Life with MS

Low Cost Job Accommodations Have High Effect in the Workplace

By MSF Staff
Although many people with disabilities are aware of their rights guaranteed in the Americans with Disabilities Act and in regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, some may hesitate to ask for job accommodations because they are concerned about the costs of providing them.
However, a study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, shows that workplace accommodations not only are low cost, but also positively affect the workplace in many ways.
The JAN study has been ongoing since 2004. JAN, in partnership with the University of Iowa’s Law, Health Policy, and Disability Center, interviewed 1,182 employers between January 2004 and December 2006. In addition, JAN, in partnership with the West Virginia University School of Applied Social Sciences, interviewed 723 employers between June 28, 2008, and July 31, 2012. 
Employers in the JAN study represented a range of industry sectors and sizes and contacted JAN for information about workplace accommodations, the ADA, or both. Approximately eight weeks after their initial contact, the employers were asked a series of questions about the situation they discussed with JAN and the quality of the services JAN provided.
The study results consistently showed that the benefits employers receive from making workplace accommodations far outweigh the low cost. Employers reported that providing accommodations resulted in such benefits as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity. These benefits were obtained with little investment. The employers in the study reported that a high percentage (57 percent) of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500.
Accommodating MS at work
As symptoms come and go, or disability progresses, the need for accommodations may change over time for the person with MS. JAN has accumulated a list of suggested job accommodations that may help the person with MS:
Activities of daily living
• Allow use of a personal attendant at work
• Allow use of a service animal at work
• Make sure the facility is accessible
• Move workstation closer to the restroom
• Allow longer breaks
• Refer to appropriate community services
Cognitive impairment
• Provide written job instructions when possible
• Prioritize job assignments
• Allow flexible work hours
• Allow periodic rest breaks to reorient
• Provide memory aids, such as schedulers or organizers
• Minimize distractions and provide more structure
• Allow a self-paced workload
• Reduce job stress
Fatigue and weakness
• Reduce or eliminate physical exertion and workplace stress
• Schedule periodic rest breaks away from the workstation
• Allow a flexible work schedule and flexible use of leave time and work from home
• Implement ergonomic workstation design
• Provide a scooter or other mobility aid if walking cannot be reduced
Fine motor impairment
• Implement ergonomic workstation design
• Provide alternative computer access
• Provide alternative telephone access
• Provide arm supports
• Provide writing and grip aids
• Provide a page turner and a book holder
• Provide a note taker
Gross motor impairment
Work-site Accessibility
• Provide parking close to the work-site
• Provide an accessible entrance
• Install automatic door openers
• Provide an accessible restroom and break room
• Provide an accessible route of travel to other work areas used by the employee
Workstation accessibility
• Adjust desk height if wheelchair or scooter is used
• Make sure materials and equipment are within reach range
• Move workstation close to other work areas, office equipment, and break rooms
Heat sensitivity
• Reduce work-site temperature
• Use cool vest or other cooling clothing
• Use fan/air-conditioner at the workstation
• Allow flexible scheduling and flexible use of leave time
• Allow work from home during hot weather
Speech impairment
• Provide speech amplification, speech enhancement, or other communication device
• Use written communication, such as email or fax
• Transfer to a position that does not require a lot of communication
• Allow periodic rest breaks
Vision impairment
• Magnify written material using hand/ stand/optical magnifiers
• Provide large print material or screen reading software
• Control glare by adding a glare screen to the computer
• Install proper office lighting
• Allow frequent rest breaks
JAN provides free consulting services for all employers, regardless of the size of an employer’s workforce. Services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations, including the accommodation process, accommodation ideas, product vendors, referral to other resources, and ADA compliance assistance. For more information visit or you may call 800-526-7234.
(Last reviewed 2/2013)