Winter Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities

We’ve talked a couple of times about accommodations in the workplace.  Accommodations allow your employees with disabilities to do their job and are often easy to fulfill.  With winter at our doorstep, or here already in some places, it’s time to talk about seasonal accommodations.  The colder weather brings with it a lot of factors that are hard on people with disabilities. It can mean getting sick easier, it can be hard on joints and muscles, and the snow can make it difficult to leave the house.  Allowing for extra accommodations this time of year is important so that your employees are still able to get their work done. These accommodations will more than likely be short-term, but should occur every year.

Start Time/End Time

This has been talked about on the blog before, but it’s extra important in the winter time.  Leaving the house in the winter adds a bunch of extra steps to the routine of someone with a disability.  Getting a jacket on alone can take upwards of 10 minutes if the person has mobility issues. While I can all but guarantee you that your disabled employee knows this and plans accordingly to arrive on time, things happen.  Maybe their PCA can’t get out to them due to snow. Maybe their apartment didn’t plow out the striped area of the parking lot and your employee can’t get to their car until they do.

Consider altering your disabled employee’s schedule slightly during the winter.  If able to, allowing them to start later and end later can be less stressful than rushing out the door because they’re already behind.  As long as they’ve got their hours in, of course.

Sick Days

Getting sick is difficult no matter who you are, but it can be even worse if you have a disability.  I can take as much precaution as humanly possible, short of living in a bubble, and I’ll still get sick.  Things like the flu shot help, but it doesn’t repel it completely. Trust me when I say that if your disabled employee is calling in sick, they are sick.  People with disabilities tend to have a higher tolerance for the sniffles and allergies.  We want to save our sick days for when we need them the most.

Your disabled employees might need more sick days.  A cough can turn into pneumonia very rapidly, and that can lead to a hospital stay.  The employee who uses a wheelchair probably has 3-4 PCAs, and if one of them gets sick so could your employee.  Getting sick in the winter is something that is expected when you have a disability. If your employee is able to and wants to work from home to avoid extra contagients, let them.

Office temp

This one is so simple, I debated even putting it on the list.  Being cold is awful, and one or two degrees can make the difference of fingers being too cold to type.  Non-disabled people can put on a sweater to keep warm, but it’s not always that easy for someone with a disability.  Extra layers means extra weight on our arms. Even something like a thicker sweater can be too heavy for someone with strength issues for long periods of time.  Keeping your office a little warmer during the winter will allow your disabled employees to get their work done and be comfortable doing so.

Being understanding with your employees with disabilities is incredibly empowering for them.  They feel wanted and are more likely to want to improve in their work. Winter can make their life more difficult, but giving them seasonal accommodations helps them to be successful in their jobs.  Remember that these aren’t permanent accommodations. When the weather gets warmer they won’t be necessary anymore, but be prepared to re-establish them next winter.

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