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Accommodating Essential Tremor

A summary of accommodations for individuals with essential tremors

From the desk of Lisa Mathess, M.A., SHRM-CP, Principal Consultant, ADA Specialist

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder than can cause involuntary movements and uncontrolled shaking in one’s hands. Oftentimes, people mistake essential tremor for Parkinson’s disease as both diseases do have tremor symptoms, but they are in fact two different conditions. Some people may also experience head shakes and voice shakes as a result of essential tremors.

Sometimes people will experience a tremor in just one hand, but often over time that becomes bilateral. Sometimes essential tremor can be exacerbated by stress, fatigue, and extreme temperatures.

There are assistive technology options dedicated to limiting the shaking that stems from essential tremor, such as anti-tremor gloves that individuals can wear while performing fine motor tasks such writing, pushing buttons, or typing. There are also alternative mice that limit tremors, which operate as an alternative mouse but reduce shaking caused by essential tremor.

For keyboarding issues, some people find keyguards useful as they create a barrier between keys to limit accidental pressing caused by essential tremor. Another consideration could be using the alternative mice that limit tremors  in conjunction with an on-screen keyboard as this would perhaps permit an individual to input data on their computer.

For those with essential tremor who are looking to reduce stress, there are a variety of apps dedicated to limiting anxiety and reducing stress. Also, a flexible work schedule so one is working when less stressed may be ideal for productivity and employee morale.

As mentioned, essential tremor can affect one’s ability to communicate. Possible accommodation ideas may be considering fluency devices that can help one minimize stutters or reallocating marginal tasks that involve verbal communication.

Oftentimes, exposure to extreme temperatures can exacerbate an essential tremor. To help those with temperature sensitivity, cooling clothing and portable air-conditioners  can be ideal for those who need to remain at a cooler temperature. Alternatively, if a person with essential tremor needs to stay warmer, then heated computer equipment should be considered along with electric heated gloves.

There are lots of options for AT devices that can enable a person with essential tremor to thrive in the workplace, but not all employees with essential tremor will need reasonable accommodations. If you have any questions about any mentioned products, don’t hesitate to contact JAN.


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tremor in the hand