
- Employee used a signal watch.
- Employee learned to prioritize tasks and improved time management skills.
Employee could not work in an open space environment because of distractibility.
- Employee was given a private office.
- Employee was allowed to work at home on occasion.
- Employee was placed in the quietest possible location and permitted to use library and offices of supervisors, if the offices were not in use.
Acknowledgement: Verna Lacey, Polaroid Corporation, made significant contributions to this article. I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities who assisted me in the preparation of Job Accommodation Ideas.