Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

The Use of Work Schedule Modification to Enhance Employment Outcomes for Persons with Severe Disability

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

The Use of Work Schedule Modification to Enhance Employment Outcomes for Persons with Severe Disability

Article excerpt

Despite growing attention to the employment needs of persons with severe disabilities, modification of work schedules has received limited mention (Hopkins & Johnson, 1988; Kuhlman, 1988; Seaver, 1989) in the rehabilitation literature. In addition, the personal impact of altering work schedules in terms of lifestyle and personal adjustment has been largely ignored. While a variety of modifications have been used to enhance access to employment for workers with disabilities, including technical and structural modifications to the work environment (Amaroli, 1986; Angelo, Hurlburt, & Oddo, 1991; Lysaght & Lloyd, 1993), and modification of work tasks (Feuerstein, 1991), the challenge for rehabilitation workers is to develop innovative means of integrating workers with severe disabilities into competitive work settings in ways that will maximize the worker's productivity, enhance quality of life, and lead to long term success.

One concern which impacts the success of people with severe disabilities in managing a full-time, competitive work schedule is the activity tolerance levels of these workers. Reduced physical stamina may limit tolerance for productive work activity in workers with severe disability (Hopkins & Johnson, 1988; Treishman, 1988). In a survey by Stewart, Chubon, and Ososkie (1988) of rehabilitation professionals and clients, which identified the most critical factors in settling a disability claim, 36% of professionals rated the exertional demands of work as an important factor, while 77.5% of working individuals with disabilities considered this to be important. In fact, after hiring biases of employers, this was the factor most identified by disabled respondents (Stewart et al., 1988). Workers with a variety of chronic medical conditions have identified the need for scheduling flexibility due to fatiguability (Hopkins & Johnston, 1988).

Quality of Life

Productivity of a paid or volunteer nature is acknowledged as an essential feature in achieving quality of life in terms of personal satisfaction following the onset of disability (Crisp, 1990; Kinney & Coyle, 1992; Krause, 1990; Yerxa & Baum, 1986). The role of productivity in achieving a satisfying lifestyle is not exclusive, however. Research indicates that quality of life is enhanced by a balance between work, leisure, and self care (Kinney & Coyle, 1992; Spencer, 1989). People with severe disabilities such as spinal cord injuries may find it difficult to achieve this balance due to the disproportionate amount of time spent on self care activities. In her review of the work patterns of some persons with severe disabilities, Treischmann (1988) observed that many persons interviewed describe returning home from work only to spend their leisure hours resting in order to gain enough energy to return to work the next day.

Hopkins and Johnson (1988) note the positive effects of work schedule modification on worker satisfaction, and the benefits in terms of transportation and flexibility in scheduling medical treatments. Various authors have noted the importance of involving the family in rehabilitation planning (Power, Hershenson, & Fabian, 1991; Dew, Phillips, & Reiss, 1989), highlighting the need to look at employment and its significance in the context of the individual's larger social environment. Modified work schedules may reduce the impact of employment-related stressors on families (i.e., transportation, daily personal care) by providing additional time and flexibility.

Financial Concerns

Financial disincentives to employment may actually make part-time employment more practical than full-time employment for some people. Individuals who qualify for public financial assistance programs may find themselves earning less by working full-time than they do working part-time due to disqualification for certain benefits (Schloss, Wolf, & Schloss, 1987). Private insurance regulations and workers' compensation laws differ across jurisdictions and companies, and awarding of benefits can vary depending on the coverage responsibilities of different carriers, the nature of the accident, and the interpretation of terms such as "reasonable" and "substantially disabled" (Hynes, 1989; Wyrick, 1992). …

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