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Workplace Personal Assistance Service and Assistive Technology (Article)

by Wendy Strobel and Jennifer Todd McDonough

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Independence and efficiency are important factors in today's workplace. Many of the accommodations made on the job are aimed at increasing autonomy and productivity. In this paper the authors provide an example of how assistive technology can complement the workplace personal assistant. For example, they present a young man named John who works for a heat exchange manufacturing plant and is responsible for assembling three types of sales binders. John uses a wheelchair and was unable to access much of the material which was located on an 8 foot high shelving unit. To rectify this problem, John asked his personal assistant to aid him in identifying the most frequently used material. This information was then placed on a "lazy Susan" file added to the corner of John's desk. Less frequently used materials were placed within his reach on the shelving unit. John could not perform many of the functions of the binding tasks independent of the assistance of his personal assistant.

The authors identify 6 important competencies for potential users of assistive technology and they are:

  1. Awareness of Technology

  2. Awareness of Disability

  3. Awareness of Job Tasks

  4. Awareness of Training

  5. Awareness of Maintenance Options

  6. Awareness of Funding Options

In this excellent paper, the authors discuss the application of assistive technology to the work environment. They also discuss the impact of disability and environment on assistive technology, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, how to select and utilize assistive technology at the workplace. Perhaps one of the biggest issues related to application of assistive technology is professionals and persons with disability alike, do not know how to select and utilize appropriate assistive technology. Often cost is seen as a major barrier and yet according to the job accommodation network, based at West Virginia University, over 80% of accommodations cost less than $500. The authors go on and describe a number of sources where funds can be found to fund assistive technology.