Discover Ability Op-Ed 4: Unleashing the Power of Accommodations

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There are many ways that we can define disability – we can use a medical or legal approach, a charity model, or the social model of disability. The most common definition has been the medical model which frames disability as an impairment and a feature of a person’s body. The social model of disability reframes a disability as a mismatched interaction between a person and their environment.   Why use the social model? As employers, we cannot ‘solve’ impairments or personal health conditions and we aren’t entitled to private medical information. But we can solve mismatches in the workplace by changing the way we do things so a person can do the job. These changes are called accommodations.

Many people view accommodations as a legal necessity (they are). But in reality, they are truly a powerful tool to drive profitability. Accommodations let people do the jobs they were hired for, and they can also improve productivity, increase profit, and raise satisfaction in the workplace.[i]

When a potential or current employee is struggling to fit into a job interview or a role because of barriers, or poor design, we all lose. Individuals with a disability should not have to struggle in a workplace that is uncomfortable or where it is impossible to do their work. And the employer’s investment in the hiring and training process will flounder, or worse, fail when we unintentionally create barriers.

The simple solution – embrace the power of accommodations. An accommodation is not a benefit or perk, but a change or tool to allow the employee to do their job (thus increasing their overall productivity). When an employee is given an accommodation 90% of the time they meet or exceed the expectations of the employer.[ii]  For every dollar a company invests in making an accommodation a company can earn an average rate of return of $28.[iii]

Providing accommodations improves employee loyalty, attendance, and retention.[iv] When employees feel that an organization cares about them and their needs, people with, and without disabilities are more likely to show up and work well at their jobs. They are also less likely to quit due to dissatisfaction in the workplace. As retention and absenteeism have become major issues in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, anything a workplace can do to address these issues will help the overall profits of the company.

Accommodations are not just a legal obligation. They help both the employer and the employee reach their full potential in a symbiotic relationship. To learn more about the importance of accommodation and how you can implement them in your workplace visit,, or follow our social media @HireAbilityNow on Twitter and Facebook, and Discover Ability Network on LinkedIn and YouTube.   

[i] Graffam, Shinkfield, Smith and Polzin. “Employer Benefits and Costs of Employing a Person with a Disability.” Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 17 (2002): 251-63.”

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Marisol Lindstrom. ROI of Hiring Disabled Workers. 2016.,average%20thus%20reducing%20training%20costs.

[iv] Graffam, Shinkfield, Smith and Polzin. “Employer Benefits and Costs of Employing a Person with a Disability.” Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 17 (2002): 251-63.”