Disability Awareness Month: Transit Disability Services helps to provide resources for over 5,000 employees 

Sometimes it just takes a little creativity and a few good resources to make it easier for an employee to do their job. For the past two decades, a small group of Transit Disability Services staff has been coming up with ideas to help Transit workgroups accommodate employees who have a medical condition, from bus drivers to office workers.

study by the Job Accommodation Network in partnership with the West Virginia University School of Social Work, found that the majority of workplace accommodations employees need are either free or low cost. For Transit Disability Services, this often involves coordination with community resources.

When an employee wants to “try out” a device or item that may make their job a bit easier based on a medical condition, Transit Disability Services staff frequently work with Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP) at the University of Washington. The organization allows an individual to borrow a piece of equipment that may help them overcome their limitations on the job, such as a split keyboard, voice-activated computer software or other items that can help make a difference.

The Transit Disability group also works with Dan Nwaelele, Safety Officer with the Department of Human Resources, to perform ergonomic evaluations. Ergonomic evaluations can be something as easy as moving a desk or keyboard set up, but often can be more complex. This year alone, Dan has performed 67 evaluations for Transit employees. “As an ergonomist, I have a modest goal – to fit work to the employee regardless of his or her stature, work environment or equipment used,” said Dan. The effect is enhanced productivity as well as improved employee health.

But trying to find a new way of getting the job done can often be stressful at first. When an employee is going through a workplace issue that impacts their ability to perform their job, Disability Services staff often provide referrals to the Making Life Easier Program for assistance with personal issues or stress. Employees or family members can call a 24-hour phone number to be connected with a professional clinician in the community for up to eight free sessions of counseling. And sometimes, after all attempts to accommodate an employee in their current job have been made, it turns out that a different job is just a better fit based on a medical condition. In those cases, the County provides a path to more suitable employment under the King County Reassignment Program, which offers priority placement into a new job for which an employee is qualified. It is the best way to keep talented staff who have the kind of experience the County needs.

Regardless of which path the employee and the County take, the goal is always the same: to help the employee continue to pursue their passion for public service.