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ENews: Volume 8, Issue 3, Third Quarter, 2010

The JAN E-News is a quarterly online newsletter of the Job Accommodation Network. Its purpose is to keep subscribers informed about low-cost and innovative accommodation approaches; the latest trends in assistive technologies; announcements of upcoming JAN presentations, media events, trainings, and Webcasts; and legislative and policy updates promoting the employment success of people with disabilities.

An e-mail announcement is sent to an opt-in list when a new issue is available. Please use the links at the end of this document to subscribe or unsubscribe.

Index

  1. A Step by Step Process Can Be Useful in the Workplace
  2. Aging as Windows Ages
  3. Confidentiality and Travel Accommodations for Hidden Disabilities
  4. Accommodating Voice Disorders in the Workplace
  5. Report from EXCEL
  6. JAN Releases New Resources
  7. E-vents
  8. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  9. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - A Step by Step Process Can Be Useful in the Workplace

Most people find that it’s easier to solve a problem if they take a step by step approach. Dealing with problems in the workplace is no different – employers benefit from having a step by step process that all managers and supervisors can follow. A process not only aids in solving problems, but also promotes consistency and fairness. And by promoting consistency and fairness, employers reduce the likelihood of accidently discriminating against employees by treating them differently.

Because a process can be very useful to employers, JAN is developing a series of publications that provide sample processes that employers can use or adapt in their own workplaces.

- Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant

2 - Aging as Windows Ages

Just the other day I increased the font and mouse cursor sizes on my computer. As many of us age, we may have to make adjustments at our workstations so that we remain comfortable throughout the day. What other options are available? This article addresses some of the options available with Windows 7.

Start with your “Control Panel.” Then, go to “Ease of Access Center.” Once there, you can choose features that allow you to use some of the most common accessibility tools for various types of software controls.

Start Magnifier: A user can choose among three views, which include Full Screen, Lens, and Docked:

You can choose where the Windows Magnifier focuses, change the zoom level, and turn on color inversion.

Screenshot taken while using Microsoft Windows 7 Magnifier

Start Narrator: Narrator is screen reading software that will read what is on the computer screen. You can choose from various settings, including the speed, volume, and pitch of voice.

Screenshot taken while modifying settings for Windows 7 Narrator

Start On-Screen Keyboard: An on-screen keyboard can be used as an alternative to the “traditional” keyboard. This keyboard can be controlled by a mouse or alternative input device.

Screenshot of Microsoft Windows 7 On-Screen Keyboard

Use Text or Visual Alternatives for Sounds: Select text captions and / or visual alternatives for sounds when available.

Screenshot taken while modifying text alternative settings for Windows 7

When using the Ease of Access Center, also find how to program settings to use a computer without a display, set high contrast, use the computer without a mouse or keyboard, and make the mouse and keyboard easier to use. For information on other accessibility options, go to http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windows7/.

Just the other day I realized Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Evan Williams (Twitter), and Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google) are all aging. Increasing my font and mouse size could be just the beginning.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

3 - Confidentiality and Travel Accommodations for Hidden Disabilities

JAN consultants often receive questions concerning the confidentiality of medical information that relates to a person’s disability, particularly a hidden one. How much information do co-workers need to have? And under what circumstances? Will an employee with a hidden disability be required to share a hotel room with a co-worker if it breaches confidentiality?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) medical documentation has to be kept confidential. The Technical Assistance Manual: Title I of the ADA states that information from all medical examinations and inquiries must be kept as a separate medical file in a locked cabinet, apart from the personnel files, with a specific person or persons designated to have access to it. The only information that might involve coworkers is stated in the following: first aid and safety personnel may be informed, when appropriate, if the disability might require emergency treatment or if any specific procedures are needed in the case of fire or other evacuation.

With the issue of confidentiality clearly stated, what happens when an employee with a hidden disability travels and is required to share a room with a coworker? Is it a violation of privacy and a threat to confidentiality under the ADA when the sharing of a hotel room will most likely lead to the disclosure of a disability?

A person with a disability may chose to disclose that disability at any time, but is never required to do so unless an accommodation is needed. An employee may have previously disclosed to his or her supervisor and is receiving accommodations that co-workers are unaware of. In the case of a hidden disability, unless the employee has disclosed to them, co-workers should have no knowledge of the disability.

The employee may not have disclosed the disability to his or her supervisor because no accommodation at work is needed. However, now that travel is required and sharing a room with a co-worker is eminent, the employee may need to disclose the disability to the employer if an accommodation is desired. Using a CPAP machine for a sleep disorder or a refrigerator for insulin storage are just two examples of confidential medical needs individuals may have. The use of a private room while traveling or allowing the employee to forgo the travel altogether are two accommodations that might be considered.

Disclosure of a disability can be a sensitive and very personal issue. Each individual must decide if and when he is going to disclose his disability to his employer. But remember, if accommodations are needed, it is imperative to disclose. No employer is responsible for providing accommodations when it does not know that a disability exists.

Employers have the responsibility of choosing among effective accommodations, and determining if and when the accommodation will cause an undue hardship. An accommodation that is too expensive, too disruptive, or one that would change the nature or structure of the business could constitute an undue hardship. In the case of overnight hotel accommodations, the employer would need to determine if providing a private room for the person with the disability would be an undue hardship. Allowing the employee with a disability to forgo the travel might be an alternate accommodation. To determine the necessity of this particular employee’s need to travel, the employer would look at the essential functions of the individual’s position. Can an accommodation be provided that would allow the employee to perform the duties of his/her position by using technologies such as audio and video conferencing in lieu of traveling? If travel is determined to be an essential function of the job and no effective accommodation can be made, reassignment may be a solution.

- Melanie Whetzel, M.A., Consultant, Cognitive / Neurological Team

4 - Accommodating Voice Disorders in the Workplace

Many people experience occasional temporary hoarseness or loss of voice from sinus infection, influenza, or even yelling too loud at a ball game. However, employees with voice disorders may experience frequent, long term, or permanent changes in vocal quality such as chronic hoarseness or a voice that is too soft for others to hear. There are many kinds of voice disorders. Some, such as unilateral or bilateral vocal fold paralysis result from damage to the nerve pathways that control the movement of various parts of the voice box or larynx. Others result from damage to the vocal folds, which are commonly called vocal cords. Overuse of the voice is one risk factor for voice disorders.

How can an employee with a voice disorder be accommodated? Here is an example of an accommodation solution involving vocal nodules:

A professor with nodules on his vocal folds was having difficulty talking loud enough for his students to hear him. His teaching style was to move around the classroom while he lectured so he did not want to stand at a podium with a microphone. He also wanted to be able to project his voice when meeting with students in his office and when attending faculty meetings. His employer purchased a portable voice amplifier for $150. The accommodation improved the employee’s job performance and made it easier for others to work with him.

Below are some accommodation ideas to consider:

An employee whose voice is low in volume or who needs to avoid straining her voice may benefit from use of a portable voice amplifier. Many models are available. Most have either a head set or neck loop microphone and a belt or clip, which is used to attach the speaker portion of the device to one's person. Keep in mind that a more powerful system may be needed in noisy environments or for presentations.

Devices are also available to amplify one's voice when using the telephone. Other options for telephone access include use of a TTY or speech to speech relay.

Some employees may need to reduce the amount of speaking that they do in the course of the work day. In an office setting, it may be helpful to allow increased use of text based communication such as email, instant messaging, and texting.

For employees who need to communicate from outside the office, there are a number of devices that offer texting capability and some such as the Blackberry and Peek also allow use of email.

In one-on-one conversations something as simple as use of a pen and paper may be helpful.

- Teresa Goddard, M.S, Consultant, Sensory / Motor Team

5 - Report from EXCEL

EEOC held its 2010 EXCEL (Examining Conflicts in Employment Laws) Conference July 12-15, 2010, in Orlando, FL. The EXCEL conference was attended by senior federal agency leaders, federal EEO and HR practitioners, and attorneys in the federal government. The Conference presenters provided a broad range of trainings on the laws and issues within the EEOC’s purview. EXCEL began with a roundtable discussion that included the Honorable Jacqueline Berrien, Chair, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the Honorable Chai Feldblum, Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and the Honorable Victoria A. Lipnic, Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity. Sessions focused on mediation, complaint processing, MD-715, diversity management, ethics, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. Anne Hirsh and Beth Loy attended EXCEL and presented on the topic of "Job Accommodation Network – How Does JAN Work?" They also talked with JAN booth visitors in the exhibit hall and were visited by old and new friends.

As always, the EXCEL Conference was an exciting opportunity. JAN staff enjoyed meeting everyone who stopped by the booth and attended Monday's training session!

6- JAN Releases New Resources

7 - E-vents

8 - JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule

Events of particular interest: Get the most up-to-date and comprehensive training on employing people with disabilities. To view the complete JAN travel schedule go here: http://AskJAN.org/training/On-the-Road.htm

9 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

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This document was developed by the Job Accommodation Network, funded by a contract agreement from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (DOL079RP20426). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. Nor does mention of tradenames, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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