From the desk of Teresa Goddard, M.S., Lead Consultant – Assistive Technology Services
Short days, low temperatures, and difficulty shoveling snow or navigating icy walkways can all make it challenging to get to work on time. Many employees with disabilities do not realize that they can request accommodations to help with commuting problems, especially if they only occur occasionally. Often, employees can drive themselves to and from work most of the time, but could be helped by accommodations that would allow them to delay or avoid driving in snowy, icy, or cold conditions.
Some typical limitations that can impact winter driving and travel include vision limitations such as night blindness or contrast sensitivity issues, fear of driving in adverse conditions, respiratory and circulatory impairments where exposure to cold or exertion from shoveling exacerbate symptoms, pain from cold intolerance or exertion, and gross motor impairments or balance disorders that make it harder to walk on ice or to clear off a vehicle or driveway. Whether driving independently, walking, using public transportation, carpooling, or using a ride sharing service, employees whose morning routines are disrupted by inclement weather may benefit from accommodations such as flexible start times that allow them to arrive a bit later without being penalized, permission to work from home for a morning or a day, or policy modifications that allow use of leave when weather and disability related needs collide.
Employees with certain limitations, such as night blindness or other difficulties with driving at dawn, dusk, or in darkness may be able to work more effectively and attend work more consistently, with accommodations that allow them to arrive later and leave earlier on a regular basis. This can allow them to drive themselves at a time that works best for them, or plan to use public transportation or other ride options. As the days grow longer with the arrival of spring, it may be possible for employees who drive themselves to gradually increase their time at work so that the accommodation is slowly phased out until needed again in fall. A calendar that shows sunrise and sunset times may be helpful in predicting suitable arrival and departure times. Depending on the type of work involved it may be possible for them to make up this time by working from home after hours, by working through lunches or other breaks, or by making arrangements to arrive earlier or stay later on days when suitable transportation options, such as carpooling, are available. Find out more below.