It is important to know the rights of people with disabilities. One such right is reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In order for people with disabilities to succeed in the workplace, the employer must consider making reasonable accommodations. Without them the disabled employee will be set up for failure.

I met Simon Cloete about a year ago and was truly inspired by how he copes so independently in the workplace. Simon is a C5/6 quadriplegic from a rugby injury sustained in 1989when he was in Grade 11. Despite this life changing experience Simon was determined to get on with his life and, after matriculating, he obtained an IT qualification.

Before diving into corporate life Simon took time to adjust by working at a NGO as a Data Capturer for four years. He knew that he could improve his career prospects with work experience. With some experience and confidence under his belt he joined an IT Outreach programme at an Internet Service Provider, successfully completed their assessment competency test and landed a permanent position as a Technical Call Centre Agent. This entailed first line support to customers, handling of customer queries and follow-ups.

After 10 years Simon decided it was time for the big time and moved to a large mobile telecoms company in 2009 as a Technical Officer. It was here that Simon experienced reasonable accommodation on a regular basis thanks to the company’s policy of ensuring effective accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Because Simon is quadriplegic, and has limited hand functionality, he requires a wireless keyboard and mouse. The wireless mouse is so flexible that he can put it right in front of the keyboard where he can hold it with both hands and manoeuvre it in any direction. He also uses a telephone headset to free up his hands, enabling him to speak on the phone and look up the status of queries at the same time. Simon’s wheelchair also fits easily underneath his desk. When Simon communicated his reasonable accommodation requirements to his employer their Facilities team first checked that they had understood his requirements properly as interpretation can leave room for error. It is essential that direct personal contact be made with the disabled employee to eliminate any misunderstandings and unnecessary delays.

The building in which Simon works is completely accessible as all doors, on all floors, are automated. Access scanners are reasonably low which makes it easy to scan and then enter an area. When he orders lunch at the cafeteria the staff automatically assist and his lunch is taken to the table at which he is seated.

The above examples are considered reasonable accommodation best practices and should form part of employers’ inclusive design processes. Simon is able to get around independently and the accommodations increase his productivity. The accessible work environment, combined with Simon’s talent and knowledge, is a success recipe for both him and his employer. Within a year of being employed Simon was promoted to Senior Technical Officer.

His advice to other people with disabilities is to persevere, no matter how big the task at hand and, even if you feel overwhelmed at times - never give up! I salute Simon for coming such a long way and for being a role model for people with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are about leveling the playing field – participate and make use of them as they will enable you to do your job efficiently.