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Employers that accommodate people with disabilities may benefit financially.

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Work-Based Learning FAQ

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Q. FACULTY: How can faculty support students with disabilities in work-based learning opportunities?

A. Faculty can invite staff members from cooperative education, career services, and other campus programs to speak in their classes to encourage all students to participate. They should mention that disability-related accommodations are provided. Faculty can encourage employers to recruit students with disabilities for work opportunities as well. Faculty can also work cooperatively with a student who has a disability, employers, career counselors and the disabled student services staff to encourage him to pursue work opportunities and discuss accommodations that work.

Q. BENEFITS FOR STUDENTS: What are the benefits of work-based learning for students with disabilities?

A. Work-based learning can help students clarify their career choices, network with potential employers and develop job skills specific to their areas of interest. In addition, students are given a context to apply practical theories from classroom work, develop human relations skills through interaction with co-workers and gain exposure to specialized facilities that are not available on campus. Students can also develop job search skills, resumes, and cover letters.

Q. FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Who is responsible for paying for work-based learning accommodations?

A. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability in the workplace. Employers must provide job accommodations to otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, and are therefore financially responsible. In work-based learning programs associated with your institution, the college or university may share some of the costs associated with the accommodations. The campus disabled student services office should work with the employer to assure that students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations at the job site and determine the financial liabilities.

Q. JOB VS. CLASSROOM: Will students need the same accommodations in the job as they do in the classroom?

A. Perhaps. This depends on the needs of each student and the job requirements. For example, a blind student doing computer-based work will probably use the same type of adaptive technology (e.g., a screen reader and Braille printer) in the workplace. Printed material required for the job may need to be transcribed into Braille, presented verbally or on audiotape, or delivered via electronic mail. Students who are deaf may need a Sign Language interpreter or real-time captioning during meetings or seminars. It is best for the individual student and his supervisor to discuss job tasks and the appropriate accommodations.

Q. JOB ACCOMMODATIONS: How does an employer determine what kind of job accommodations are required when hiring a person with a disability?

A. The employee is required to disclose his disability and request accommodations. Employers can work with the employee and vocational rehabilitation counselors or disabled student services staff to determine what job accommodations are needed. They should consider how the job can be modified, or what assistive devices can be purchased to allow the person to perform the essential job requirements.

Q. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS: Should a student with a disability be encouraged to choose a different career if the job requires excessive accommodations?

A. The law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to perform essential job functions. Students with disabilities should be encouraged to seek jobs and careers based on their interests and aptitudes. Work-based learning opportunities can provide excellent opportunities for students to experiment with various job responsibilities and accommodations. Some individuals will need more accommodations than others based on their own needs and the job requirements. Finding a mentor with similar career interests and disability may be a helpful way to find creative and practical solutions to disability-related challenges related to specific careers.

For answers to more questions, search the Knowledge Base.