Assessing Workplace Assessments

Carrie Bruce and Jon Sanford

The ability to match an individual’s skills to the essential functions of a job and to make informed recommendations for accommodations that will maximize workplace performance and safety, is dependent on assessing an employee’s (or potential employee’s) functional abilities, needs and environment. While the need to identify assistive technologies and universally designed products that facilitate work performance is clear, practitioners often lack evidence-based tools to provide such services. Moreover, few assessment tools are comprehensive or standardized, resulting in decisions about accommodations that are based on incomplete or inconsistent data.

An analysis of over 60 assessment tools that are commonly used in workplace evaluation (e.g., computer access, ergonomics, and reasonable accommodation) as well as other types of user evaluations (e.g., home and school), suggests that assessment tools are a diverse collection of instruments that range from self-report checklists, to flowcharts, to customized forms, to software programs that generate performance profiles. The tools also represent different activities within the assessment process with many outlining problem identification, several addressing problem solving or prediction of interventions, and a few providing guidance on recommendations. Moreover, many are focused on one dimension of person-environment-occupation fit such as safety, comfort, or function, rather than a comprehensive approach to understanding the dynamic relationship among the three. Based on this analysis, a conceptual framework has been developed that identifies the critical assessment activities (i.e., Investigation, Prediction, Trial, and Recommendation) and the key assessment factors in each activity (i.e., person, environment, occupation, and occupational performance). This framework will provide the basis for the development and validation of a comprehensive workplace assessment that will enable practitioners to reliably identify the accommodation needs of each client within the unique aspects of each work environment.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-11
Slides 12-21

Carrie Bruce, MA, CCC-SLP, ATP is a Speech Language Pathology and an Assistive Technology Practitioner. She serves as a co-investigator in the Work RERC and provides support to other sponsored projects related to accessibility, disability, and design. Ms. Bruce is interested in design of residential environments for individuals with communication impairments, design and accessibility of informal learning environments for individuals with disabilities, improved design of speech generating devices, and assessment practices for accommodations in the workplace.

Jon Sanford is the Co-Director of the Work RERC and a Research Architect at the Atlanta VA Rehab R&D Center. He holds a Masters of Architecture from the Georgia Tech and is one of the few architects engaged in Rehabilitation R&D. He has been engaged in research on the impact of the physical environment on functioning of people with disabilities and older adults for over 25 years and is a leading expert in Universal Design. He is a co-author of the UD Principles, which have been translated into a dozen different languages. His research has covered all facets of accessibility from Universal Design to Accessible Design to AT and in a range of environments from workplace to housing to long term care facilities. Many of his efforts have been used to inform revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines and he is widely published in both the rehab and aging journals.

Presentation from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference, September 15-16, 2005, Atlanta, GA