Common Types of Accommodation

You’ve learned something about when and how to request a reasonable accommodation. Before you actually talk to your employer about getting an accommodation, it can help to learn more about what types of accommodations exist.

Equipment provided to the employee is best when it is “universally designed.” The use of Universal Design equipment ensures that its manufacturer made an extra effort to guarantee that people with diverse abilities can use it.

However, it isn’t always possible to buy universally designed equipment. Many types of new technology are designed without considering people with disabilities. The oversight can create unnecessary barriers. In other situations, even if a product has been universally designed, depending on a person’s disability, they may still need a reasonable accommodation in order to perform their work.

Assistive Technology

Employers may offer a type of accommodation called Assistive Technology (AT). AT includes technology and devices that enable people with disabilities to perform tasks that they would otherwise be unable to accomplish, or would have difficulty accomplishing.

AT covers a wide range of technologies and equipment, including adaptive computer software and hardware, ergonomic and more accessible workspaces, and adaptive safety equipment. Here are some examples of AT that could be used as reasonable accommodations.

  • Computer screen-reading software for employees who are blind or have dyslexia
  • Adaptive computer equipment that allows people to control a computer's mouse with their head, feet, or eyes.
  • Electronic organizers for people with traumatic brain injury or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Assistive listening devices (ALDs) for employees with hearing loss
  • Adjustable height roll-in desks for wheelchair users and for those who need to stand for parts of their work day versus sitting all day

Accessing Assistive Technology

Ability Tools, formerly known as the California Assistive Technology Network (AT Network), keeps track of AT resources and providers in California. Ability Tools can help you locate AT sources for specific disabilities, and refer you to groups that can help you learn more about AT and help you find ways to pay for AT. Ability Tools can help you find answers to questions such as:

  • What is Assistive Technology?
  • Who are the specialists?
  • Where are the service sites?
  • Where are accessible sites to:
    • Try equipment
    • Search for employment, and
    • Talk to people who know?

If you visit a local America's Job Center of California (AJCC), formerly called One-Stop Centers, you can ask about and try out the assistive technology the Center has to access Center services and resources. Centers are equipped with computer software and AT equipment to help people who are blind, visually impaired, or who have other physical impairments. These services can help you with a range of job planning activities.

Assistive Technology and California Veterans

The Veterans Administration offers funding for AT for veterans with disabilities who are eligible. However, it might be best to start checking locally with the California Employment Development Department's Services for Veterans. EDD veterans' representatives help veterans and their eligible spouses make the most of their job and training opportunities. Each local EDD office has a veterans representative available to work with veterans.

Assistive Technology Funding

Usually, your employer will be responsible for paying for and providing assistive technology services that you need to perform your job or satisfy your job standards. However, sometimes people need or want AT that would be too costly for an employer. Alternatively, some people want to be able to keep their AT if they switch employers, because it is specially designed to fit their needs.

In cases where the employer does not pay for AT, you can explore other options from government resources or private grants.

Here are some funding alternatives for AT:

  • Medi-Cal helps pay medical expenses for people with disabilities, including Assistive Technology (AT). For AT to be paid for by Medi-Cal, the device must be for a medical condition and be prescribed by a physician.
  • The California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) can fund AT to help a person with a disability find, get, and keep their employment. You must meet their eligibility rules in order to get these services.
  • Workers’ Compensation often pays for AT for people with work-related injuries.
  • PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support) is a program offered by the Social Security Administration for people who get SSI or SSDI. Through PASS, it is possible to save up money for AT without losing eligibility for benefits.

Resources to Learn More about Assistive Technology

  • Accessible Technology for All has workplace and assistive technology resource guides.
  • AbleData provides information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment. It has reviews of assistive technology products and companies, as well as a comprehensive list of assistive technology resources.
  • Closing the Gap provides professionals, parents, and consumers with information and training to best locate, compare, and implement assistive technology into the lives of persons with disabilities.
  • Ability Tools offers a variety of services for Californians with disabilities, including an assistive technology marketplace, device lending libraries, loan programs, and information and referral services. It also provides in-person and webinar trainings, and coordinates the California Assistive Technology Reuse Coalition, which helps connect AT users with gently used equipment.

Specific Technology Resources

Personal Assistance Services (PAS)

Personal Assistance Services (PAS) are services that another person offers to a person with a disability that assist with activities of daily living. These services can include help with:

  • Home activities, such as bathing, dressing, cooking, personal hygiene, and remembering things
  • Community activities, such as shopping, going to the doctor, and help getting around
  • Work activities, such as reading, sign-language interpretation, and lifting or reaching

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS)

Most people either pay for Personal Assistance Services on their own or with support from the California In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. In order to have IHSS pay for PAS, you must have a disability or be 65 or older. The program is often seen as an alternative to assisted living or nursing homes. For example, if they determine that you can live in your own home safely, and to do that you need someone to help you with getting up and bathing in the morning, you may qualify to have IHSS pay for your personal assistant. To learn more about PAS and IHSS, read DB101’s IHSS article.

For IHSS, you generally must qualify for Medi-Cal. You may qualify for Medi-Cal in different ways and if you don’t meet Medical's income-based or diability-based income limits because of your income through paid work, you still may be eligible for PAS as part of Medi-Cal's Working Disabled Program. To find out more about Medi-Cal eligibility, read the DB101 article on Medi-Cal.

To find out if you are eligible for IHSS, contact your county In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) office.

Workplace Personal Assistance Services

You can use workplace Personal Assistance Services (PAS) to help you perform the essential duties of your job. If you need PAS services, they may be considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and the employer would have the responsibility to offer PAS services if you request them.

IHSS does not pay for personal assistance at work when it is a reasonable accommodation that should be provided by the employer. However, IHSS might pay for services that are primarily personal in nature and not job related, such as help during meals, with personal care, for bathroom breaks, or with personal hygiene.

Learn more in DB101's Workplace Personal Assistance article.

Examples of Workplace Personal Assistance Services

Here are some forms of workplace PAS that can be used as a reasonable accommodation:

During the Hiring Process

  • Sign-language interpreter during the interview for someone who is deaf
  • A reader for the employment exam for someone who has a visual impairment
  • A personal assistant for someone who has limited use of their arms to fill out an application for employers that require filling out the application on site

During Employment

  • Filing duties, retrieving work materials that are heavy or out of reach, or performing other nonessential manual tasks
  • Assistance with business-related travel for an individual with a mobility or visual impairment
  • Reading to people who are blind

Funding for Workplace PAS

Workplace PAS are often funded by an employer when they are considered a reasonable accommodation. Additional funding may also be available from the following sources:

Resources on Workplace Personal Assistant Services