Currently, only 18.7% of individuals with a disability are employed in the United States, with an unemployment rate that is double the unemployment rate for individuals with no disability. And many employers are still unsure of which accommodations they’re required to provide employees with disabilities by law, especially with the steady pace of technological innovation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employers are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with disabilities inside the workplace, including those accommodations needed for training. But it also states that such accommodations cannot cause an “undue hardship” for employers.
So, how do you know where to begin when selecting assistive training technologies and developing policies for on-the-job training for your employees with disabilities, especially because everyone is unique?
Implement Accommodations within the Parameters of Existing Job Functions
First, always see if you can easily implement accommodations within the parameters of the existing job function in which you are training the employees who need accommodations; you might find that it’s much easier than you think and that it doesn’t end up costing your organization any money.
Identify the Types of Technology Required for Accommodation
Outline whether the accommodations you’ll need are non-tech, low-tech, or high-tech. The federal Office of Disability Rights defines reasonable accommodations under those parameters.
Nontech accommodations don’t usually cost employers any extra money and are already available. For example, a manager might need to allow an employee to use speech-to-text technology in the office, which is already available in most word processors. Or, a manager conducting a demonstration training just might have to be a little more patient with an employee with a disabled ligament who is learning how to use a machine.
Low-tech accommodations are typically low-cost and are already available in the workplace or easy to acquire, like purchasing a more supportive chair or step stool or providing a magnifying glass. And high-tech accommodations are those that involve customized equipment, technology, devices, or sophisticated software.
If more high-tech or expensive accommodations are needed for your employees with disabilities to complete their on-the-job training and everyday work tasks, consider redesigning job tasks and responsibilities around what your employees can do easily and without much or any accommodation.
For instance, perhaps an employee has a learning disability and can’t remember information that is mentioned verbally so he or she needs an e-mail with updates or written notes instead of attending a weekly meeting. In that case, you would want to make it a point to take meeting notes or have an interpreter for each meeting who will jot down written notes for the employee if he or she isn’t able to write out notes.
Understand the Physical Parameters to Your Training Facility
And you’ll also want to consider physical parameters of training facilities that might need to be updated or amended during training sessions. For instance, an employee in a wheelchair might need wider aisles or ascending platforms instead of stairs.
You’ll also want to consider the training materials you use, as you might need to do things like include audio clips in visual presentations for visually impaired employees. Additionally, you’ll want to consider pain thresholds.
For instance, an employee with a disabled leg operating a machine for 4 or more hours might need a chair nearby to sit in for short stretches of time during his or her on-the-job training.
At the end of the day, most on-the-job training accommodations needed for employees with disabilities in the workplace won’t have to cost much, or anything at all, if you continue to communicate with them and address their concerns and consult the resources mentioned above in this post.