This study used data from a nationally representative survey that follows people 50 and older over time (the Health and Retirement Study) to test whether the receipt of workplace accommodations by persons with work limitations varies by race/ethnicity. Workplace accommodations can include changes to time (allowing more breaks, allowing different arrival or departure times, or shortening the workday), provision of equipment/assistance (getting someone to help, getting special equipment, arranging special transportation), and changes to work (changing the job, helping to learn new job skills). We found that 85% of persons with work limitations identified a need for workplace accommodations, but only 32% actually received accommodations. While our preliminary analyses suggested some differences by race/ethnicity in the likelihood of receiving accommodations, when we also considered other factors (age, gender, education, organizational size, and physical nature of an occupation), these differences by race did not hold. Organizational size was a critical factor, however, as persons working for organizations that employed 100 or more people were significantly more likely to receive accommodations. This finding suggests that smaller employers may benefit from training or other supports to increase the availability of workplace accommodations. Workers with disabilities might also benefit from increased education offered by vocational rehabilitation agencies, workforce development programs, and other similar organizations on how to make requests for and implement reasonable accommodations.

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University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC)

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