2006 Conference General Sessions

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OLDER WORKERS, DISABILITY AND ACCOMMODATIONS IN THE WORKPLACE

Presenter(s)


Michael Williams
Georgia Tech / CATEA
2714 Laurel Ridge Drive
Decatur GA 30033
Day Phone: 404-414-1507
Fax: 404-728-4837
Email: mike2488@yahoo.com

A user needs survey of 510 disabled individuals that examined the types of technology and accommodations needed to perform work and employment-related activities will be presented.

The opportunity to work for people who experience disability is often the key to successful participation in the community.  However, a significantly large number of people with disabilities who live in the community cannot successfully maintain employment, in part due a lack of a supportive work environment.  In 1997, for example, 9.7 million working-age adults with a disability were unable to work.  An additional 7.2 million reported that they were able to work but were limited in the kind or amount of work they could do and 11.3 million people had a condition that made it difficult to remain employed or to find a job. For these individuals, the explosion of new technologies that have enabled them to live at home, often independently, is not having the same effect on their ability to remain employed and realize the full meaning of participation in the community.

Perhaps even more pressing are difficulties encountered by older persons with disabilities who seek participation in gainful employment. Recent projections by the US Bureau of the Census (2005) point to unprecedented growth in the total number of persons 65 years of age or older in the coming 25 years.  Societal consequences related to this unique demographic phenomenon will undoubtedly include employment and labor participation issues for older workers.  Moreover, older workers who, in addition to aging also deal with the additional challenges of a disabling condition(s) face an even more difficult and complex reality in the workplace.  

A user needs survey of 510 disabled individuals that examined the types of technology and accommodations needed to perform work and employment-related activities was recently completed.  The most commonly reported disabling conditions that impact employment include motor limitations (87% of respondents), communication function (49.%), sense and perception functioning (49%), and mental functioning (26%).  Moreover, 66% of respondents indicated that they were currently working in the field they wanted to work in.  Perhaps the most surprising finding in this survey suggests that most workplace accommodations are more likely to be provided for younger workers.  Findings from this survey will be presented with particular emphasis on results of individuals responding to this survey who are 65 years of age or older.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC) located at Georgia Institute of Technologys Center for Accessible Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) was established 2003 in an effort to serve as the catalyst for a major shift in the way workplace accommodations are conceptualized and implemented -- from engineered, one-of-a-kind, individualized solutions to universally designed technologies that promote the independence, active engagement, and participation of adults with disabilities in the workplace.  


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