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Essential Tremors

Accommodation and Compliance: Essential Tremors

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About Essential Tremors

Essential tremor is a nerve disorder in which tremors (shakes) occur without an identifiable cause when a person is moving or trying to move. Essential tremor of the hands typically occurs when the hands are in use. In contrast, tremors from Parkinson's are most prominent when a person's hands are at his sides or resting in his lap. Essential tremor can involve your hands, head and voice.

Essential tremor is the most common form of abnormal tremor. It resembles an exaggerated shaking. Essential tremor is a relatively benign condition, affecting movement or voice quality, but with no other effects. It involves a rhythmic, moderately rapid tremor of voluntary muscles. Purposeful movements may make the tremors worse, while avoiding hand movements may suppress the tremors completely. There may be difficulty holding or using small objects (such as silverware or writing utensils).

In the workplace, people with essential tremor may have difficulty writing, keyboarding and mousing, grasping small tools or items, and communicating. Limitations may be worsened by fatigue, stress and anxiety, and temperature extremes.

Essential Tremors and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such 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 Essential Tremors

People with essential tremors 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 essential tremors 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:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. 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?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Essential Tremors