Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities

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Access & Accommodations Can Foster Success in the Workplace and Beyond

This week’s blog is from Yvonne Rowland, Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS) Stay at Work/Return to Work (SAW/RTW) program coordinator. The Access and Accommodations team at ARS is charged with the mission “to assist Arkansans with disabilities to live and work more independently through the expertise in, use of, and access to various services and assistive technology.” When an employee needs just a bit extra to do their job to the best of their ability, the Access and Accommodation team steps in to assist. – Jon Taylor, GCDD Executive Director

By Yvonne Rowland

“Hey, I think we need your help.”

The phone call came from Tracy, the director of a preschool for children with special needs. Tracy is a caring employer whose sense of responsibility for others is apparent in his Captain America tattoo. He was seeking accommodation for Lillie, a teacher’s assistant with severe hearing loss. Lillie was an exceptional employee, he said, but she was having trouble hearing kids on the bus and on the playground. Her hearing loss interfered with her ability to respond quickly to a potential child in distress. Tracy was concerned that this safety issue threatened Lillie’s ability to maintain her current employment.  

Tracy listened as I filled him in on Stay at Work/Return to Work (SAW/RTW), a new program that streamlines the accommodations process for employers and their employees with a disabling condition that interferes with work. Under the umbrella of Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, SAW/RTW helps employers comply with the ADA’s Interactive Process (more on that later) and eliminates the need for an employee to visit a local ARS field office. On-site assessments are conducted discreetly by certified Occupational Therapists or an Assistive Technology Specialist. Recommendations are specific to the individual and the evaluation costs nothing. Best of all, SAW/RTW will follow up with the employee and employer to adjust, evaluate, and ensure the accommodation is working.

Who wouldn’t want that?

“I’m in”, he said.

I’m the coordinator for the SAW/RTW program. I’m lucky enough to work with people who are smarter than I am, such as TK. She’s the Occupational Therapist who went with me to visit Tracy and Lillie at the preschool.  We all met in the office together to go over the essential functions of Lillie’s job and to ask and answer questions. Tracy took me on a tour of the facility while TK and Lillie met to discuss possible solutions to the difficulties she was having at work. It was apparent that Lillie struggled to distinguish sounds above the hum of little voices in the classroom. At certain pitches, she stated that she couldn’t hear at all.

TK recommended hearing aids, a listening device and a bed shaker alarm to help her get to work on time. Lillie has never had hearing aids. Her insurance would not cover them.  When Lillie’s audiogram confirmed the extent of her hearing loss, TK and I enlisted the help of other members of our team, such as Stacy (VR counselor extraordinaire) and our general physician to help us expedite this accommodation.  

When Lillie received her hearing aids, everything changed for her. She said that she could hear so well that she wouldn’t need an additional listening device. The telecoil technology enabled her to distinguish sounds and hear things she had never heard before. Tracy says that Lillie has “an extra spring in her step” and is doing “great” at work. She hasn’t been late for work a single time since using her bed shaker alarm. Success. We felt like superheroes.

Not only did the SAW/RTW program enable Lillie to stay employed, but she says that our intervention has impacted the rest of her life. “I can hear in church,” she says.

That, my friends, is a high-five moment. Or, in this case, a moment worthy of Captain America.

Can we help you? You may request more information on Access and Accommodations and the Stay at Work/Return to Work program by emailing .

About Arkansas Rehabilitation Services

Arkansas Rehabilitation Services’ (ARS) mission is to prepare Arkansans with disabilities to work and lead productive and independent lives. To achieve its mission, ARS provides a variety of training and career preparation programs. They operate 19 field offices across the state, serving all 75 counties, where individuals can receive assistance with accessibility and training needs that can lead to successful employment.

ARS Access & Accommodations Program staff are accommodation specialists who can assist employers and employees when it comes to addressing employee performance issues because of disability in the workplace. Need an accommodation because of a sensory, learning, or physical limitation? Need assistance to stay at work or return to work?

Contact ARS at 1-800-330-0632 or 501-296-1600, or email , to find out how they can help you. You can visit ARS online to learn more.

About the Arkansas Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities

The Council is a federally funded state agency that promotes integration, inclusion and independence for Arkansans with developmental disabilities. Council members are self-advocates, relatives and/or caregivers of individuals with DD, state agency directors, and representation from nonprofit and private organizations. The Council works to encourage self-advocacy; to remove barriers to information, services and support; to advocate for policy changes; to develop and support coalitions; and to educate community leaders. For more information about the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and its mission, browse more pages on this website, or call 501-682-2897. Follow the Council on Facebook and Twitter @gcddar. You can also find Arkansas GCDD on YouTube.