Assisting Workers Identify Their On-The-Job Accommodation Needs

by Phil Rumrill

Janine is a young women who recently completed a teaching degree in elementary education. She has been offered and accepted a teaching position at a public school in her hometown. Janine is legally blind. With the first day of work approaching, Janine calls her vocational rehabilitation counselor. She has found that the essential functions of her prospective job are different than the expectation of her career-preparatory training. Janine realizes that her disability is likely to pose difficulties in a number of ways.

  • She will have difficulty reading written text. The closed-circuit magnification machine she used as an undergraduate student to read written text no longer provides adequate enlargement.
  • She cannot read the monitor on her home computer. The voice output software program that she uses to read the monitor of her home computer only works with IBM compatible systems. The computer system in her classroom is an Apple MacIntosh.
In short, the accommodations she used in her rehabilitation program are not adequate to meet her needs in the workplace.

Help is available for Janine, other workers with disabilities, and employers, in the form of the Work Experience Survey (WES). The WES is a structured interview that enables employees with disabilities to identify their needs for on-the-job accommodations in four important areas:

  • Worksite accessibility
  • Performance of essential functions
  • Job mastery
  • Job satisfaction
A trained rehabilitation professional or human resource specialist conducts the WES interview. Using the WES the worker is asked to prioritize her or his employment concerns, such as in Janine's situation, reading written materials and using the computer. The worker then suggests a reasonable accommodation for each high priority concern, such as a new, more powerful magnification machine, and an Apple compatible voice-output software program. They also identify who can help and how they can help. For instance, the Jan Accommodation Network can locate and recommend an appropriate software program.

The WES offers a structured method for orienting employees to accommodation issues at their particular worksite and enables vocational rehabilitation counselors and or human resource personnel to engage in problem solving efforts.

For more information on WES, contact Richard Roessler