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About Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is the most frequently occurring permanent birth defect. It affects approximately one out of every 1,000 newborns in the United States. It results from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the back and may be covered by skin or a thin membrane.
Spina Bifida 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 Spina Bifida
People with spina bifida 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 who are aging 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?
- 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?
- Using Proper Lifting Techniques
- Reallocating lifting duties, if marginal
- Providing assistance moving objects, to reduce weight
- Organizing items in a way that reduces the need to move or lift items
- Reducing weight to be lifted by separating items into smaller groups
- Reassigning an employee to a modified duty position or modifying duties by removing the lifting duties
- Periodic rest breaks to get up and move around
- Modified break schedule so that you can stretch your legs when needed
- Using break reminder software to remember to get-up and move around
- Alternating between sitting and standing while working by using a sit/stand workstation
- Ergonomic/adjustable office chair
- Work at home, where employee can lie down, sit, stand, move freely
- Personal Assistant Service
Situations and Solutions:
An applicant lets his prospective employer know that he uses public transportation to get around as he cannot drive.
The individual discloses that he has spina bifida. The employer agrees to allow the individual to have flexibility in his schedule if he is hired so that the individual can work around the public transportation schedule.
An applicant for a cashier position has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair for mobility.
The employer agrees to make adjustments to one of the cashier stations to be wheelchair accessible should the individual be hired for the position.
An employee with spina bifida has been having problems when needing to perform extensive keyboarding tasks at work.
The employer allowed the individual to use speech recognition software to minimize the amount of keyboarding needed to perform these job functions.
An employee with spina bifida had difficulty accessing the employer's parking lot.
Because the employee's office was on the tenth floor, the employer agreed to provide a reserved parking space that was as close to the building as possible.
An applicant who uses a walker states that she would have trouble using stairs due to limitations from spina bifida.
The individual’s workstation would normally be located on the third floor. The employer agrees to place the individual’s workstation on the first floor if she is hired as an accommodation.