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ENews: Volume 10, Issue 2, Second Quarter, 2012

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. Incorporate Reasonable Accommodation Practices into your Onboarding Process
  2. Accommodating the Communication Needs of Deaf-Blind Employees
  3. Sitting Posture on the Job
  4. Interview Tips for New Grads with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  5. Accessible Computer Workstations: A Snapshot
  6. Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses
  7. June is National Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month
  8. JAN's Provides Written Senate Testimony Before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)
  9. JAN Releases New Resources
  10. E-vents
  11. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  12. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Incorporate Reasonable Accommodation Practices into your Onboarding Process

Spring is in full swing and there are signs indicating an upcoming increase in the hiring of people with disabilities in both the Federal and private sectors. With Federal Executive Order 13548 - Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities and the potential changes for Federal contractors in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' (OFCCP) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, employers would be wise to review their onboarding processes.

The purpose of an onboarding process is to smoothly integrate new employees into their positions and company culture. If you already have an onboarding process, does your process consider reasonable accommodation issues for your new employees who may happen to have a disability? It should. Take a look at your process and see if you need to incorporate the following reasonable accommodation considerations.

A key to the success of any process, including the accommodation process, is education and training for those responsible for implementing the process. Know who these players are in your organization. Who sets up a new employee's workstation? Who provides access to the facility and parking? If a new hire with a disability needs an accommodation to be an effective member of your team, who will make sure the accommodation is in place for the individual's first day of work? Key players certainly will include your human resources (HR) department, as well as managers and supervisors. And do not forget to include staff from information technology (IT), facilities, and security departments in this training. Also remember when conducting training, be sure to make everyone aware of the need and requirement to keep any and all medical information confidential.

Once your staff is educated about your company's accommodation process for new hires, the next step is to make sure new hires know that they can and should ask for an accommodation if they know or think they may need one. Many individuals who know they need an accommodation to do the job successfully will choose to make an accommodation request. Others may fear the job offer will be rescinded if they do so and some may not be sure if they need an accommodation or may not know how to request what they need. To overcome these issues, the individual making the job offer can share information about the company's desire to facilitate a smooth transition and integration for the new employee and explain various employment policies including the company policy for implementing effective reasonable accommodations.

Whoever is responsible for responding to an individual who has accepted a job offer should be prepared to describe to the new employee the office location and the type of equipment that will be provided. This does not have to be detailed, but should include information about the work location and work area such as: parking is provided onsite or no parking at the site; standard computer, telephone, cell phone provided; ID card needed to access building; desk workstation/cubicle environment, etc. Also, if prior to start date forms need to be filled out online or one has to go to a location to obtain an ID, etc., this should be explained, giving the opportunity for other potential needs to be addressed. Having all this information enables new employees to consider if they need to request a reasonable accommodation.

What accommodations may be imperative for effectively onboarding employees with disabilities?

Certainly not all of these accommodations need to be in place for the first day of work, but an awareness of the potential need and a willingness to implement accommodations as part of your company culture will help any employer successfully onboard new employees.  To help you update your onboarding process if needed, here is a sample onboarding accommodation assessment form.

- Anne Hirsh, M.S., JAN Co-Director

2 - Accommodating the Communication Needs of Deaf-Blind Employees

When you think of an individual who is deaf-blind (also known as deafblindness, blind-deaf, dual sensory impaired, or combined vision and hearing loss), do you think of someone who is fully deaf and fully blind? Helen Keller might be an important historical figure that comes to mind. In reality, while there are individuals who are fully deaf and fully blind, many people who are deaf-blind have some usable vision and hearing. For example, some individuals may have grown up with some degree of vision loss and experienced a change in their hearing later in life, or vice versa. Other individuals may have been born with mild to moderate deficits in both vision and hearing. Others may have experienced trauma or illness at some point in their lives that resulted in both vision and hearing loss while older adults are likely to experience age-related vision and hearing impairments.

Workplace accommodation needs for deaf-blind employees will depend on the setting in which individuals will be working, their specific job tasks, and their unique hearing and vision needs. Typical concerns may include: equal access to information presented in meetings and trainings, effective workplace communication, access to printed materials, computer access, and emergency preparedness. For instance, the following accommodation scenarios involving workers who are deaf-blind show how reasonable accommodations can support effective communication in the workplace and allow equal access to employment opportunities.

Job seekers and employees who are deaf-blind are likely to be very knowledgeable about their accommodation needs, especially equipment and techniques that have served them well in other settings. Employers should be prepared to work with the individual, and likewise, individuals should be open to discussing their own ideas as well as effective alternatives. Remember that accommodations may be needed to allow effective communication during this process. Many helpful resources are available to assist in determining effective accommodation including: medical providers, vocational rehabilitation and other state agencies, assistive technology projects, and of course JAN.

For more JAN resources, visit JAN's A to Z for:

You can also contact a JAN consultant to discuss accommodation ideas and get targeted suggestions.

Additional resources include:

- Teresa Goddard, MS, Senior Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

- Elisabeth Simpson, MS, Senior Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

3 - Sitting Posture on the Job (Part 2 of a Continuing Series, Read Part 1)

Our society has been transformed by the information technology age. More and more of us sit at work or at home in order to use computers. Many employees complain of back, neck, and arm pain from sitting for prolonged periods.

Neutral Posture Series 1500

In the past it was commonly believed that sitting at a right angle or erect position was the correct posture and furniture had been designed with that idea in mind. However, one can only maintain that posture for a few minutes before we have to move around or slump in our chairs to deal with fatigue, discomfort, and pain. Right angled sitting results in extreme flexion in the lower back. A simple method for improving seated posture is to open up the angle between the thighs and the body. When the thighs are sloping forward, it is not necessary to bend in the lumbar region, and the spine can maintain its natural S-shape. This posture simulates the natural resting position and allows the spine to bear the body weight in a more balanced way.

School children seem to tilt their chair legs forward to help alleviate back pain. They naturally sense that tilting the seat will help relax the back muscles. A seat that tilts forward uses this natural posture.

A good chair is a great beginning to improving the workspace. Certainly ergonomically designed workstations are very helpful, too. But a chair is essential for seated work.

Some basic ergonomic principles for sitting and proper chair design include:

Zackback Posture Chair

The Job Accommodation Network does not sell ergonomic products, but we do make information available as to manufacturers and distributors of the devices for your review. For more information regarding product information, prices, specifications, and vendors, visit JAN's A to Z by Topic and JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource at:

- Eddie Whidden, M.A., Senior Consultant, Motor Team

4 - Interview Tips for New Grads with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

You have worked really hard to get to this point. You are just about ready to graduate and take the next big step. But are you really ready? Interviewing for a job can put the best of us on edge and make us somewhat unsure of ourselves. Let's look below for some tips on interviewing when issues related to ASD and Asperger's may make the process a little more difficult.

Know yourself. The two main things an interview accomplishes are finding out about the applicant's qualifications and determining if he or she will be a good fit for the position. To show that you are qualified for the position, know your strengths and weaknesses and how your education and experience relate to the position you are interviewing for. The interviewer will determine if you are a good fit for the position by looking at the environment you will be comfortable working in and whether you are able to work well with others, as a team member, or on your own.

Prepare yourself. Role playing will likely be the most successful way to prepare for various interview situations. The practice will build your skills and confidence. If role playing has not been a part of the transitional services you have received through a guidance counselor or student placement office, it is not too late! Grab someone you are comfortable with, download a list of common interview questions, and start practicing (see JAN's How to Find a Job that is Right for You: A Practical Approach to Looking for a Job as a Person with a Disability). Write down your answers to the most common interview questions, or the questions you feel you may have the most trouble answering on the spot. Practice the process from start to finish with appropriate greetings at both the beginning and end of the interview until you feel satisfied with your responses. Although no list of common interview questions will contain every question an employer may ask, you will be more comfortable going into an interview if you have become familiar with the most typically asked questions. Be prepared to answer tough questions that may be out of your comfort zone, such as inquiries about yourself, your work history, your educational background, and maybe even your grade point average.

Limit yourself. Keep your answers brief. If the interviewer needs more information, he can ask you specific questions. Understand that when he asks you to tell about yourself, he is not asking for a personal story about your life, but rather information about your education and experience as it relates to the job. This is the perfect opportunity to explain why you are a good fit for the position. If you are not clear on how to respond to a question, ask for clarification.

Help yourself. You can request accommodations during the interviewing process if you feel there are things that may help you be more successful. The following are only suggestions and may not be effective for everyone:

It might be best to request accommodations as early into the process as possible, so consider what you might need from the beginning.

Be yourself. Once you have prepared as thoroughly as you can, it is time to relax, smile, and be yourself!

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

5 - Accessible Computer Workstations: A Snapshot

When designing accessible computer workstations, considerations should be made for individuals with mobility, vision, hearing, and/or cognitive limitations. Although not all inclusive, the following provides guidance on including equipment that will improve the accessibility of workstations for individuals with disabilities.

To increase access for individuals with mobility impairments:

To increase access for individuals with low vision:

To increase access for individuals who are blind (and those with low vision):

To increase access for individuals who are hard of hearing:

To increase access for individuals who are deaf:

To increase access for individuals with cognitive limitations:

Also keep in mind spacing requirements for accessible routes and space requirements in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (2002 ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities and 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design).

For more JAN resources, visit JAN's A to Z for:

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

6 - Resources for Veteran-Owned Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy announced a research report on March 29, 2012, entitled Veteran-Owned Businesses and Their Owners - Data from the Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners documenting the progress of veteran entrepreneurship since the enactment of the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999. The report is based on data from the 2007 Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners released in 2011. This report represents an ongoing effort by the SBA to provide up-to-date and valuable information about business ownership by veterans, including those with service-connected disabilities, to better inform policy decisions in the future.

Employment considerations for veterans overall, and those with service-connected disabilities returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to be a policy priority for the Obama Administration. The Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development's Report to the President - Empowering Veterans through Entrepreneurship (2011) states the following:

In sum, America has both an unquestioned responsibility and a compelling incentive to empower veterans through entrepreneurship, enabling them to become successful small business owners. This Task Force strongly believes that serving veterans who are – or who want to become – small business owners is crucial to America's overall job creation, economic growth, and competitiveness in the world economy.

Veterans with service-connected and non-service connected disabilities are involved in every segment of the U.S. economy, including small business ownership. Veterans of the Armed Forces bring to entrepreneurship important occupational skills and leadership abilities honed through their years of military service. Despite this high level of skill development and managerial experience, veterans find themselves returning to an economy still rebuilding from one of the most severe recessions in U.S. history.

Small business development has been a cornerstone of this recovery effort both in terms of policy priorities and the necessity for many to create jobs where there are none. Even with the credit crunch of recent years, a Kauffman Foundation study showed entrepreneurial activity rose to its highest level in 14 years in 2009. An update to these data issued on March 19, 2012, shows that while there was a drop in U.S. start-up activity in 2010, entrepreneurial activity remains above pre-recession levels.

Select highlights from the SBA Office of Advocacy's Veteran-owned Businesses and Their Owners – Data from the Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners report include:

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