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> Workforce New York - Disability Accomodations

Contact Information


Jackie Mouillesseaux, Interim Director
Center Ithaca, Suite 241
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 272-7570

Natalie Branosky, Executive Director
401 E. State Street / E. MLK Jr. Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 274-7526

Accommodating Workers with Disabilities


Tip of the Month: Administering Tests to Applicants Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing 

In the testing situation, the most important consideration for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing is how well they understand spoken instructions (whether through residual hearing or lip reading) and how well they speak. Job candidates who have a good understanding of spoken instruction through hearing or lip reading may wish to be tested with the other applicants. Those who cannot comprehend spoken instructions through these means usually benefit from individual testing, in which they can communicate extensively with the examiner through writing, gestures and sign language. 

Job candidates should be informed when they are tested in classroom-style settings that they may choose between a group and an individual testing, should they have a disability that requires an accommodation. They should also be told (preferably before the date of the test) that they may have the services of a sign language interpreter for the examination. 


If you’re struggling to find enough qualified applicants for your positions: 

One easy step you can take: make sure you have clear job descriptions. It will be a lot easier for candidates to know if they meet your needs and it will help the you determine what the essential functions of a particular role are. We can help with that here or you could check out this job description writer.  

Another easy step: check to make sure your EEO statement shows that you're inclusive in your hiring practices (there are fun ways to do that) and make sure that it's easy for potential applicants to find instructions for how to request accommodations in the application/interview process. 

Now is also an excellent time to review your applicant testing/assessment tools. Are they universally accessible? Are they truly needed to determine someone’s qualifications for the role? What accommodations are available is someone is not able to complete the assessment as designed/scheduled/planned. 

Consider an On-the-Job Training program, an apprenticeship, or a work try-out. Here’s a way to bring on someone who doesn’t quite have what you need (or that you’re not sure of), but shows good attitude or aptitude. You get someone doing the work and will be able to train them to do the work you need to be done, the way you want it done. It’s a good way to show that you’re willing to take on someone who is not a perfect fit when they first apply; depending on the arrangements you make, these options may also qualify you for generous tax credits.  


If you’re unhappy with the way members of your team are performing: 

Consider how your spaces, processes, tools, and materials are designed. Are there easy, inexpensive changes that would help your workers be more efficient? Examples include buying large-print, high-contrast keyboards for all work stations (or stickers, if you already have the hardware); making all printed documents large print (18-pt+), using sans-serif fonts; allowing for work from home or flexible schedules; allowing workers to use stand-lean stools; or installing anti-fatigue matting. Find other suggestions by exploring Universal Design. 

Our our colleagues at the Job Accommodation Network like to say, “Accommodations come in units of one.” Applying a similar policy to the way you improve the performance of all your workers (even if they have not disclosed a disability) is another way to help improve employee performance. Such adjustments typically cost $0.  

Consider the work a specific employee is doing: is job sharing a possibility, or task reassigning, based on their strengths and the strengths of others? Perhaps they need to be trained in a way that is slightly different from your usual policy-do they learn by listening, seeing, reading, or doing? What is their relationship with their supervisor like? Is there a supervisor available if there are questions or someone needs additional training? Explore suggestions for changes in how workers get the job done based on trouble spots at  

As you make changes to the work environment, work processes, and more, remember that you may qualify for added supports and tax credits for some of that work. Learn more from the IRS and the NYS Department of Tax and Finance.  


If you’re dealing with a lot of workplace injuries and accidents: 

You can build upon successful accommodations that other employers are making for employees with disabilities to prevent injuries and accidents. Read on for some specific conditions/injuries and potential solutions. 

Back disorders: Many businesses are responding to the n needs of workers with painful back conditions. Potential solutions include job and environment restructuring (so that the workers must no longer bend, ,or lift heavy objects); work station redesign; and/or the purchase of ergonomic furniture. 

-A scientifically designed mechanical seat was installed in an oil rig. The seat allows the operator to make necessary adjustments of position, absorbing most of the vibrations that might aggravate a back problem. The seat is used by all of the company’s rig operators to prevent additional trauma to their backs.This might cost about $1000. 

-By putting file or mail clerk and the documents they’re sorting on wheels (a rolling cart and a rolling file stool, for example), an employer can reduce or eliminate the need to lift, bend, and squat, which can reduce the risk of sprains and strains. That could cost you as little as $44. 

Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) : RSI’s compose three-fifths of all occupational illnesses. They are a major reason why workers’ compensation costs are skyrocketing. Some companies have recognized the importance of dealing with the problem by adapting an ergonomics strategy: redesigning work spaces to fit the job to the person (which might include putting a desk on blocks) and training workers to use the neutral body position in every task. 

-In retail, using a price gun over a long period of time can lead to issues related to RSI. Based on an employee’s comfort, one store, instructed their clerk to label no more than 30 products at a time, and undertake another task for at least 10 minutes before using the price gun again. There was no cost to the store. 

-Using ordinary scissors as a part of repetitive work can cause pain in the wrists. Companies have instead take to purchasing spring-loaded ergonomically designed scissors (last priced at about $18). 

Preventing Mistakes: Many people have have above average intelligence, and yet have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, hearing (processing oral information), doing math. Some work can lead to fatigue long before the shift is over. 

- Schedule modifications—allowing more frequent, shorter breaks; allowing workers to allocate their break time according to their own needs, rather than a pre-determined schedule. 

-Creating and advertising permanent, part-time positions 

- Instead of written instructions only, consider assigning a coworker to read instructions allowed. Written communications could be put on an employee’s voice mail. A supervisor can give instructions verbally. Important written information can be highlighted so employees read only that information 

-Employees can make errors in following verbal directions. The supervisor can make sure that instructions are given slowly and clearly in a quiet location. The supervisor can write down important instructions. Allow employees to take notes on directions and write down the instructions for the supervisor to review prior to starting tasks. Have employees repeat instructions to the supervisor. 

-It’s not hard to transpose numbers while doing mathematical calculations. Suggest that employees state numbers aloud when writing them down and touch numbers to be sure they were correct. Consider investing in a talking calculator. 

- Some of the most successful strategies for preventing forgotten tasks/steps/directions include: memory log books; flexible rest periods; task checklists; smaller job steps to improve sequencing; simple language when giving instructions.  


If you’ve got a problem with turnover/churn: 

Retaining workers in some industries is a seemingly never-ending challenge for organizations (for example, more than a third of new Direct Support Professinals)= quit within the first six months). Businesses are always looking for ways to help new hires understand and get excited about the job, engage their employees, and recognize the experience of their veterans. 

A peer mentorship program is a great way to increase employee engagement and retention. By making your best employees peer mentors and giving them a small pay raise, you create a step on a career ladder. And you provide your new hires with much-needed guidance and support. 

 A peer mentoring program can increase the likelihood that your new hires will stay with your organization by: 

  • Easing the transition from training to the work setting 

  • Reducing a new employee’s anxiety about their job 

  • Giving a new employee a safe place to express concerns and get feedback 

  • Teaching problem solving, critical thinking and clinical skills 

  • Creating opportunities for social engagement between employees