Case Studies: Tim and Mary

Tim on the Job

tim on the job

Tim's Job Accommodations

This individual's job was restructured for him from an existing position within a large company. The employment specialist originally answered an ad for a receptionist position, which she was considering for another individual. But in evaluating the position, the employment specialist determined that the receptionist was having difficulty keeping up with her essential job function of answering the telephone. A marginal job task of assembling sales binders was taking her away from her work area leaving the phones and front desk unattended.

A business proposal was written and submitted to the employer. The proposal suggested that the job task of assembling sales binders could be restructured into a part-time position. The proposal specified that the employment specialist represented a qualified worker with a disability who could fill the position at minimum wage. The result was that the receptionist's position was restructured to eliminate the marginal task of assembling binders. The company did not need to hire an additional receptionist at a higher salary when the part-time position was opened. The employer had the same work completed at a lower cost to the company while providing a competitive employment position to the individual with a disability.

Job Task: The essential job function was to assemble binders. Each binder held sixteen pamphlets that were stored on shelving in the young man's workspace. The literature was stored flat, in a horizontal position. Due to the individual's physical disability, he was unable to pull the pieces off of the shelf without dropping them on the floor. The other challenge was transporting the material from the shelf to his workspace. If he put them on his lap, the brochures usually would become crumpled or torn. If the papers fell on the floor, he was unable to retrieve them. While these may appear to be barriers to employment, there were actually very simple solutions.
In watching how he picked up paper, it was determined that he could manage the brochures if they were stored in a vertical position. The materials also were re-organized so that those he needed more frequently were placed lower on the shelf. Those that he did not access very often were placed on the higher shelves. A coworker assisted him when he needed materials from the higher shelves that were used infrequently.
A rehabilitation engineer made the handy carrier on the side of his power chair, which essentially had a spring-loaded clamp that would pop onto the armrest. The individual could put the needed literature down into that carrier so that it would stay in good shape in transport from one area of the room to another.

The next work challenge to be solved was how the workspace could be organized to keep the sixteen pieces of literature within easy access. The coworker had been doing this task using an folding file sorter, which was too bulky and cumbersome In addition, the sorter took up entirely too much space on his workstation. The solution was to create a lazy-susan file holder, which held the sixteen pieces of literature. This could be easily rotated on top of the desk as he could assembled the literature into notebooks. This particular organizational strategy was very successful and also allowed the individual to easily keep track of which pieces of literature had been put into the binders.

Mary on the Job

mary on the job

Another challenge to solve was that the young man's speech was difficult to understand. This was of concern to the employer and coworkers in his immediate work area. Although, various solutions and strategies were suggested, the supervisor actually came up with the idea that was quite beautiful in its simplicity. She suggested that she would simply e-mail him different things that she needed to communicate and that he could respond in turn, using the e-mail system. And that's been very successful within his workplace over time. It also should be noted that the employer and coworkers have also become more accustomed to his speech and in fact are now better able to communicate verbally and not just via e-mail. This is probably not atypical or unusual in that as we become familiar with individuals, we become more able to anticipate what they are going to say within the context of conversations.

Mary's Job Accommodations

Job Duty: The job responsibilities included answering a four line telephone system, greeting customers who come into the office, and maintaining a database of customers for mailings. The individual hired for the job had excellent communication and social skills and was very motivated to work. She had never held a job other than selling cosmetics to her network of friends. Though she wanted to work, she was unable to use her hands due to a spinal cord injury. In addition, she had great difficulty with recalling information due to short term memory loss. While trying to find employment, the young woman was referred to a supported employment agency by her vocational rehabilitation counselor. The employment specialist assigned to her assisted the individual in locating a job as well as provided on-site training until she was able to perform her essential job functions independently.

 The initial work challenge was to determine how the new employee could answer the incoming telephone calls. The company was a small business with limited resources. The hand held receiver was replaced with a headset. In addition, a rehabilitation engineer made a simple lever that she lifted up and down to answer the phone. A "mouthstick" allowed her to move the lever and to press the numbers on the telephone. The mouthstick rests in a stand on her computer table.
One of the work tasks related to answering the phone was to give out standard information on the business. This presented a small challenge related to her ability to remember details. A list of commonly asked questions was posted next to the telephone and served as a very simple solution to this barrier.

 Another challenge was to determine how to take messages. The job duty required her to record the names and addresses of individuals who requested that information be mailed to them. While she could send most messages to individual voicemail boxes she needed to record addresses for mailing requests. The solution was to record the address in a tape recorder that sat at her work station. She would repeat the address to the caller and tell them that she was recording it for her records. The employee later uses Dragon Naturally Speaking, a voice activated software, to enter the requests into an office database. A coworker assists by later sending out the literature and/or information.
Please note that an accommodation for this individual also included an employment specialist on the job to assist her in learning how to use the software. Prior to employment, the woman did not have any job experiences or experience with the technology. The vocational rehabilitation counselor paid for the needed job support while the worker learned the requirements of the position. Once the individual became independent, the employer provided all supports for her to maintain employment. The employment specialist visited twice a month and kept in contact with the employer and the worker to make.


This activity was originally developed by T-TAP, funded by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (Number E 9-4-2-01217). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. Nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply the endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor.