For every role in a company, there is a professional uniquely suited to it. Every employee has something valuable to contribute, and each person has his or her own needs and requirements to be supported and excel in a particular role.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly one in five people in the U.S. has a disability, and half of those individuals report a “severe” disability. As all professionals and their contributions are unique, so are the disabilities of each individual and how they must be accommodated during training.

Types of Reasonable Accommodation

How do you outline what “reasonable accommodation” is and plan ahead when training new hires? The government has specific outlines, and the federal Office of Disability Rights (ODA) defines reasonable accommodations as follows:

  • No-Tech
    This type of accommodation has no to low cost for the company. The employer offers extra time, patience, flexibility and innovative thinking. For example, you may take time to color-code a filing system with your new hire if they have issues with sight.
  • Low-Tech
    This type of accommodation doesn’t require much technology. Simple changes go a long way to help people with certain disabilities. Some examples include replacing a doorknob with a more accessible handle or adding a different table and chair for comfort during training.
  • High-Tech
    This type of accommodation requires access to specialized devices or software, such as a screen reading program with a synthesized voice.

Many of these accommodations are simple changes that can be made before training begins. All it takes is clear communication between the employer and the new hire. These accommodations will improve the employee’s ability to do the job and save you both time and money.

Tailoring Job Training and Functions for the New Hire’s Success

According to the ODA, employers aren’t required to change essential functions of a job. However, they may alter how tasks are performed so the employee can complete them successfully. You’ll know what to eliminate and what to tailor through communication and trial and error. Your employee’s past professional experience may inform certain changes.

When it comes to someone’s pain threshold, there are good days and bad days, and particular tasks may be more challenging on some days. Consider together what tasks you can scale to accommodate what they can do on days that a physical or emotional disability hinders their ability to complete certain tasks with full focus.

These conversations lead to more efficiency across the board, but you’ll have to be flexible with the training schedule and flow with the new employee.

Software and Other Media for Learning Enhancement

Screen sharing, specialized videos and software for project management and team-building help employees with disabilities learn at their own pace, with a trainer available to them as needed. Such technology makes it easier to stay in touch, particularly if you’re training employees remotely.

If the employee’s job requires silent reading or data entry, screen magnification and speech recognition and output tools will help them if they have visual disabilities or physical limitations with their hands.

If you and the employee aren’t familiar with the software, you can bring in a consultant to assist with training the employee on the software, or your training staff and the employee might learn together along the way.

There are various other types of devices and equipment that help employees overcome barriers, including:

  • Braille or raised print on equipment and manuals
  • Raised desks for employees who use wheelchairs
  • Text telephones (TTs) or Teletypewriters (TTYs) for employees with hearing or speech disabilities
  • Calculators that “talk to” the user
  • Clipboards, adaptive light switches, headsets and speaker phones, and devices with adaptive hand and foot controls for employees with physical disabilities

Gradually Switching and Introducing New Functions

Over time, you can switch functions that your employee cannot perform with other duties for which they have transferable experience. These kinds of exchanges balance everyone’s workload. Discuss this plan before training to know what to introduce during sessions. You might do training in separate sessions, starting with a specific set of tasks first and slowly introducing others.

Managers should listen to employees to increase the likelihood of success and build a positive and open relationship. The employer should continue to check in with the employee during and after the training process.

With proper accommodation and open lines of communication, training will be successful. Small changes can transform a business’ work culture in addition to making anyone with disabilities welcome.