View Resource

Identifying Relationships Between Functional Limitations, Job Accommodations, and Demographic Characteristics of Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities

Article Review:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) addresses reasonable accommodations required by individuals with disabilities to fulfill the “essential functions”

of their jobs, but those with psychiatric disabilities tend to be less readily identified than employees with physical disabilities. The Social Security Administration’s criteria for residual functional capacities (RFCs) for individuals with mental impairments include the following:

  • Understand and recall work-related instructions/procedures
  • Maintain appropriate social interactions
  • Remain on-task for the work period
  • Adapt and be independent

Challenges facing individuals with psychiatric conditions are often interpersonal and emotional rather than related to the quality of their work. Little research has been done to identify specific behavioral limitations and necessary accommodations that challenges in emotional functioning pose for this population. However, the authors cite studies which indicate that individuals with psychiatric disabilities face the greatest at-work challenges due to social/interpersonal, emotional, and cognitive issues.

The purpose of the study was to address specific emotional/behavioral challenges of workers with psychiatric disabilities and develop a taxonomy of reasonable accommodations to facilitate increased job retention for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. As such, the authors state that is among the first to provide such information. Data was collected from 191 employees participating in 22 supported employment programs over a 12-month period to determine their disability-related challenges and subsequent accommodations.

The results indicated and confirmed previous studies that limitations in cognitive functioning such as learning, memory, attention, and executive functioning offer the greatest challenges in consistent employment for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. However, those with psychotic disorders had fewer cognitive limitations and more emotional limitations that necessitated accommodations than participants without psychotic disorders. Cognitive limitations were proven to be a very consistent predictor of accommodations as well as training and oversight by supervisors and co-workers.


MacDonald, K.L., Rogers, E.S., & Massaro, J. (2003). Identifying relationships between functional limitations, job accommodations, and demographic characteristics of persons with psychiatric disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 18(1), 15-24.