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Personal assistance services in the workplace

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Personal assistance services (PAS) are a form of accommodation that involves using another individual to assist an employee with a disability with work tasks. PAS is often associated with personal care tasks essential to daily living activities (e.g., bathing, dressing). However, in the workplace, PAS can include the use of readers, interpreters, or an individual to help with lifting or reaching items.



Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers with more than 15 employees need to provide accommodation for employees with disability. Types of disability that may require assistance in the workplace include sensory impairments, cognitive impairments, mental health impairments, and motor impairments. Assistants should be considered to allow the individual with a disability to work in an environment that they are otherwise qualified for.

Types of disability and appropriate assistance

There are different types of disability, each of may require some personal assistance in the work place.

Vision impairments

An employee who is blind may need help with reading or writing information. A qualified reader can read work-related documents to the employee. The reader should understand the terminology of the field, however, he or she is not expected to interpret or explain the reading to the employee with disability. This person may be a hired professional, co-worker, or other volunteer. A scribe would be useful for an employee that is blind. The scribe simply writes or types the information verbatim from the employee. A job assistant can help with various tasks in the workplace, from reaching and lifting if necessary to helping with work-related travel and getting around an unfamiliar city.

Hearing impairments

An employee who is deaf or hard of hearing may need assistance with communication. For example, there is a computer system, called the communication access real-time translation service (CART) that would be useful for someone who is deaf in a meeting or classroom situation. It is a translation of communication in the room into text in real-time. A qualified interpreter is someone who knows sign language and can help with communication for those who are deaf.

Cognitive impairments

Employees with cognitive impairments, including mental retardation, epilepsy, or a brain injury could benefit from many of the service described above, including a qualified reader, scribe, or job assistant. In addition, there are people that work as a job coach, meaning they help people with interpersonal skills, give extra one-on-one training, and help with interviewing. In addition, a driver can provide assistance for work-related travel. A qualified reader or a driver may also be recommended for employees with a mental health disability such as bi-polar disorder.

Motor impairments

For employees with a motor impairment such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, or cerebral palsy, assistants who help with reaching, lifting, clerical assistance such as page turning and organizing would be necessary. These employees may also need a personal care assistant to help with eating, grooming, or toileting at work.


Personal assistance is paid for either by the employer, by Medi-Cal through In-Home Support Services (IHSS), or by the employee. The employer should consider the need for personal assistance by the employee and the current capacity of the workplace to meet that need before paying for outside assistance. For examples, co-workers can act as informal assistants by reaching for something or helping with lifting.

In-Home Support Services

In-Home Support Services (IHSS) are designed to provide care in the home through aid in chores, meals, and personal care. The services are funded for up to 283 hours/ month. These hours can be transferred to work, if the work service is 'relevant and necessary in supporting and maintaining employment'. Examples of these work services include interviewing, training, meal-prep, personal care, and paramedical assistance.

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