Work RERC: Providing New Directions in Worplace Accommodation

Presenters:

Karen Milchus - karen.milchus@catea.org
Jon Sanford - jon.sanford@catea.org
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access
Georgia Tech., Atlanta, GA

OVERVIEW:

The Work RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations) identifies, designs, and develops devices and systems to help people with disabilities be more productive in the workplace. A primary focus of the Center is the use of universal design concepts -- the design of products and environments to be usable by all workers, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The Workplace RERC has projects involving Research, Development, Training, Technical Assistance, and Dissemination.

RESEARCH:

Work RERC research projects evaluate existing workplace products and services and determine areas where further research and development is needed.

This year, two studies of user needs were conducted. The first was a survey of over 500 people with disabilities to identify their employment status and needs regarding workplace accommodations, including determination of where employees with disabilities are working, what accommodations are being used, and what costs/funding methods are involved. The second study involved archival research from past case files to determine how effective job accommodations have been made in the past. The study sought to identify both barriers that impede and facilitators that contribute to successful outcomes for people with disabilities attempting job placement.

In addition, the RERC is analyzing policies and practices that may influence the nature and availability of workplace accommodations for persons with disabilities. Periodic policy updates and position papers are available.

DEVELOPMENT:

Work RERC development projects focused this year on Universal Design for the workplace.

First, to reduce the need for preliminary physical prototypes, the RERC is developing a digital human modeling tool that provides visualizations of products or systems with human interaction and movement. The RERC is working with software manufacturers to add disabilities, such as movement restrictions, and assistive technology to their existing human models.

Next, the RERC is developing accommodations for the most common tasks required by office-work occupations, including tasks involving access to computers and telecommunications. Initial projects include a supine computer workstation that will accommodate persons with low back injury, and AudioMORPH software that provides auditory access to computer applications without requiring outside professional customization.

Manufacturing occupations pose some of the greatest access challenges to people with disabilities, including people who return to work following an injury, so the RERC is developing accommodations for the most common manufacturing job tasks. Specifically, access to CNC (computer numerically controlled) machinery is being investigated.

Finally, the project is developing built-in, stationary and mobile furniture systems for various work environments including food preparation and retail/sales.

TRAINING, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE & DISSEMINATION:

The Work RERC also has training, technical assistance and dissemination activities to promote the transfer of new knowledge on workplace accommodations and universal design into practice. A major training activity for this year was development of a web-based course on job accommodations. This course, which is free to the public, covers information on the job accommodation process, policy, assistive technology, and universal design. Technical assistance and dissemination are also provided via the project's toll-free number and website, which are listed below.

For more information visit:
RERC on Workplace Accommodations
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, Georgia Tech.
490 Tenth Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
Phone: 800-726-9119 (V/TTY)
Fax: 404-894-9320

The RERC on Workplace Accommodations is funded by Grant H133E020720 of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education.

NIDRR

CATEA