Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access

Accessible Workplace Lab

Making Workplace Participation Easier

The Accessible Workplace Lab develops new workplace technologies and strategies that maximize independence and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. The lab provides educational products and resources to support those trying to improve workplace accessibility. Particular interests include the use of accessible information and communications technology (ICT) in the workplace, the development of an evidence base on what accommodations work in which situations, and the use of inclusive/universal design practices to support all employees, including older workers.

Current Projects

Universal Design Practices to Enhance Work Outcomes: a Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP)

Principal Investigators: Jon Sanford and Karen Milchus
Current workplace accommodation practices focus on making job tasks accessible, but pay less attention to how the employee is able to interact with coworkers. The goal of this project is to determine the effect that universal design (UD) has on workplace participation for employees with disabilities. To accomplish this goal, CATEA is developing separate measures for workplace participation and for the presence of universal design elements. This later tool is unique in that it covers both the physical environment (e.g., is there an automatic door) and social environments (e.g., do coworkers prop open the door). Data will be collected from employers and employees, and the investigators will identify UD accommodation practices that are associated with positive work outcomes.

Assistive Software Knowledgebase for Computers and Mobile Devices

Principal Investigator: Karen Milchus
The Assistive Software Knowledgebase, currently under development, will be a centralized resource for information about computer software/apps that enable an employee with a disability to use a computer or perform other work tasks. The site will include searchable information about features, usage tips, compatibility, and user experiences with a variety of software (e.g., screen readers or scheduling apps). The resource is being developed as a collaboration of CATEA and AMAC, and it will be launched in early 2018.

Completed Projects

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC)

Principal Investigators: Jon Sanford and Karen Milchus
The goal of Work RERC was to identify, develop, and promote new assistive and universally designed technologies that maximize independence and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. A primary focus of the Workplace RERC was the use of universal design concepts -- the design of products and environments to be usable by all workers, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

Work RERC projects included:

User Needs

This project investigated what accommodations work best for whom, in what situations, through a series of studies with CATEA's Consumer Network.

Longitudinal Study of Cost and Cost-Benefits of Workplace Accommodation

The Burton Blatt Institute and Work RERC collaborated to identify the changing needs for and costs/benefits of accommodating workers over time.

Successful Aging in the Workplace

This project studied how older adults with disabilities overcome age-related difficulties with computer work tasks.

Impact of Policy on Access to and Utilization of Workplace Accommodations

This project investigated various workplace policy issues, including telework as an accommodation vs. accommodations for teleworking, the impact of aging with a disability in the workplace, and with the Wireless RERC, review emergency preparedness policies/practices to develop accommodation models for workers with disabilities.

Effects of Accommodations on Participation of Employees with Disabilities

With the Mobility RERC, this project examined the effect of accommodations on participation of people with mobility disabilities in the workplace.

Workplace Accommodation Wizard

This prototype online assessment tool interfaces with and helps employers identify worker needs and possible solutions.

Universal Design in the Workplace

Several projects focused on using universal design principles to redesign workstations for various professions in order to make them accessible to a wider range of potential employees.

  • Supine Computer Workstation
  • CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) Manufacturing Accommodations
  • Retail Checkstand

This project developed a prototype system that automates the process of creating and customizing auditory interfaces for business applications in order to make them accessible to people with visual impairments.

CAPS: Context Aware Prompting System for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities

In partnership with the RERC on Advancement of Cognitive Technologies, this project identified needs of employees with developmental disabilities working in manufacturing/distribution jobs, developed memory aids ranging from low-tech reminders to context-aware systems, and conducted trials to evaluate device efficacy.

AwareComm: Context Aware Communication for the Workplace

This project developed context-specific vocabulary and a prototype context aware AAC device for the workplace.

Work Accommodations for STEM Educators

Principal Investigator: Karen Milchus
This project used an online survey and focus groups to learn about the work experiences and accommodations used by STEM educators with disabilities. Resource modules were developed to help educators with the accommodation process and determining accommodation options.

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