Job Accommodations, Return to Work and Job Retention of People with Physical Disabilities: A Systematic Review


Purpose We aimed to identify job accommodations that help persons with physical disabilities maintain or return to work and explore the barriers and facilitators that influence the provision and reception of job accommodations. Methods We conducted a systematic review using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. The review was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42019129645). The search strategy incorporated keywords describing physical disabilities, employer-approved job accommodations, and employment retention or return to work approaches. We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and ProQuest Theses and dissertations. Reviewers independently selected studies for inclusion. We used Hawker et al.’s method to assess study quality. Results We identified 2203 articles, of which 52 met inclusion criteria, developed a table of job accommodations commonly used by persons with physical disabilities, summarized the percentages of job accommodations used by persons with disabilities, synthesized evidence of the effectiveness of job accommodations, and identified the factors that influence job accommodation use. The most frequently reported accommodations were as follows: modification of job responsibilities, change of workplace policy, supportive personnel provision, flexible scheduling, and assistive technology. We summarized four types of facilitators and barriers that affect job accommodation use: employee-related factors, accommodation-related factors, job-related factors, and social workplace-related factors. Conclusion The absence of randomized controlled trials and prevalence of cross-sectional surveys provides inconclusive evidence regarding the effectiveness of specific job accommodations for people with particular functional limitations. Our system of categorizing job accommodations provides a guide to investigators seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of job accommodations using experimental methods.

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This project was funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (Grant Number: 90RTEM0001).

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Correspondence to Jasin Wong.

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Wong, J., Kallish, N., Crown, D. et al. Job Accommodations, Return to Work and Job Retention of People with Physical Disabilities: A Systematic Review. J Occup Rehabil (2021).

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  • Physical disabilities
  • Job accommodation
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Employment