29th Annual RESNA Conference Proceedings

Workplace Accommodation Training: A Focus on Providing Training to ATPs

Karen Milchus, MS


In preparation for design of a web-based course, an on-line survey was conducted to determine what type of information professionals need to help people with disabilities in the workplace. Survey questions covered the work and training experience of the respondents, what types of requirements they must meet for professional certification, and what topics they would like to learn more about. This paper highlights the results from the certified Assistive Technology Practitioners (ATPs) who responded to the survey, and the methods by which they have learned about workplace accommodations.


workplace accommodation; rehabilitation training; continuing education


In spite of the growing number of distance education opportunities to learn about accessibility and AT, most of the courses cover issues related to educational settings, computer access / accessible information technology, or awareness of disability and disability legislation. The training opportunities for rehabilitation professionals who are focused on accessibility and accommodations specifically within work environments are limited. Virginia Commonwealth University's RRTC on Workplace Supports has offered web courses on topics including reasonable accommodation and supported employment, but only offered on a limited basis (1). Another problem is that most training on workplace accommodations that is available on the Internet is not presented as an organized program of study, but as a collection of webcasts and other presentations on a scattering of topics. For example, the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program offers a series of webcasts on topics ranging from job placement to transition to Title I of the ADA (2), and the Tech Connections project offers three web-based case study exercises (3). However, neither resource provides comprehensive training on workplace accommodations.

To address this gap in training opportunities, the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Workplace Accommodations is creating a web-based course for rehabilitation professionals. In preparation for developing this course, an on-line survey was conducted to determine what type of information professionals need to help people with disabilities in the workplace. In addition, the results of this survey provide information about how rehabilitation professionals are currently accessing training related to workplace accommodations.


The on-line survey questions covered the work and training experience of the respondents. The survey was announced through our research center mailing lists (Work RERC, Southeast DBTAC, Tech Connections), professional listservs (RESNA, AOTA, DSSHE, REHABNURSE), and to several disability-topic listservs (Sorehand, Aging Economics/Policy, Rural Rehab).


Sample Characteristics

The survey was completed by 108 people, including 25 ATPs (23% of the sample). Respondents reported a variety of professions and/or training, representing a range of professionals for whom training on workplace accommodations would be appropriate. Overall, the most common professions were: ADA Consultant (16.7%), Rehabilitation Engineer / Technologist (16.7%), Vocational Evaluator (13.5%), and State VR or Private Case Manager (13.4%). Among ATPs, the most common professions were: Rehabilitation Engineer / Technologist (23.7%), Occupational Therapist (18.4%), State VR / Private Case Manager or Vocational Evaluation (13.2%), and ADA Consultant (10.5%).

Both the entire sample and the ATPs had a great deal of work experience in their respective fields (54.6% and 76% respectively had over ten years of experience). Both groups rated their knowledge of workplace accommodations as moderate or high (73% and 72% respectively).

Training Methods

A bar graph show percentage of total respondents, ATPs, and respondents in the high knowledge and low knowledge groups who had received training on workplace accommodations via various methods.Figure 1: Percentage of Total Respondents, ATPs, and Respondents in the High Knowledge and Low Knowledge Groups who had Received Training on Workplace Accommodations via Various Methods (Click image for larger view)

When asked how they had gained knowledge about workplace accommodations during the past three years, over half of the overall respondents responded with on-the-job experience (87%) and/or conference workshops (65%), as shown in Figure 1. The lowest responses were for part of a degree program (16%), webcasts of presentations (15%), and classroom courses that were not part of a degree program (13%). Similar results were found for the ATPs-none of the training method categories were statistically different for them compared to the entire sample. Although only a small number of respondents (19% overall; 16% among ATPs) had taken a web-based course related to workplace accommodations, 65% of the respondents reported that they had previously taken a web-based course covering some type of topic.

  Overall ATP High Knowledge Low Knowledge

Across the entire sample, statistically significant differences were observed when respondents who had self-reported their knowledge of workplace accommodations as "none" or "some" were compared to those who had rated their knowledge as "moderate" or "high." Respondents with higher knowledge of workplace accommodations were more likely to have received training via conference workshops (75.9% of the higher knowledge group vs. 34.5% of the lower knowledge group; chi-squared = 0.000) and in-service training (49.4% vs. 27.6%; chi-squared = 0.043). Large differences were observed in other categories, but the sample of respondents with lower knowledge was too small to draw firm conclusions.

Respondents who had up to five years of related work experience were also compared to those who had over five years of experience. The only significant difference that was observed was for training via web-based courses-people newer to the field were statistically more likely to have received training via a web-based course (40.6%) versus people with more work experience (10.5%) (chi-squared = 0.001).


The results of this study are useful for people who are designing training on workplace accommodations and/or are developing training for ATPs.

Respondents with higher knowledge of workplace accommodations were more likely than those with lower knowledge to have received training via conference workshops and in-service training. These differences may be because those respondents have a particular interest in workplace accommodations and seek out training on this topic. However, it may also suggest that some training methods are more effective for increasing knowledge (rather than simply increasing awareness).

In examining the different frequencies of use of various training methods, it is not possible to definitively say whether there is a strong preference among ATPs for certain types of training or whether these numbers represent availability of training programs. It is our contention, however, that availability is a major factor. For example, RESNA has focused it's continuing education efforts solely on conference-based training and in-service workshops, so it may not be surprising that these training methodologies are the most frequently accessed. In addition, although not statistically lower, there was a trend toward fewer ATPs receiving training via tele-/audio-conference and in the classroom. One possibility for this difference may be fewer training opportunities for the ATP-audience that use these methods.

However, there does seem to be an opportunity to focus more attention on web-based courses. Although only 16% of the ATP respondents had taken a web-based course related to workplace accommodations, 100% indicated an interest, and 68% had taken a web-based course in the past. This indicates an area of opportunity for developing training opportunities.

We are currently using these results to develop two web-based courses on workplace accommodations-one on the work accommodation process, and one on products.


This research was conducted as part of the RERC on Workplace Accommodations, which is supported by Grant H133E020720 of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education. The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. RRTC on Workplace Supports, Virginia Commonwealth University. "Supported Competitive Employment for Individuals with Mental Illness." http://www.vcu.edu/rrtcweb/cyberu/webcourse/
  2. Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU), The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR). "ILRU Web Casts." http://www.ilru.org/online/
  3. Tech Connections, UCP and Georgia Tech. " AT Works Online Tutorial Series." http://www.techconnections.org/atworks/


Karen Milchus
RERC on Workplace Accommodations
Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access
Georgia Tech.
490 Tenth St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 894-0393

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