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Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 85–98 | Cite as

Workplace Accommodation as a Social Process

  • Lauren B. Gates
Article

Abstract

Successful sustained employment for people with disabilities is a function of a complex array of factors. Key among these factors is appropriate accommodation at the workplace. Current approaches to accommodation, however, are often unsuccessful. Research suggests that this is due, in part, to the limited view of accommodation as technical changes to the job. An approach to accommodation that does not take into account the social context ignores the consequences of the process on work group morale and individual self-esteem and well-being. This has repercussions for individual job performance, job satisfaction and work retention, as well as overall work group productivity. An intervention was designed to take into account the social nature of the accommodation process and pilot tested with 12 workers who were out on a short term disability leave with a psychiatric diagnosis and their work groups. Based on a psychoeducational model, the intervention educates the work group about what it means to work with a disability, provides a safe environment where the worker with disability and coworkers can share concerns about the impact of accommodation on the group, informs about the accommodation process and specifies strategies to help the worker with disability best meet job requirements. Key intervention components include 1) the development of a disclosure plan since workplace intervention cannot occur without disclosure, 2) a systematic method for identifying the work group members, 3) a formal psychoeducation training that includes the supervisor, identified work group members, and the individual in the work organization who has the authority to approve accommodations, and 4) on-going follow up support to the supervisor and worker with disability. Although generalizability of the findings is limited because of the small sample size and its application only to those with mental health conditions, they support the importance of this approach to employment outcomes for people with disabilities. First, findings suggest that the rehabilitation process cannot stop at placement. Providers must be willing and able to enter the workplace with their clients. This requires providers to take on new roles such as educators, interpreters, negotiators and trainers. Disclosure must lose its status as a taboo topic. Providers and workers with disabilities must come to understand the risks and benefits of disclosure, and, when the decision is made to disclose, must have a formal, structured plan for carrying it out. Finally, workplace intervention must take into account the social context and provide the opportunity for communication and interaction in order to insure the success of the accommodations.

accommodation psychoeducation employment return to work 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren B. Gates
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Workplace CenterColumbia University School of Social WorkNew York
  2. 2.Workplace CenterColumbia University School of Social WorkNew York

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