Considering Assistive Technology Solutions for Workers with Learning Disabilities

Kristi Voelkerding

It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 5 people in the United States has a learning disability (USDE, 2002). The impact of learning disabilities is life long and the issues that make schoolwork challenging continue into the workplace. Learning problems are not outgrown. Students with learning problems grow up to be adults with learning problems. The recognition that these learning problems persist into adulthood has resulted in the search for alternative approaches for helping persons with learning problems succeed in the workplace. The use of assistive technology devices is one such approach.

Matching the correct assistive device with the user is a complex and challenging task. This would be aided by increased understanding of the userís decision to disclose or not disclose a learning disability, or by identifying signs that might indicate the presence of a previously unknown learning disability. Assistive technology is a bridge between needs and abilities. Sophisticated technology alone may not be the best solution; it is only a tool that may level the playing field. Many of the tools and strategies would be equally beneficial to employees who do not identify as having a learning disability.

By studying this population researchers have the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of assistive technology tools and workplace accommodations that could enhance the lives of workers with learning disabilities.

Kristi Voelkerding, ATP works as an assistive technology specialist for Easter Seals Massachusetts. She has a BS in Biology/Secondary Education and is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. She serves on the American Occupational Therapy Association's Commission on Practice. She was recently awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award by North Shore Community College in Danvers, Massachusetts and was named Outstanding Occupational Therapy Assistant of the Year by the Massachusetts Association for Occupational Therapy in 2004. In addition Kristi presents at local, state and national conferences on a number of assistive technology topics.

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