Universal Design Practices to Enhance Work Outcomes

A NIDRR Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP)

Principal Investigator: Jon Sanford

Co-Investigators: Fran Harris, Maureen Linden, Karen Milchus, Harshall Mahajan, Nathan Moon, Hsian-Yu Yang


The goal of the DRRP is to increase knowledge about, availability of and access to UD accommodations to enable employees with disabilities to participate fully in the workplace, enjoy enhanced employment outcomes and have equal opportunities for advancement.

To accomplish this goal, the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Tech, in collaboration with the IDEA Center at SUNY Buffalo, will:

  1. develop and validate the Workplace Accommodation Rating System (WARS), a set of standards and a new rating system for UD accommodations based on the Commercial Building Standards developed by IDEA Center for the Global Universal Design;
  2. expand the Work RERC's Workplace Participation Survey (WPS), originally developed and validated for workers who use wheelchairs in an office setting, to include workers with all types of limitations, including vision, hearing, mobility, dexterity, speech, and cognition in multiple work settings;
  3. describe the relationship between employer accommodation practices and work outcomes;
  4. identify the salient UD accommodation practices that are associated with positive work outcomes for employees with disabilities; and
  5. identify needs and opportunities, develop and disseminate materials about accommodation policies and practices.

Overall, the research will enhance our understanding and develop an important evidence base that demonstrates the potential benefits of UD accommodations not only in meeting both activity and participation needs of employees with disabilities but also promoting positive work outcomes in job satisfaction and productivity. Such information is critical to practice and policy decisions that recognize the importance of multiple dimensions of work as both an individual and social experience as well as the contributions of the work environment in shaping that experience. This evidence is essential for laying the foundation for improved practices, policies and perceptions regarding accommodations for individuals with disabilities and adoption of UD practices by policymakers, rehabilitation professionals and employers.

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