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Job accommodations that help stroke survivors return to work

Many stroke survivors are faced with challenges when returning to a familiar workplace. Take the example of an experienced accountant who returned to work after a year of stroke recovery, still suffering from weak upper body strength. His employer purchased forearm support for the employee’s workstation to help relieve his arm fatigue after long periods of typing. This is just one example of how simple, affordable accommodations within the workplace can help survivors adjust despite physical limitations.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities can request reasonable accommodations at their workplaces. The installation of adaptive equipment, modifications to the work environment, or adjustments to work flow can be especially helpful to individuals returning to work following a stroke, but also prove cost effective, and valuable to employers. 

What Has Worked?

Job accomodations very greatly depending on an individaul’s limitations. A secretary that returned to work after a stroke had limitations due to weak speech. Her employer purchased a speech amplification device to help her project her voice. The cost to the employer was less than $300.  A groundskeeper struggling with his ability to walk for long distances was given an all-terrain vehicle for use on facility.

The Job Accommodation Network is a free service of the U.S. Department of Labor and can help you and your employer explore what types of accommodations may be effective to overcome your limitations. For specific information, visit JAN’s Accommodation Ideas for Stroke.

Are Costs a Concern?

Employers who have 15 or more employees must consider providing reasonable accommodation by law, but your employer will actually benefit from returning you to work after a stroke. A survey of nearly 2,000 employers shows that the costs of these accommodations are minimal, beneficial, and effective. Employers stated that 57 percent of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500. In addition, ninety percent of employers said that retaining a valued employee was the most important benefit of making these accommodations.

On the road to recovery there will be many hurdles to cross, but being uncomfortable or disadvantaged at work should not be one of them. Explore options for your workplace and pursue adaptations to relieve your limitations.

By: Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, Job Accommodation Network

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"Ninety percent of employers said that retaining a valued employee was the most important benefit of making these accommodations."

Job Accommodation 101:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide job accommodations for employees with disabilities.
  • Job accommodations may benefit your employer and typically do not cost very much.
  • There are many types of job accommodations that can help overcome stroke-related limitations in the workplace.

Examples of Helpful Accommodations:

  • One-handed keyboards can help those who can’t type both hands.
  • Ergonomic office chairs can alleviate discomfort from sitting for long periods of time.
  • If you must stand at work, try a standing/leaning stool designed to relieve pressure and allow you to adjust your working position.

Other common types of accommodations that may be helpful to you include devices for lifting, grasping and reaching; aids for communication, typing, and driving; alternatives to workstations; modifications to policies (parking, service animals, and leave); and reassignment.

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