About Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, slowly progressive neurological condition. PD can produce various symptoms such as resting tremors on one side of the body, slowness of movement, stiffness of limbs, gait or balance problems, small cramped handwriting, lack of arm swing, decreased facial expression, lowered voice volume, feelings of depression or anxiety, episodes of feeling "stuck in place" when initiating a step, slight foot drag, increase in dandruff or oily skin, and less frequent blinking and swallowing.
JAN's Effective Accommodation Practices (EAP) Series: Executive Functioning Deficits is a publication detailing accommodations for individuals with limitations related to executive functioning. These ideas may be helpful in determining accommodations.
Parkinson's Disease 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 Parkinson's Disease
People with Parkinson’s disease 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 Parkinson’s disease 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 teacher with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty standing in front of the classroom to write on the board.
The individual was accommodated with a scooter and a laptop and PC projector. She was then able to remain seated while using the computer and projector to display information to the class.
A consultant with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty getting to work on time.
He was accommodated with flexible scheduling so he could use public transportation.
A file clerk with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty meeting the physical demands of the job, including walking between work areas, standing at filing cabinets, and carrying files.
The individual was accommodated with a power scooter with a basket and a stand/lean stool.
A supervisor with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty managing fatigue.
The employer provided a private rest area with a cot so the individual could take breaks throughout the day.
A customer service representative with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty manipulating his mouse, writing, standing to greet people, and communicating effectively.
He was accommodated with a trackball, writing aid, stool with lift cushion, and speech amplification.
A secretary with Parkinson’s disease and hand tremors was having difficulty using a keyboard, writing, manipulating manuals, and filing.
She was accommodated with a keyguard, typing aid, page turner, and open files.
A technician with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty concentrating.
The employee's supervisor provided written job instructions when possible and allowed the individual to have periodic rest breaks. In addition, she was moved to a corner cubical where distractions were minimized with strategically placed baffles.
An engineer with Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty concentrating and communicating.
The individual was accommodated with a quiet office free from distractions. In addition, her supervisor implemented a policy of scheduled interruptions with written reminders and assignments. The individual was also provided with a communication device.
An office assistant with tremors and fatigue caused by Parkinson’s disease was having difficulty typing the number of words per minute required by her employer.
The individual rearranged her workstation to reduce distractions and her employer offered flexible scheduling. Her word processing software was programmed with macros to reduce keystrokes and she was given speech recognition software.