About Brain Injury
The brain can incur several different types of injuries depending on the type, amount, and position of force impacting the head. The impact may affect one functional area of the brain, several areas, or all areas of the brain. These factors determine what types of accommodations are effective.
Brain Injury and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Accommodating Employees with Brain Injury
People with brain injuries may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with brain injuries will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
A police officer was returning to work following surgery for a brain aneurysm.
He had partial paralysis to the left side and could no longer use both hands for word processing. Accommodation suggestions included: transferring the individual to a vacant position that involved computer research and providing a one-handed keyboard.
A professional whose work required the use of a computer returned to work following a brain injury.
As a result of his injury he was unable to read past the midline when reading from left to right. Accommodation suggestions included: changing the margin settings of his word processing program for 80 to 40 to limit right side reading or purchasing software that can split the computer screen left to right and black out the right side, redesigning his workstation to place equipment on the left, and providing task lighting.
A therapist who had short-term memory deficits had difficulty writing case notes from counseling sessions.
Accommodation suggestions included: allowing the therapist to tape record sessions and replay them before dictating notes, scheduling 15 minutes at the end of each session to write up hand written notes, and scheduling fewer counseling sessions per day.
A laborer working in a noisy factory had difficulty concentrating on job tasks.
Accommodation suggestions included: erecting sound absorbing barriers around his workstation, moving unnecessary equipment from the area to reduce traffic, and allowing the employee to wear a headset or ear plugs.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Brain Injury
Consultants' Corner Articles
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