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ENews: Volume 8, Issue 4, Fourth 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.


  1. Disability Awareness and Effective Communication
  2. Communication Tips for Working with Individuals with Learning and Intellectual Disabilities
  3. Communicating with Coworkers about Disability and Accommodations
  4. Steps for Young People with Disabilities to Find Employment Success
  5. Recent Policy Initiatives Focus on Small Business Development as Key to Economic Recovery and Job Creation
  6. JAN Releases New Resources
  7. E-vents
  8. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  9. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Disability Awareness and Effective Communication

Language in our culture is in constant flux. This evolution extends to every sector. In the business sector, "experts" become "thought leaders." The "diversity" rubric, once exclusively for African-Americans and women, now includes people with disabilities. "Disability disclosure" simply becomes a "request for assistance" whereas a request for an "accommodation" is more often becoming a request for "an adjustment" or "technology modification." Inclusion now becomes the word to describe this new paradigm.

The language we use to describe disabilities has evolved as well. People with "intellectual disabilities" or "severe cognitive impairments" are teased out of the broader category of "developmental disabilities." People with cancer and multiple sclerosis become part of the broader category of people with chronic health conditions. "Invisible disabilities" become "non-apparent disabilities" and "autism" becomes the broader "autism spectrum" to include Asperger Syndrome.

As professionals, we all attempt to keep up with the most current language. At times we are successful and at other times, well, not so much. But, the most important thing in all of this is for us to do our best to communicate effectively. Disability, impairments, chronic health conditions, etc., are all part of the human experience. At some point in all of our lives, we will experience disability. We may be born with it or acquire it during our lifetime, but we will experience it. Or, we may cycle in and out of disability after being injured and then recovering. Disability is a normal part of our lives and our language trends reflect this important fact.

This gets us back to communication. Often times people with disabilities are overlooked by well meaning people who are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Inevitably, this innocent act of overlooking a person leads to the person being marginalized. This problem can be overcome if we all remember a few basic things. First, people with disabilities want to be treated much as you want to be treated. If you are unsure of how to communicate with a person, ask the person. If you are unsure of how to provide assistance, ask the person. Never make assumptions.

When greeting a person with a disability, just as with anyone else, smile, make eye contact, shake the person's hand or prosthesis if offered, and engage in authentic communication. If you are unsure whether there is understanding between you, ask the person. Offer another means of communication if needed. If a person is deaf and you do not know sign language then use text messaging or a simple pen and paper method. If a person has a speech impediment and after a few attempts you do not understand, own it and ask if there is another way to communicate. If a person with an intellectual disability does not seem to understand what you are saying, try using more simple language.

And most importantly, do not give in to idle curiosity by asking people about their disability. If it is in the workplace, engage people about their abilities; or in the community, about a favorite movie or restaurant. Remember we are them, they are us, and we are all part of the ever-changing human experience.

- Louis Orslene, MPIA, MSW, Co-Director

2 - Communication Tips for Working with Individuals with Learning and Intellectual Disabilities

Many individuals with learning and intellectual disabilities will learn and process information more slowly, so communication with individuals with learning and intellectual disabilities may take a little more time and effort. However, becoming familiar with the following strategies will be helpful in assuring that the information being exchanged has a better chance of being understood.

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

3 - Communicating with Coworkers about Disability and Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from telling coworkers anything about an employee's disability, including the fact that an employee is receiving an accommodation. But, in some cases, the employee voluntarily wants to educate coworkers about the disability and accommodation, especially if the coworkers are going to notice the accommodation anyway. For example, if an employee with a disability is going to use a service dog at work, it might be useful to educate coworkers about service dogs. Or, another example is when an employee has severe allergies and needs to avoid inadvertent exposure at work.

The following are some general tips for employees with disabilities communicating with co-workers about disability and accommodations:

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

4 - Steps for Young People with Disabilities to Find Employment Success (reprinted with permission from Proyecto Visión)

For young people with disabilities, making the transition to a new employment situation is sometimes overwhelming. Even with a supportive employer, the challenges you face when starting a new job or learning to work with job accommodations can be difficult. Two of the biggest challenges are when to disclose a disability and how to ask for a job accommodation.

If you have just finished school and are getting a job, understanding the differences between school and work can seem daunting at times. At a job, you have to understand your strengths, limitations, and reasonable accommodation and assistive technology options, and figure out how to be successful in that context. Experiencing this stress for the first time may seem isolating; however, these feelings are something everyone has in common.

There is an incredible amount of information and resources available in different places that can help you if you are in this situation, including the Internet and social networks like Facebook. But with so much information available, how can you figure out what steps have actually been successful for other people? The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor, is a free, confidential service available to assist you with finding the tools and information you need. JAN's services include helping you figure out when to disclose a disability and how to request a job accommodation.

Disclosing a Disability

Telling your employer about a disability is a very personal decision, but some of the following tips may be helpful in making that decision.

Tip #1: Disclose when you need an accommodation

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you can request an accommodation at any time during the application process or while you are employed. Once you get a job, you can request an accommodation even if you did not ask for one during the job application process. The problem is that deciding when to disclose can be difficult. If you have a hidden disability, such as brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder, this decision can be an even bigger dilemma.

You are not required to disclose your disability, but in general, you should disclose your disability when you need to request a reasonable accommodation - when you know that there is a workplace barrier that is preventing you, due to a disability, from competing for a job, performing a job, or gaining equal access to a benefit of employment like an employee lunch room or employee parking. In situations in which you need an accommodation in order to succeed, if you don't request it, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Tip #2: Know whom to disclose to

Many employers have their own in-house procedures that detail how they handle accommodation requests. Check your employee handbook for this information. If there is no formal procedure, talk with your supervisor, manager, or human resources representative.

Tip #3: Know how to disclose

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you only have to let your employer know that you need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. You don't have to use complex vocabulary or legal terms to make your request and you don't have to mention the ADA or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation." Once you disclose, then your employer can ask for limited information about your disability and your need for accommodations.

Many people with hidden disabilities may feel that they are not being completely honest with an employer if they do not tell everything about their disability up front at the time of their interview. Just remember that you are not required to tell everything. When you disclose, just provide basic information about your condition, your limitations, and what accommodations you may need. Do not wait to disclose until after you begin to experience work performance problems. It is better to disclose your disability and request accommodations before your job performance suffers or conduct problems occur.

How to Request a Job Accommodation

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees and applicants with disabilities, unless such accommodations would be an undue hardship (e.g., too costly, too extensive, too substantial, too disruptive).

Tip #1: Take on the responsibility of asking

In general, the applicant or employee with a disability is responsible for letting the employer know that an accommodation is needed to participate in the application process, to perform essential job functions, or to receive equal benefits and privileges of employment. Employers are not required to provide accommodations if they are not aware of the need.

Tip #2: Put the request in writing

According to the EEOC, an accommodation request does not have to be in writing. However, the EEOC suggests that individuals with disabilities might find it useful to document accommodation requests in the event there is a dispute about whether or when they requested accommodation. One way to document an accommodation request is to make a written request, which could be a letter or even an email.

Tip #3: Provide your employer with relevant information in your written request

When formulating your accommodation request letter, consider the following content:

Remember that you have a right to keep information about your disability private. It is not necessary to inform coworkers and colleagues about your disability or your need for accommodations. Also remember that no one knows more about your disability than you do.

As a young person with a disability, America needs your energy, intelligence, and productivity to fill workforce shortages in growing industries such as the green, healthcare, and technology fields. By being aware of the tools that are available, you can help become a successful member of the workforce. You can learn more about reasonable accommodations and the Job Accommodation Network at AskJAN.org.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

5 - Recent Policy Initiatives Focus on Small Business Development as Key to Economic Recovery and Job Creation

The role of small businesses continues to be a key focus for policy makers in spurring on the U.S. economic recovery and ongoing efforts to create more jobs. For persons with disabilities, entrepreneurship may offer both a means of creating a livelihood for oneself, as well as an opportunity to create employment for others. Aspiring entrepreneurs who contact JAN frequently remark about their mid to long term goal of ultimately hiring qualified persons with disabilities as part of their small business plan.

This article will highlight two small business initiatives at the federal level that seek to encourage greater opportunities for small businesses to grow and create jobs.

Small Business Jobs Act of 2010

Signed into law by President Obama on September 27, 2010, the Small Business Jobs Act sets forth a variety of initiatives to support small business development, which include increased tax cuts, an expansion of lending options, greater access to contracting opportunities, and more investment in training and counseling.

Below are a few highlights of how the bill intends to support small business owners and entrepreneurs:

For addition information on the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010:

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)

RMAP, as authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, supports the creation and sustainability of microenterprises in order to strengthen rural communities and lead to increased job creation. In October of 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded funding to microloan development programs to enhance the creation of rural small businesses through technical assistance and training programs, as well as financing opportunities for new and existing small businesses. A total of 75 organizations were selected to administer these programs, which include economic development entities, investment corporations, public universities, and non-profit organizations.

Some specific features of this program include:

For additional information about this program:

- Kim Cordingly, Ph.D., Lead Consultant, Self Employment Team

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 cooperative 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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