Workplace Accommodation Use by Aging Workers

Michael D. Williams and Jesse S. Zolna

For people who experience disability the opportunity to work is often the key to successful participation in the community.  However, a significantly large number of people with disabilities who are able to live in the community cannot successfully seek and maintain employment , in part due to a lack of a supportive work environment.  Perhaps even more pressing are difficulties encountered by older persons with disabilities who seek participation in gainful employment. Recent projections by the US Bureau of the Census (2005) point to unprecedented growth in the total number of persons 65 years of age or older in the coming 25 years. Societal consequences related to this unique demographic phenomenon will undoubtedly include employment and labor participation issues for older workers. Moreover, older workers who, in addition to aging also deal with the additional challenges of a disabling condition(s) face an even more difficult and complex reality in the workplace.

This presentation will discuss some of the challenges and difficulties faced by older disabled workers who are currently employed, and will explore needs and concerns of future disabled elderly employees. A user needs survey of 510 disabled individuals that examined the types of technology and accommodations needed to perform work and employment-related activities was recently completed by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC) located at Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Accessible Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA). Findings from this survey will be presented with particular emphasis on results of individuals responding to this survey who are 65 years of age or older.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-15
Slides 16-31

Michael D. Williams, Ph.D. is a Research Scientist with the Workplace RERC located at Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access. He also holds appointments with the Atlanta VA Medical Center's Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Vision Loss and Aging, and with the Blind Rehabilitation Service National Program Office in Washington DC as a Data Manger and Rehab Planning Specialist. Dr. Williams also holds an academic appointment with Georgia State University . His current research interests include:

  1. Workplace accommodations for persons with disabilities;
  2. The utilization of healthcare services and programs among older persons and how this process influences disparities in health and well-being;
  3. Outcomes and program evaluation of VA-sponsored blind rehabilitation services;
  4. Processes and issues surrounding family / informal caregiving for elderly disabled care recipients.

Jesse S. Zolnais currently a candidate for a Ph.D. in Engineering Psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also a research assistant for the Workplace RERC at The Center For Assistive Technology and Environmental Access. His interests center on understanding, describing, and designing environments for users from diverse populations.

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