JAN: Job Accommodation Network

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ENews: Volume 14, Issue 3, Third Quarter, 2016

The JAN E-News is a quarterly online newsletter. 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. JAN Reasonable Accommodation Toolkit to be Launched During the JAN Academy at the US BLN Annual Conference
  2. The ABCs of Back to School
  3. What to Include in Your ADA/Accommodation Toolkit
  4. Isn’t Charlie Allergic to Peanuts? Scenarios to Consider When Planning Employer-Sponsored Events
  5. What’s New in AAC devices? Options for Telephone Access
  6. New Discovery for “Hands-Free” Phone Access
  7. JAN Blog Growing
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - JAN Reasonable Accommodation Toolkit to be Launched During the JAN Academy at the US BLN Annual Conference

On September 19th, 2016, as a pre-conference to the US Business Leadership Network Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, JAN will launch a suite of tools for managing your reasonable accommodation (RA) process. The toolkit will offer sample accommodation policies and practices, forms for each stage of the interactive process, and three training videos illustrating best practices for managers and supervisors for handling disability disclosures and requests for RA. The pre-conference, offered as the JAN Academy, will also provide training on disability awareness and a demonstration of assistive technologies.

The JAN Academy will offer participants the opportunity to learn from JAN's experience as the leading source of expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. The JAN Academy is designed for reasonable accommodation professionals responsible for developing or refreshing their company’s reasonable accommodation policies and practices.

For the past nine months, Lou Orslene and Anne Hirsh, JAN Co-Directors, in collaboration with Deb Dagit, Principal for Deb Dagit Diversity, Inc., have held numerous meetings with employers known to be leaders in creating inclusive workplaces and who have implemented successful accommodation policies and practices.

From this series of meetings, Anne, Lou, and Deb have captured the best and emerging practices in providing reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The result of this effort is an online toolkit for enhancing the disability inclusivity in the workplace through a robust and equitable reasonable accommodation process.

This year's JAN Academy participants will learn of the latest practices employers are embracing in order to create inclusive workplaces. These practices will be highlighted throughout the new toolkit and participants will be able to compare and contrast their practices with those of their peers.

Participants will also have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of disability awareness and assistive technologies with a session led by two disability leaders: Matt Ater, Freedom Scientific’s Vice President for Services, and John R. Macko, Director, Center on Employment at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Rochester Institute of Technology.

The cost of the three-hour JAN Academy preconference is $125. The Academy is being offered twice on September 19th, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. To register for the JAN Academy, please register at http://www.usblnannualconference.org/registration.html. One can choose to attend the JAN Academy in addition to your registration for the full US BLN Conference or the Academy can be attended as a stand-alone event. Registration is limited to 65 participants for each session, so please register soon!

- Louis E. Orslene, MPIA, MSW, CPDM, JAN Co-Director

2 - The ABCs of Back to School

If you are an educator with a disability, now is the time to consider how accommodations might be helpful in the new school year.  Know your ABCs for back to school.

A is for Accommodation

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. An accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Reasonable accommodations include:

Although many individuals with disabilities can apply for and perform jobs without any reasonable accommodations, there are workplace barriers that keep others from performing jobs they could do with some form of accommodation. These barriers may be physical obstacles (such as inaccessible facilities or equipment) or they may be procedures or rules (such as rules concerning when work is performed, when breaks are taken, or how essential or marginal functions are performed). Reasonable accommodation removes workplace barriers for individuals with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodation is available to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must be provided to qualified employees regardless of whether they work part- time or full-time, or are considered probationary. Generally, the individual with a disability must inform the employer that an accommodation is needed.
There are a number of possible reasonable accommodations that an employee may need in connection with modifications to the work environment or adjustments in how and when a job is performed. These include:

B is for Backpack

It’s hard to picture working without the tools we need. Imagine a student without a backpack to carry around all his needed supplies, books, homework, etc. He needs a backpack in order to keep it all together and do his best to succeed in his assignments.  In order for you as an educator to do your best in understanding and requesting accommodations, you will need a backpack full of tools. Look no further!  See the following JAN resources for the information you need to succeed in your assignment. 

C is for Classroom

Accommodations are considered and provided on an individual basis. There may be some accommodations that could be routinely applied across the board to all teachers with disabilities, but for the most part each teacher is an individual with different limitations resulting from their impairment. Each teacher is in a unique setting in his or her own classroom, with particular job tasks depending on grade levels and subject matter. Therefore, a really important factor in considering and determining appropriate and effective accommodations is to evaluate which job tasks are the most problematic, based on the limitations each educator experiences.

D is for Disclosure

Disclosure is the divulging or giving out personal information about a disability. Consider if and when the time is right to disclose your disability to your employer. An employer is not required to provide accommodations if a disability hasn’t been disclosed. It is important for the employee to provide information about the nature of the disability, the limitations involved, and how the disability affects the ability to learn and /or perform the job effectively. Ideally, employees will disclose a disability and request reasonable accommodation before performance problems arise, or at least before they become too serious. Although the ADA does not require employees to ask for an accommodation at a specific time, the timing of a request for reasonable accommodation is important because an employer does not have to rescind discipline (including a termination) or an evaluation warranted by poor performance or misconduct.

Need help with any of your ABCs?  Contact a consultant at JAN for assistance.

- Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant, Cognitive / Neurological Team

3 - What to Include in Your ADA/Accommodation Toolkit

An effective human resource professional or manager of employees with disabilities, must be knowledgeable about a wide range of disability-employment issues. It may not be necessary to be an expert, but it is important to know what resources to access for guidance and support when handling challenging accommodation, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) issues. Navigating the interactive process and interpreting the requirements of the various regulations affecting the employment of individuals with disabilities can be daunting – but doesn’t have to be. Many expert resources are available to assist employers and can be part of your organization’s go-to ADA/accommodation toolkit. Consider the following resources:

JAN and AskJAN.org

JAN offers free, expert consultation on job accommodation solutions for individuals with disabilities in all industries, all job categories, and for all types of medical impairments and limitations, as well as targeted technical assistance regarding the employment provisions of the ADA. Contact JAN to communicate with an experienced JAN Consultant who will offer individualized, one-on-one consultation related to your specific concerns.

We meet you wherever you are in the process of gathering information about accommodations and the ADA. Also, JAN offers a number of accommodation and ADA resources through the AskJAN.org website, including: JAN authored publications; resources by disability, topic, and limitation; sample accommodation-related forms; an ADA library that offers easy access to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforcement guidances; free ADA and accommodation training modules and Webcasts; access to social media; the JAN Blog; and quarterly JAN E-News, among other resources. The JAN service can be a vital partner in the interactive process. For contact information, go to AskJAN.org.

EEOC Enforcement Guidance

Interpreting and applying the ADA regulations to everyday accommodation situations can be challenging. The EEOC issues practical guidance that can help employers manage the complexities of ADA compliance in the workplace. JAN Consultants frequently refer to these guidance documents for EEOC’s interpretation of the ADA and how to apply the regulations.

EEOC guidance documents do not have the force of law but can be quite useful in determining next steps in the interactive process and best practices in providing reasonable accommodation. Many EEOC guidance and technical assistance documents exist. JAN provides easy access to these guidance documents on the JAN Website through the ADA Library. Consider including at least the following EEOC guidance documents as part of your ADA/accommodation toolkit:

FMLA Insights Blog

The FMLA Insights blog is a legal blog authored by Jeff Nowak, co-chair of Franczek Radelet’s Labor and Employment Practice. The blog provides insight and analysis on the FMLA, ADA, and similar employment legislation. Franczek Radelet created FMLA Insights to provide an outlet to help employers navigate the FMLA. The goal of the blog is straightforward: to keep employers aware of notable court cases involving FMLA issues and provide practical advice to help them avoid getting tripped up by the regulations. 

When employers are better aware of their rights and obligations under the FMLA and ADA, it leads to reduced liability and happier, more productive employees – this blog can help employers achieve these positive outcomes. Jeff Nowak, is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost FMLA and ADA experts, regularly counseling clients on compliance with FMLA and ADA regulations, conducting FMLA/ADA audits and training, and successfully litigating FMLA and ADA lawsuits. The FMLA Insights blog is highly informative, timely, quite witty, and certainly worth including as part of your ADA/accommodation toolkit. To subscribe to the blog, go to http://www.fmlainsights.com.

National Employment Law Institute (NELI) Training and Publications
NELI is a non-profit, continuing education organization that conducts employment law seminars and webinars, offers in-house ADA training and consulting, and publishes employment law related publications. The organization offers an ADA Workshop and an ADA & FMLA Compliance Update, available several times a year in cities all over the United States. These workshops address critical ADA and FMLA workplace developments, including significant court cases, new and noteworthy EEOC and U.S. Department of Labor policies, and the latest questions raised by HR, EEO, legal, and medical professionals. To coincide with the ADA Workshop, NELI offers its publication, Resolving ADA Workplace Questions: How Courts and Agencies are Dealing with Employment Issues. This comprehensive manual includes an up-to-date review of cases involving complex disability issues and is an excellent and practical resource to include in your ADA/accommodation toolkit. For more information about the training and publications NELI offers, go to http://www.neli.org .

JAN does not recommend or endorse products or services, but the resources shared here will benefit those who are responsible for navigating the interactive accommodation process. For additional accommodation and ADA information and resources, please contact JAN.

- Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist

4 - Isn’t Charlie Allergic to Peanuts? Scenarios to Consider When Planning Employer-Sponsored Events

As summer comes into full swing, it is important to consider the impact of food in the workplace. This time of the year company-sponsored cook-outs, celebrations for holidays, weddings, and friendly gatherings are common. It is important to keep food-related disabilities in mind when planning for these events.

Under section 7.3 of the ADA Technical Assistance Manual, the EEOC discusses the ADA’s prohibitions on discrimination in various employment practices including, “Activities sponsored by a covered entity including social and recreational programs.” Additionally, the document further defines this by stating, “An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation that will enable an individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity in every aspect of employment, unless a particular accommodation would impose an undue hardship.” With these two excerpts in mind, we can now apply them to three examples that an employer may encounter.

Situation #1

While planning for a company sponsored cook-out event, it comes to your attention that you have an employee with a severe allergy to shellfish. The employee states that exposure can cause breathing distress. This reaction can be triggered not only by consuming the shellfish, but also by breathing in the air nearby the food as it is cooking. You see that it was decided to include shrimp as a menu option for this event. As shrimp is a type of shellfish, this would limit the employee’s ability to participate in the recreational event. To enable the employee to participate, accommodation options that would not pose an undue hardship on the company should be considered.

Deciding that the shrimp should be removed from the menu and replaced with another option would be effective at meeting this individual’s needs. This allows the individual with the disability to attend the cook-out without worry. It is decided to replace the shrimp option with grilled bratwurst sausages, which results in a successful accommodation.

Situation #2

You are made aware of the fact that a few of your employees have celiac disease. It was also decided recently that the company will be holding a pizza party to celebrate a recent company success. Although the celiac disease does not limit the employees from being physically present at the gathering, the condition would limit them in enjoying the provided food. The food is being provided for the employees to enjoy and their disabilities make it so they cannot enjoy this benefit of employment. Accommodation options should be reviewed to allow these employees to enjoy this aspect of employment.

As the pizza is not going to be a problem for the employees so long as they do not eat it, the employer here is welcome to keep it on the menu. It is decided that they will keep the pizza on the menu while also providing gluten-free options for the individuals with disabilities to enjoy. Menu options of barbequed chicken and mashed potatoes are added. These options allow the individuals to enjoy the employer-provided food and result in a successful accommodation.

Situation #3

A group of co-workers have invited several employees to a local restaurant to celebrate a bridal shower. However, one of the invited individuals is allergic to nuts, and the selected establishment allows for nuts to be cracked and eaten without any protections in place. This restaurant choice thus limits this individual from attending the event. However, the employer is not covering the cost of this event. All attendees are required to pay for their own meals. Even though several employees are at this event, and the event was planned on the job, the employer is not sponsoring this event and thus not required to provide an accommodation. However, the individual can still discuss his needs with those planning the event and see if they would be willing to change the restaurant choice.

Conclusion

It is critical to keep individuals with disabilities in mind when planning for work-related social events. Not only can disabilities limit someone from physically being present at such gatherings, but they can also limit someone from participating in activities at these events. Eating employer-provided food is certainly an important activity at a cook-out and therefore accommodations may need to be reviewed to ensure equal opportunity in those activities as well. If you would like some additional resources to explore that provide ideas on accommodation options for food-related allergies, please feel free to read our Effective Accommodation Practice Series publication: Job Accommodations for People with Food Allergies.

- Matthew McCord, M.S., CRC

5 - What’s New in AAC devices? Options for Telephone Access

Have you ever wondered how a person who hears but doesn’t speak uses the phone? Of course there are TTY and speech-to-speech relay services, but what if relay methods don’t meet the employee’s needs?  What if the nature of the work requires a more direct and confidential method of communicating?

There are assistive devices designed for individuals who are nonverbal or who find speaking very challenging. These are called AAC, also known as augmentative and alternative communication, or speech-generating devices. AAC can be used to refer to a range of alternative ways to communicate, from simple, low-tech solutions like whiteboards and picture cards or relatively inexpensive devices that play short recordings at the press of a button to complex computer-based equipment that generates simulated speech.  Recently, the term “speech-generating device” is being used to refer to these more complex types of assistive technology.  For more information on AAC devices, visit http://soar.AskJAN.org/solution/393

Until recently, JAN was only aware of one vendor of speech-generating devices that could be reliably used with an office telephone without also requiring use of the speakerphone function.  For years the Dynawrite, and later the Dynawrite2.0, from Dynavox was among the few speech-generating devices suitable for accessing an office phone.  With an intuitive, keyboard-based design and landline telephone access options, the Dynawrite line of products had a bit of a cult following among HR representatives.

Dynavox recently merged with the assistive technology division of another company called Tobii.  The new company is called Tobii Dynavox and is part of the Tobii Group.  I’m told that the Dynawrite and Dynawrite2.0 are gone for good, but the Lightwriter is being retained in their place. The Lightwriter has long had a reputation as a portable and user-friendly speech-generating device. Similar in form to the Dynawrite, the Lightwriter has a keyboard rather than a touch screen. The Lightwriter also offers an advantage for the employee on the go. The current version does not have ports that are suited for use with an office phone, but it can be used for mobile phone calls.  The current version is called the Lightwriter SL40 Connect.

So what are the options for those who need to use a desk phone? Tobii Dynavox has three devices that may be of use: the T-15, I-12, and I-15. In addition to the devices themselves, one would also need either to use a special phone such as the Possum Sero! or an accessory called the Phone-it from Tobii Dynavox. JAN has additional information on speech-generating devices with telephone access, as well as related accessories and specialized phones. It is also possible to use many AAC/speech-generating devices via a speakerphone. You can find a demonstration at http://aac.textspeak.com/demos/

Ideally, when an AAC device is being considered, a speech-language pathologist with expertise in AAC would be involved.  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has a special interest group of professionals working in AAC. ASHA has additional AAC resources at http://www.asha.org/slp/clinical/aac/.

It may also be worthwhile to see if the State AT project in your area would be able to demonstrate or lend out products that are of interest.  In some states they may also be able to provide assessments or make assessment referrals.  For a list of state AT projects, visit http://soar.askjan.org/IssueConcern/217

For more information, see JAN’s Accommodation Ideas for Employees with Speech and Language Impairments and our Product Listing for Employees with Speech and Language Impairments

- Teresa Goddard, M.S., Lead Consultant, Sensory Team

6 - New Discovery for “Hands-Free” Phone Access

Phone accessibility for individuals with motor impairments that limit upper extremity movement has historically been a tricky job task to accommodate. Being able to push the telephone keypad is something that, I would say, most people take for granted. But what happens when either the physical force of engaging the keys becomes too painful or hitting the correct keys becomes impossible? What about individuals who are paralyzed and cannot engage the keypad or hold the receiver? In a workplace setting, accommodations would certainly need to be explored, but barriers exist.

As a member of the JAN Motor Team, phone accessibility is an issue I hear about from individuals with arthritis, cumulative trauma disorders, essential tremors, quadriplegia, and Parkinson’s disease. Some of the barriers encountered include the need for an employee to dial extensions internally, dial various numbers of clients or patients, and policies prohibiting the use of a cell phone. In these instances, some of the typical accommodation ideas, such as pre-set numbers on the phone or using voice dialing on the cell phone, may not be effective options. However, there are a couple of assistive technology options that could be explored.

Computer phone software allows users to make phone calls using a combination of the hardware available from their computer and various software applications. TellAPhone, Phone Dialer Pro, and Accessaphone are just a couple of these options. The issue with these is that the phone numbers have to be entered into a contact list or address book. While these can be updated, it may be time consuming for an employee placing outbound calls to multiple different numbers daily to update the lists.

Hands-free telephones can be another option to explore. However, these products generally require the user to push at least one button to initiate calls. Many are designed to be used in home environments and may not be compatible with an office phone system. One example is the Possum Sero! Phone by Ablenet.

If an individual has some hand movement, the use of a typing aid to engage the keypad and the use of a cordless telephone headset could be considered as an accommodation. The slip on typing or keyboard aid allows the user to engage keys with a stylus that is attached to the palm of the hand.   

Of course, a modification to a no-cell phone policy could be made or a cell phone could be provided as work equipment so the employee could use voice dialing features. Job restructuring might be another accommodation to explore if the task of making phone calls was marginal and could be reallocated to a coworker.

One option that we discovered here at JAN is the use of Skype with speech recognition software. Teresa Goddard, another JAN Consultant, and I tried this work-around after I had received a question from a rehabilitation professional looking for alternatives for her client who had to place numerous outbound calls daily to different numbers and the employer wouldn’t modify the cell phone policy.

We had our IT department download Skype on Teresa’s computer and she was able to engage the on-screen Skype phone keypad with the mousing functions of Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software. She was also able to speak the number into the Skype contact box to dial. Both ways worked and proved to be another tool that could be added to our “hands-free” or voice phone dialing toolbox!

JAN consultants are happy to provide suggestions for accommodations related to phone use in the workplace, brainstorm options, and even experiment with new ideas and technology developed for the mainstream population! Whatever the situation may be, we are available to assist.  

- Elisabeth Simpson, M.S., CRC, Lead Consultant, Motor Team

7 - JAN Blog Growing

The Ask JAN Blog provides an opportunity for you to share with others your workplace accommodation solutions. JAN receives over 40,000 contacts per year – conversations with all of you that help us better understand what’s working effectively in your workplaces. We have a great deal to learn from one another. We encourage you to share your experiences and interact with the JAN staff. Your accommodation success stories can benefit many others around the Nation. Enjoy the new postings and additional Spanish selections:

Become a part of the new JAN blogging community!

8 - JAN Releases New Resources

9 - E-vents

10 - 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 to JAN-on-the-Road.

11 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

To subscribe to or unsubscribe from JAN Updates:

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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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