Are all accommodations for employees with disabilities high tech?

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High-tech accommodations tend to make the news more often than less technical ones, but most accommodations are low-tech solutions and may involve minor modifications in policy or practice. Depending on specific needs, an employee with a disability may require an accommodation that is as simple as making sure file boxes are not left in aisles. Low-tech accommodations utilize simple technology or no technology at all. Example of low-tech accommodations include

  • small raised plastic dots used to mark buttons for an employee with a visual impairment,
  • handwritten notes instead of verbal communication for an employee who is deaf,
  • alternative types of supervision for employees with cognitive impairments,
  • scheduling alternatives for those with health impairments,
  • sign language interpreters and note takers for a person who is deaf,
  • built-in telephone volume controls or existing relay services for an employee who is hard of hearing,
  • a job coach, and
  • job restructuring by re-assigning non-essential duties as needed.

Policy- and practice-based accommodations involve developing office practices in which members of the team recognize and adjust to each others' skills and needs. Even where accommodations involve computer technology, it is common for an employer to already have most if not all of the accommodations in place. For example, the trend in offices to replace paper memos with email allows employees who are blind to read intra-office communications with screen reading software they already use for other tasks.

Although some accommodations for employees with disabilities are expensive, many are not. The Job Accommodation Network has collected information from its users about the cost of accommodations. The data suggests that "more than half of all accommodations cost less than $500. Further, JAN statistics show that most employers report financial benefits from providing accommodations due to a reduction in the cost of training new employees, a reduction in the cost of insurance, and an increase in worker productivity."

A study conducted by the Sears Corporation provided data on the total cost of providing accommodations to employees with disabilities from 1978 to 1992. Of the 436 ADA-related accommodations for which data were available, 69% cost Sears nothing and included many low-tech accommodations.

Last update or review: January 18, 2013