Assistive Technology for State Employees with Disabilities:
What’s Required and Where To Get Assistance
What is Assistive Technology for Employees with Disabilities?
Assistive Technology (AT) is a tool used by an employee with a disability to accomplish a task or to enable him or her to perform a function of the job in question. AT may be a “low tech” item such as blocks under a desk to accommodate a wheelchair, or “high tech” such as screen reading software for an employee who is blind. Employees with disabilities have the right to request AT equipment or assistance that would enable them to perform their jobs, and employers are required to consider using assistive technology as a form of reasonable accommodation. Assistive technology runs the gamut in regards to variety, features and expense, but an adaptation can usually be obtained at a reasonable price.
How Do You Know What is Available and If it Would Work for Your Employee?
It is estimated that there are over 18,000 types of adaptive equipment available. There are many sources of information about assistive technology. To educate yourself, you can consult the Job Accommodation Network or the Illinois Assistive Technology Program (contact information on back of sheet) for assistance. The Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP) has a loan program that would allow your employee to try out (some) devices before your agency purchases them. IATP also has a publication entitled, Workplace Technologies for People with Disabilities, that you can request. Other organizations and agencies dealing with specific disabilities, such as the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission, have information about technology to assist people with those disabilities (information on back).
What Do You Do When an Employee Requests Reasonable Accommodation?
Once an employee initiates the interactive reasonable accommodation process, you can begin a discussion about his/her needs and workplace demands. An employee may have a simple solution to a problem that you had not considered. In some cases, it may be appropriate to request a worksite or assistive technology evaluation from an expert to make recommendations for the device that best suits the needs of the employer and the employee. A good AT evaluation and report considers the employer’s needs, the employee’s needs, cost, available technical assistance, and compatibility with existing systems. An AT report should discuss a variety of alternatives prior to making recommendations as to appropriate technology.
An agency is not required to provide a specific accommodation, if an alternative is effective or to provide an accommodation that would cause ‘undue hardship’. This is determined on a case-by-case basis and is defined as significant difficulty or expense. An employee has the right to file a discrimination complaint, if the agency denies the request. For further information about your responsibilities, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website, at www.eeoc.gov.
Job Accommodation Network
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
800-526-7234 (V) in the U.S.
800-ADA-WORK (V) in the U.S.
Illinois Assistive Technology Program
1 West Old State Capitol Plaza, Suite 100
Springfield, IL 62701
(217) 522-7985 (V)
(217) 522-9966 (TTY)
(217) 522-8067 (fax)
800-852-5110 (V/TTY) – IL only
Department of Human Services Rehabilitation Technology Section (for DHS employees only)
400 W. Lawrence Avenue, 3rd Floor
Springfield, IL 62794-9429
(217) 782-9432 (V);1-888-758-6051 (TTY)
Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind
1850 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission
1630 S. Sixth
Springfield, IL. 62703-2829
(217) 557-4495 (V/TTY)
217/557-4487 (Videophone);220.127.116.11 (IP)
Department of Human Rights /Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities
222 S. College, Room 101
Springfield, IL 62704
(217) 785-5119 (V)
(217) 785-5125 (TTY)