evaluation of an employee is not required if the employee works in a role that doesn’t require color discrimination such as administration or documentation management. To work with members with color blindness, a supervisor could delegate the disabled employee to load (identical color blood tube) samples onto an analyzer, or work in the blood bank or urinalysis department.

Evacuation plan

General checklist (GEN.73900) reflects the facility’s evacu- ation plan. If your laboratory employs disabled personnel the evacuation plan, “must cover all personnel, patients and visitors, and must address the special needs of persons with disabilities.”4

There are additional checklist items

that impact disabled personnel; however, the examples given are the most applicable to the ADA and disabled personnel.

How to accommodate staff members with disabilities depends on the flexibility of the position and a realistic accommodation of the situation. For example, if a staff member is bedridden due to a medical disability, there may be no reasonable accommodations that can be made. (I doubt that sending blood slides to the member’s house to review while in bed would not prevent undue hard- ship to the lab staff!) Therefore, it is the flexibility to meet the needs of the laboratory as well as the staff member’s disability—which is the key to success in this situation.


An employee that is either confined to a wheelchair or ends up in one due to an injury presents a challenge to all laboratories. Space is at a premium in any area consid- ered “support” to the medical mission. If the wheelchair bound employee works in a section of the laboratory such as hematology or microbiology, they could be assigned, for example, to read blood slides or micro culture plates from a desk. The lab can also generate a work position or fill a vacant position that utilizes the skill sets of the per- son while meeting the needs of their disability. Suggested roles could include quality assurance, administration (for an experienced staff member), and/or reception to the phlebotomy room, or entry to the laboratory department.

Service animals

A disabled laboratorian may also be matched to a service dog in order to meet the work position they are assigned to. From a personal perspective, I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in March of 2013. I underwent nine surger- ies including four brain surgeries. As a result, I developed a severe balance and dizziness issue. This makes mov- ing around very difficult under normal circumstances. Matching to a service dog through the Service Dog Project has enabled me to perform more actively in the laboratory community, including traveling to conferences. A valid question that gets raised from time to time is whether or not a service dog can be utilized by a hospital employee. As you can imagine, there are multiple chal- lenges to the introduction of a service dog to the labo- ratory workplace. These include (but are not limited to) cultural sensitivities, trip hazards, phobias, allergies, and exposure to zoonoses.4

Guidelines from the ADA indicate that any non-sterile location (such as intensive care unit or operating room) can be entered by a service dog.1

A disabled lab technician 36 APRIL 2019 MLO-ONLINE.COM

that requires mobility assistance from a service animal could fill a number of important roles, including a bench technician to read hematology slides, teaching medical laboratory students, performing compatibility matching, and/or any number of regular laboratory testing. Again, if you fit the disabled staff to the right task(s), they will excel; a continual challenge that every lab manager faces with both disabled and non-disabled employees.

The Service Dog Project The Service Dog Project (SDP) has donated over 150 Great Dane service dogs to mobility impaired individuals to assist them in achieving greater independence. Their working service dogs have been placed with veterans and individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, etc. Each dog receives extensive training for balance and mobility.5

Why Great Danes? Balance support dogs should be at least 45 percent of the person’s height and 65 percent of their weight. This means a 6-foot tall man would need a 30” dog in order to put stability at the person’s fingertips. Great Danes are well suited to home and office life. Also, their perfect public persona makes them very conducive to help with the isolation and depression which often accompanies disabilities.5


The implementation of the ADA has challenged medi- cal laboratories to productively utilize their disabled laboratorians. This utilization includes meeting accredi- tation checklist items and ensuring effectiveness of the laboratory staff. Work-arounds discussed for disabled laboratory staff are not comprehensive by any means. If you ask any ten laboratory supervisors, I would bet that each of them could present unique disability chal- lenges faced by their lab during their tenure. Laboratory managers and supervisors must come up with creative solutions that help both the disabled staff member(s) and the laboratory mission as a whole, creating a win-win situation for all parties involved.


1. (2019). The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. [online] [Accessed 25 Feb. 2019]. Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act https://www.eeoc. gov/eeoc/publications/fs-ada.cfm

2. (2019). Disability Discrimination. [online] laws/types/disability.cfm [Accessed 25 Feb. 2019].

3. Laboratory General Checklist. College of American Pathologists. Aug 2017.

4. Foreman A, Glenn M. et al. Dogs in the Workplace: A Review of the Benefits and Potential Challenges. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2017 May 8; 14(5): 498.

5. servicedogproject. (2019). Mobility Disabled | United States | Service Dog Project. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Lt Col Paul R. Eden, MT(ASCP), PhD, USAF (retired) has 24 years of laboratory experience managing both clinics and hospital laboratories including over six of years of applied research. He is also serving as Adjunct Assistant Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology, Wright State University, Ohio.

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