Assistive Technology and Employment
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers employment, specifically covers “purchase of equipment or modifications to existing equipment” as an appropriate accommodation that would allow someone with a disability to accept or retain a job. This article covers how to use information from the ATC and elsewhere to determine what equipment may be appropriate for meeting an employee’s needs.
An employee or potential employee may not have prior experience using accommodations, and may not know what strategies or equipment will best meet their needs. You can search ATC for information about possible solutions based on the following criteria:
- Disability type to find solutions relevant to the employee’s disability (e.g., learning disability)
- Accommodation features to find solutions relevant to the employee’s expressed needs (e.g., magnification)
- Technology and products to find solutions relevant to the equipment the employee needs to use (e.g., desktop phones)
If an employee or potential employee already has an accommodation strategy that they have found works well for their needs in other situations, it will not automatically be appropriate for their current job situation. For example, the user’s preferred assistive technology may be too expensive for the employer to afford (this is called undue hardship) or may not work with the equipment that the employer uses.
Strategies for addressing this may include the following:
- Each state’s Department of Rehabilitation provides funding and support for the employment of individuals with disabilities. In some cases, they may purchase or contribute to the purchase of assistive technology if it will allow an individual to become employed.
- To test for compatibility between programs used by the employer and assistive software, a demonstration version of the software can often be downloaded, or the employee may be able to temporary load the software from their own disks. If compatibility issues are found, you may wish to contact the developers of the mainstream programs and/or the assistive technology to see if solutions have been identified. If the mainstream programs have been developed in-house, it may be possible to modify them to improve compatibility; contact ATC personnel via the Ask an Expert feature for assistance on how to make changes.
- If an alternative to the employee’s preferred equipment needs to be implemented, you can search the ATC’s Accommodation features category to see what options are available.
An employee may have a need for assistive technology based on a temporary condition; e.g., a broken wrist or recovery from eye surgery. Start by looking at the ATC articles on Free Computer AT Already in Windows Computers and Free Computer AT Already in Macintosh Computers. The ATC Ask an Expert feature will let you communicate with a professional who can suggest other appropriate but inexpensive solutions.