Current and Future Directions in Workplace Accommodation Research
Applications of technology to the needs of people with disabilities
The RERC on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC) identifies and develops new technologies that maximize independence and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. This session will summarize findings from the RERC’s research projects and state of the science conference, and will discuss their implications for future workplace accommodation research.
The RERC on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC) identifies, develops and promotes new assistive and universally designed technologies that maximize independence and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. This session will highlight findings from the center's ongoing research projects on the use of job accommodations and from the state of the science conference held last year. Discussion will then focus on the implications of these finding for other NIDRR projects and for future workplace accommodation research.
A major focus of the RERC has been on studying best practices for workplace accommodation. In short, we want to know more about what accommodations work for which employees with disabilities, and in which settings. During last year's conference, we described our national survey of employees with disabilities about their job accommodation use. This year, we have completed further analysis and conducted follow-up surveys to learn more about the accommodation gaps reported. For example, people with vision impairments reported very high importance for accommodations used to access written materials – but low satisfaction with these accommodations. Why? This information can then be used to guide workplace accommodation policy and practice, as well as identify gaps for that might be addressed with further projects.
Accommodations may be needed not only for work activities, but also to enable participation in the workplace. Participation reflects a complex relationship between a perso's impairment, functional needs, and health, and the physical and social context of the work environment. It encompasses a sense of inclusion and belonging in the workplace. Employees who used mobility devices were interviewed to depict workplace participation and its relationships to health/functional needs, activity, and contextual factors based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF). The discussion will focus on the survey instrument on workplace participation (Workplace Participation Survey) that was developed from this project, and detail how physical and social work contexts influence workplace participation.
In addition to studying accommodation use, it is important to share what we have learned with the people making decisions about accommodations. An accommodation expert system was developed to help employers meet simple accommodation needs, while letting them know when a specialist needs to be consulted. The system will be demonstrated during the session.
Finally, just prior to last year's NARRTC conference, the Work RERC conducted a State of the Science Conference on Workplace Accommodations that focused on emerging technologies that may hold promise as workplace accommodations. For example, tele-robotics, which combines a remote controlled base with video conferencing capability, has the potential to enable teleworkers to interact with their coworkers back in the office, thus improving communication as well as workplace participation. It might also be used as a platform for providing job coaching. Another technology, immersive gaming, is already being used as a training platform. In the workplace, this type of technology might be used to help employees learn job tasks, or to provide a way for employers to practice interactions with employees with disabilities. These and other potential applications will be discussed.