The lowdown on adaptive hardware

What is it? Adaptive hardware is anything that makes it easier for an impaired worker to use a computer. This may be a monitor arm, an adjustable-height work table, an armless chair that lets the user hold a keyboard in the lap, a touchpad to replace a mouse, or something as sophisticated as a mouse emulator that lets a quadriplegic worker operate a computer.

Why do I need it? Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires agencies to make all reasonable accommodations to grant people with disabilities access to electronic information and IT. Section 508 reinforced the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

What are the advantages? Adaptive technology makes workers with marginal impairments more productive and less likely to become injured from repetitive operations. It also makes it possible for your agency to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of severely disabled workers. Whether you are faced with a longtime worker who has experienced a serious injury or illness, or a potential new employee, relatively low-cost adaptive technology can often help even severely impaired individuals become productive workers.

Must-know info? In many cases, making computers and information accessible doesn't have to be expensive. Devices such as monitor and keyboard supports, or larger monitors, can solve some problems. Operating systems such as newer versions of Microsoft Windows already include many accessibility features. For acute needs, companies offer a variety of ergonomic furniture and software tools.

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