Job Accommodations and Workplace Participation

The Work RERC's project on workplace participation seeks to better understand the influence of accommodations on the participation of employees with mobility disabilities. Researchers on this project have recently completed data analysis from the first phase.

Traditionally, job accommodations are recommended to enhance performance of job tasks, but not for the purpose of increasing workplace participation. Job tasks are the execution of individual work duties and assessed by one's efficiency and performance. In contrast, participation encompasses a sense of inclusion and belonging through the involvement in workplace social activities and interactions. This includes, in part, the ADA mandate that employees with disabilities have equal access to benefits and privileges of employment that are offered to other employees. Although it is well documented that job accommodations can improve task performance of employees with disabilities, little is known about the impact of these interventions on participation outcomes.

One hundred employees who work full time in an office setting (50 with mobility disabilities; 50 without disabilities) were recruited in this phase. Participants were asked to completed surveys about their job accommodations, workplace participation, overall participation, and health during a single telephone interview.

Results from these interviews show that job accommodations have a higher positive impact on task performance than on workplace participation in meetings with coworkers, professional development, and participation in work-related social events. This may be due to a higher percentage of unmet needs in accommodations for using the shared workspace (50%) than that for the use of individual workspace (6%). We found that employees with unmet accommodation needs in shared workspaces were found to be significantly less satisfied with their participation in meetings (p=.022) and social events (p=.015) than those without unmet need. They were also less likely (p=.018) to report that their accommodations provided them with an equal opportunity to participate at work.

The nature of participation as a sense of belonging is an important part of its definition. Belonging and inclusion are more than just being able to complete job tasks. Lack of participation in workplace social activities may impact the ability of employees to move forward in their careers, seek promotion, and take advantage of professional development opportunities. To ensure a satisfied work experience, accommodations that enhance participation in the workplace are just as important as those for task performance.

Learn more about the workplace participation project.