Accomodations

While this guide recommends a "universal design" approach to making things broadly accessible to most people, there are occasions where an individual's unique needs need to be addressed differently. Accommodations are adaptations made to allow equitable access for a person with a disability to access services, education or do their job.

While there are suggestions made regarding how to accommodate particular disabilities, accommodations are provided based on an individual's unique needs and based on how their disability or impairment affects them in that particular situation. Don't assume that because someone is labeled as blind or has a learning disability that the accommodation provided to someone else will be appropriate for them as well.

Accommodations can be modifications to work station, schedule, ability to alternate sitting positions, adaptations to materials, communications, technology. In a survey done by the Job Accommodation Network, the average reported cost of an accommodation was $500 and employers reported significant benefits.

State agencies are responsible for accommodating individuals when appropriate requests are made. Questions or concerns regarding accommodations as part of employment should be made to HR or state ADA coordinator. It is acceptable to ask whether the modification is being requested is related to a disability and you can request documentation of that need.

For meetings and events, individuals should request an accommodation in advance, however, this doesn't always happen. Make every attempt to assist the person in the moment but reschedule if necessary, to ensure that the individual has full access.

Common Accommodations

A good resource for information on accommodations for various disabilities is the Job Accommodation Network which maintains a searchable database of accommodations. Despite its name, the accommodations discussed are often equally applicable to receiving public services or participating in education.

Alternate format materials: materials in electronic format, braille, large print, audio version of documents. See Accessibility Guide Alternative Formats for more information.

CART: Communication Access Remote Transcription is like captions on a video but done in real time by a live person during a presentation or meeting. It can be done with the provider in the room or listening remotely and using the internet to stream the text to participants. Some events have large screens, so the entire audience has the benefit of this live captioning. For video or phone meetings, CART can be overlaid on the presentation or streamed to participants. Automatic captions are not considered acceptable due to their accuracy. See OIT "Guidelines for Accessible Recorded and Streamed Video and Audio Materials (Word)" for more information. See also Accessibility Guide Remote Meetings for more information on providing accommodations during remote meetings.

Assistive Listening Device: Best practice is to use amplification for your entire audience, but even when it is being used, some individuals require more assistance. There are a variety of products which can assist with hearing. In addition to smart phone apps, there are single purpose devices which provide amplification for individuals with hearing impairments. The PocketTalker has a microphone and headphone jack and amplifies sounds the microphone picks up. A similar class of devices are called FM systems, where there is a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter has a microphone and can be placed either in the center of the room or worn by a trainer or presenter and transmits to the receiver where the user's receiver picks up the signal and listens to it through headphones. Some facilities like movie theater or lecture halls are equipped with built in systems where the audio or microphones are automatically transmitted and people with hearing aids can pick up the signal for better amplification or people can borrow a device to access the signal.

Interpreting: Sign language interpreting can be done for an individual or groups. In person interpreting often needs to be booked weeks in advance, however there are services which provide on demand remote video interpreting. The State has contracts for both ASL interpreters and video remote interpreting (VRI). Division of Procurement Services ASL and VRI Services

Maine's Division for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened maintains a resource guide which has a list of interpreting agencies.

Service Animals: Maine law differentiates between a service animal and an assistance animal. A "service animal" is defined as "a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability" (MHRA Part 12, Chapter 337).

Employment

Most people understand the need to accommodate staff once they've been hired, however it's important that accessibility is considered from advertisement through retirement.

Ensuring accessibility includes advertising a position and interviewing candidates. For example, if you plan on doing a written test as part of the interview, it's important to inform candidates when scheduling interview. This gives the applicant an opportunity to request an accommodation to meet the needs of the interview, such as a computer with assistive technology.

Similarly, interviews should always be held in a location which is accessible to people with disabilities and meets the other requirements for an accessible location.

Please contact your HR department for more information on ensuring accessibility and non-discrimination in hiring (and employment).

When someone requires an accommodation, they should inform the agency of their needs and ask for the accommodation they require. Because we try to use universal design, the facilities the State of Maine uses should always be accessible for those who use a wheelchair or have difficulty with mobility.

Learning or testing

Accommodations for learning can be similar to those for employment or providing services, however you need to be attentive when considering accommodations for tests or evaluations. Most standardized evaluation or testing tools have protocols for accommodations so as to not alter the validity of the results of the evaluation. For example, someone who has a learning disability in math may be allowed to use a calculator in their work in a physics class or construction math, but not for an evaluation of their knowledge of basic math facts.

Some common accommodations for learning are

  • Extended time for tests and exams
  • Use of computer or calculator
  • Note taker
  • Use of assistive technology during exams
  • Alternate format materials
  • Recording of lectures