At Paraquad, we are often asked how people with disabilities adapt and do things differently to accomplish everyday tasks independently or with assistance. The Lens of Ability hopes to answer those questions through firsthand accounts of people living with a disability.
More than half of Paraquad’s employees have a disability of some kind. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities when needed. This ensures that people with disabilities are given all of the tools necessary to be successful in their employment.
Reasonable accommodations can take on many forms and just a few are pictured here.
A touchpad mouse is perfect for someone with limited mobility in their hands or arms.
A text magnifier magnifies text on printed paper to be easily read by someone with a visual impairment. The viewer can also select different color and contrast combinations for optimal individual comfort.
Videophones are used by many people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. An interpreter appears on the screen and signs what the hearing person on the other end of the phone is saying. The Deaf person can then respond in sign language, and the interpreter will voice what is being said to the person at the other end. If both people are Deaf or hard of hearing, one video phone can call another video phone and they can talk directly to each other. The Deaf or hard of hearing person can also speak for themselves using a slightly different version of the video phone.
A mini keyboard is helpful for someone with limited mobility in their hands to make typing easier.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking is speech recognition software. A person speaks into a microphone, and their words appear on a computer monitor.
General placement of objects is something to be conscious of. Someone with limited mobility in their arms needs things they use often within their reach. This could mean propping something closer or higher depending on the individual and their needs.
Focus 40 Blue and BrailleNote are essentially braille keyboards. The Focus 40 Blue uses a Bluetooth connection to connect to a computer with a screen reader. This allows the user to type on their Focus40 Blue in braille and have the words appear on their computer screen in text. The Braillenote functions much the same way, however it has many of the features a computer has in itself. This is helpful for taking notes when the person is away from their computer, much like a sighted person might take notes with a pen and paper.
Skinny shelves are helpful for keeping things within reach for someone with limited mobility in their arms.
Screen contrast is important for someone who is visually impaired. Some visual impairments make the typical white background with black text difficult or impossible to read. Being able to adjust the screen contrast and colors is important for someone with this kind of disability to be able to comfortably read their computer screen.
A raised desk is an easy way to make a typical desk accessible by enabling a person in a wheelchair to comfortably roll under it.
A wireless headset is helpful for someone who has difficulty with find motor skills with their hands that can make picking up a phone difficult. With a wireless headset, the person can easily and comfortably answer the phone with a push of a button, unassisted and without the risk of dropping the phone.
JAWS (or other screen reading software) is another tool that can be used by someone who is blind or visually impaired to be able to effectively use their computer. A screen reader is just what it sounds like and will read line by line from a computer screen.
A reacher lets someone who cannot reach the floor, a high shelf or an object do so. The reacher has a handle on one end that a person uses to control the “feet” at the other end that squeeze together to retrieve objects.
A braille calendar can be used for someone who is blind or visually impaired. It functions much like a planner would for someone who is sighted, but the schedule for each day is printed in braille on the card.
A slate and stylus is a tool used by people who are blind or visually impaired to “punch out” braille for labels, calendar entries, etc. It can also be used to write names and phone numbers in braille on business cards so the person has ready and unassisted access to that information.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. No two disabilities are exactly the same, and what works for one person may not necessarily work or be a good fit for another person with the same or similar disability. There are many options and all kinds of techniques and technologies available to ensure that your co-worker with a disability can be successful in their job.
Alyssa Schafer is the Consumer Directed Services (CDS) Timesheet Compliance Manager at Paraquad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Alyssa Schafer/Ladybug Photography LLC