Employer Tutorial Chapter 6:

1. Take a closer look at accommodation practices in your organization.

You probably have reviewed your accommodations practices for their legal compliance. But what about practical issues around applying accommodations in real life? One company did a self-study to find out the strengths and weaknesses of their own accommodation practices. They wanted to find out answers to the following questions:

  • Do managers understand our accommodation policy? Do we need to communicate this policy better?
  • Are managers and supervisors on board with this policy?
  • What have been our real cost of accommodations?
  • Is this in line with managers’ perceptions?
  • What are some examples of accommodations that have worked and haven’t worked?
  • Have there been any unexpected benefits of accommodations?
  • Are accommodations being used to reduce off-work time?

This self-assessment showed that they needed to change how they were communicating about reasonable accommodations and they needed to provide managers with more resources to identify and sustain accommodations.


2. Look for unexpected benefits.

Many times, the search for reasonable accommodations leads to improved work processes and job aids that are adopted in other parts of the organization. In one hospital, a reasonable accommodation was made for an employee who had difficulty reading. The accommodation involved using pictures of stocked products instead of written product descriptions. This accommodation proved so effective that it was adopted by other stocking functions in the hospital and was even used in other hospitals. Reasonable accommodations can lead to innovations that extend beyond their original users.


3. Changing leaders; changing work flows

Jim, who is deaf, was hired as a computer technician. The accommodations Jim needed were minimal: co-workers sometimes needed to give him written instructions and he needed a sign language interpreter for his yearly performance review. After a brief adjustment period, Jim thrived in his job and quickly became a valued member of his team. Then, Jim’s manager left for another position and another manager was brought in. The new manager was not informed of Jim’s situation and the accommodations process had to begin from square one. When this manager, in turn, left six months later, Jim again found himself in square one. Managers and supervisors are key players in the accommodation process. In many businesses, there are frequent changes in manager/supervisor levels. Your accommodation practice will need to keep up with these changes. Do new managers/supervisors know where to turn to ensure that accommodations are sustained and effective given frequent changes in leadership?