By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant – Self-Employment Team
Over the years, JAN consultants have fielded questions from aspiring entrepreneurs with many different types of disabilities and every conceivable variation of business idea. Frog farm – we’ve heard of it. Opera singer and teacher – how wonderful! Used automobile sculptures – why not? Many of the business ideas we hear about are absolutely brilliant – inspired – practical – imaginative – marketable – and feasible. But to get from here to there takes lots of good information and support, and on the part of the individual wanting to start a business, both knowledge and practical skills.
Many so called “soft skills” cannot be emphasized enough as being critical to the success of both planning and operating a small business or self-employment. Soft skills are frequently characterized as those that encompass proficiency with verbal and nonverbal communication, a positive attitude and enthusiasm, teamwork and networking behaviors, problem solving and critical thinking skills, and acting with professionalism. The very process of researching and planning for a business requires skills that will be necessary in the start-up and operations stages of business development. As a result, these are skills we try to focus on from the outset — either as best practices or in the context of accommodations — and encourage JAN customers to develop further both in how they interact with us, as well as those they reach out to with other programs and services in their local areas.
Based on our experience, I’ve highlighted below some “Dos and Don’ts” that frequently come up with our customers. Often they seem small or common sense, but they frequently have huge implications in how seriously one’s ideas will be taken by others, and whether an individual is perceived as committed to a business idea and the development process.
Tip 1: Be Specific
You’ve requested information from a program or agency and they’ve responded to you by preparing information based on your request. You have follow-up questions. What do you do?
DO: Review the information they sent to you carefully. If you need support to do this, let an appropriate person/service provider know. I cannot emphasize this enough. If they’ve prepared the information for you, take the time to review it thoroughly.
DO: Once you’ve reviewed the information, write down (or prepare somehow) follow-up questions that reference as specifically as possible the material you received. This communicates to the person or agency that you value their time; this also makes it more likely they will be able to respond appropriately to your questions, as well as be willing to network with you in the future.
DON’T: Ask extremely general questions – ask questions that show you have reviewed the information and reference it. This demonstrates good critical thinking and communication skills – you are sharing the concrete steps you’ve taken to review the information and follow-up if applicable. Again, if accommodations are needed, JAN consultants can assist with this.
An unhelpful question tends to be very general – “I don’t understand the information you sent to me. Could you explain it?”
A helpful question is more specific – “On page 3 of the information you sent to me you talk about Social Security work incentives and self-employment. This is confusing to me. I wonder if you could explain more clearly how these rules work. If you need more information about my specific situation, I’d be glad to share this information.”
Tip 2: Always Be Professional, Even When Irritated
You’re in the process of putting together your business plan and are following up with business development organizations to schedule an appointment with a counselor. Some agencies you’ve contacted have not called back in a timely manner, so you’re feeling frustrated. What do you do?
DO: Keep a good record of the dates and times you’ve contacted an agency and cite this information when you call back. If they have not called back in a reasonable amount of time (I usually say a few days unless they’ve said it will be within another time frame), call back and let them know you called earlier, left a message (if you did), and have the date/time information ready.
DO: Make sure you are (and sound) assertive, not agitated. If you’re not sure, take a break before contacting them. Don’t make the call until you are in a calmer state of mind.
DO: Write down what you want to say beforehand. Being prepared in this way tends to present clarity on your part and lessen anxiety.
DON’T: Never take out your frustration on the individual you finally get to talk to whether it’s a receptionist or the counselor. While it’s perfectly understandable to feel frustrated when you’ve made repeated calls, you don’t know why there was a delay in getting back to you. Now that you’ve gotten ahold of the person you want to speak with, use this opportunity wisely.
REMEMBER: You are building social capital with every contact you make. How you present yourself in each conversation — even in these initial steps — is setting the groundwork for your future plans. People always remember when they are treated kindly and respectfully. You can’t control how other people behave, but you can always be professional from your end, even if you decide not to work with that person or agency.
Tip 3: Be Reliable
You have scheduled a meeting with your vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor and a small business counselor. You’ve been trying to schedule this meeting for many weeks. Due to unforeseeable health issues, you need to reschedule the meeting. What do you do?
DO: As soon as you know you will not be able to make the meeting, let both parties know. Let them know by the means you know they are most likely to receive the message. If not sure, contact both by email and phone.
DO: If possible, try to reschedule the meeting during that conversation. Let them know you are committed to meeting and regret having to reschedule.
DON’T: Unless appropriate, don’t feel you need to give explicit details about the medical reasons for the cancellation unless it is relevant to your relationship with that individual and the issues at hand. In other words, they don’t need to know all the details, just the parts that are relevant based on the type or relationship you have and the purpose of the meeting.
REMEMBER: We all have unforeseen things happen when we may need to cancel meetings. The important part is to be courteous and timely in the cancellation process. Unfortunately, we hear too often that individuals simply do not show up at the meeting and call afterwards to apologize. This makes it much less likely these persons will want to work with you again.
Office of Disability Employment Policy (2012), Skills to Pay the Bills – Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/softskills.pdf
By: Elisabeth Simpson, Lead Consultant – Motor Team
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), the health care and social assistance sector will account for almost a third of the projected job growth between 2012 and 2022. With 16,971,800 healthcare workers employed in the United States in 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013), accommodations for those with disabilities working, or planning to work in, the healthcare field is a timely topic to be discussing.
With the over ten thousand calls JAN has received related to accommodations in healthcare settings, JAN consultants can offer a wealth of experience with accommodation situations. For healthcare workers with motor impairments such as carpal tunnel, back conditions, leg impairments, or arthritis, certain job duties – tasks such as lifting, carrying, moving, transferring, standing, walking, manipulating extremities, and positioning individuals for activities of daily living or physical therapy – may be difficult to perform without accommodations.
There are a variety of accommodation options that can be implemented in order for an employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Proper lifting techniques, lowering adjustable exam tables and equipment (low-lipped showers), ergonomic layouts for equipment (cranks and handles on beds and carts) and supplies (storing items at waist height, lowering bed rails when attending to patient needs, etc.), and team lifting are beneficial work site and procedural changes.
Still, accommodation situations in healthcare settings can be tricky or complicated. When this is the case, JAN consultants might turn to other experts in the field for assistance so that those contacting us for guidance are provided with the most beneficial and accurate information. For this two part blog, I collaborated with the founder of the non-profit resource network Exceptional Nurse, Dr. Donna Carol Maheady, to discuss some of the more complex accommodation questions JAN Motor Team consultants are fielding. Seven questions were directed to Dr. Maheady. This month we will be looking at the first three questions and offering resources and information on the topic.
1) For medical professionals with either a hand or arm amputation OR restrictions that limit the use of one hand, what are some alternative methods for giving injections? What about placing IV’s?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a reasonable accommodation must be provided to enable a qualified employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job currently held. In general, 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.
Job restructuring may be the most effective form of accommodation for individuals who have limited or no use of one hand and are working in healthcare positions that require them to perform injections, place IV’s, etc. Job restructuring can be an adjustment in how and when a job is performed, including reallocating or eliminating marginal functions of a job. However, the EEOC has indicated that an employer is not required to reallocate essential functions of a job as a reasonable accommodation. Although an employer is not required to reallocate essential job functions, it may be a reasonable accommodation to modify the essential functions of a job by changing when or how they are done.
While there may be a common or typical way a job function is performed by healthcare workers, such as placing an IV, an individual with a disability should be given the option to perform the same job task in a manner that works best for them while keeping patient care and safety in mind. Time to practice clinical skills or tasks may be needed as part of the accommodation.
A number of videos and articles are offered as an additional resource to support the work of those with motor impairments in healthcare settings:
Foreign object removal with prosthesis
Adult CPR with prosthesis
Nursing with the hand you are given
Disabled Nurse: Focus on abilities
Danielle’s story (nurse missing her lower arm)
A sequence of photos demonstrating the donning of sterile gloves with one hand can be found within the article: “Nursing with the Hand You Are Given”
Articles and Book Chapters
In the book Leave No Nurse Behind: Nurses Working with Disabilities by Donna Maheady, Susan Fleming (nurse born missing her left hand) wrote a chapter about her journey.
In the book The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the Trenches of Truly Resilient Nurses Working with Disabilities, edited by Donna Maheady, Connie Stallone Adleman wrote a chapter called “Loving Ourselves Exactly as We Are: Nursing after a Stroke.”
In the article “Missing a Limb but Not a Heart,” Carey Amsden, RN, discussed how she practiced performing certain job tasks with the use of one arm, such as starting an IV, and donning a sterile glove in nursing school and has been able to successfully work in the field of nursing.
2) For medical professionals who need to wear a brace or post-burn glove, how can concerns around sterility be addressed?
An employer may require as a qualification standard that an individual not pose a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the individual or others, if this standard is applied to all applicants for a particular job. Additionally, employers may comply with medical and safety requirements established under other Federal laws without violating the ADA.
However, an employer still has an obligation to consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation, consistent with the requirements of other Federal laws, which would not exclude individuals who can perform jobs safely. In situations where sterility is a concern, alternatives to standard practices should be explored with the individual.
One option could be for the employee to wear a sterile glove (perhaps a larger size), gown or drape over the brace or glove. In doing this, sterility would be addressed to the same standard that others would be held to.
It is also recommended that the Infection Control Department or designee be consulted. There may be specific infection control issues related to a particular facility or unit to consider.
3) Are there alternatives to taking a leave of absence during flu season for medical professionals who are not able to receive the flu vaccine?
Flu season, in some areas, can last a while and a leave of absence may not be feasible or could pose an undue hardship to the employer. Alternative options for accommodating those who are not able to receive the flu vaccine can include: allowing the employee to wearing a mask or protective gear, reassigning the employee to a position that does not require direct-patient contact, considering flu shot alternatives, modifying a policy if applicable and depending on state law, or allowing an extended leave and offering reassignment to a vacant position upon return. For more information, see the following article: “Vaccinating the Health-Care Workforce: State Law vs Institutional Requirements.”
Next month we will be exploring schedule modifications and specific work tasks, so stay tuned!
Monthly Labor Review (2013). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/industry-employment-and-output-projections-to-2022-1.htm
By: Melanie Whetzel, MA, CBIS, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
Are you a doodler? If you are, then you know how much your concentration and focus are improved while you doodle. If you aren’t a doodler, you just might not understand. Look up the term in a dictionary and you will find several similar definitions: wasting time in aimless or foolish activity, killing time, or drawing while bored. These definitions couldn’t be further from the truth. We receive questions at JAN from employees who say that doodling helps them stay focused and remember more from meetings, while their employers think that doodling is a sign of boredom, inattention, or preoccupation with something else.
Full disclosure — I am a doodler so I know its power. Now we have more than the word of those who understand and experience its potential — we have research that confirms what we doodlers have known all along.
In a nutshell, here is what was noted in this study. Forty participants monitored a monotonous mock telephone message for the names of people coming to a party. Half of the group was randomly assigned to a ‘doodling’ condition where they shaded printed shapes while listening to the telephone call. When given a surprise memory test, the doodling group performed better on the monitoring task and recalled 29% more information.
Unlike many multi-tasking situations, doodling while working can be beneficial. Doodling can help thoughts come together, solidify ideas, sustain attention, process information, and ease tension. That is a big benefit for some aimless scribbling, isn’t it? Are you wondering what it is that people doodle? Doodles take many forms, from abstract patterns or designs to images of objects, landscapes, people, or faces. Some people doodle by retracing words or letters, even writing a name over and over.
Questions from JAN callers have included “Can I be allowed to doodle as an accommodation?” and “Can my employer really stop me from doodling?” The answer to that would be to look at what is effective for each individual. If doodling truly does provide benefits to the employee such as increasing attention, focus, and information processing, why would the employer want it to stop? If a coworker can take notes of a meeting to distribute to all employees, then the employee who needs to doodle gets an effective double bonus. She gets to doodle and increase her attention, focus, and concentration, and receive the written notes as a back-up. While doodling may not be appropriate in every situation, it might be prudent to seriously consider the benefits for employees who claim its advantages.
Andrade, J. (2010), What does doodling do?. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., 24: 100–106. doi: 10.1002/acp.1561
It’s late spring and with that comes many things: warmer weather, rain showers, flowers (and with them the pollen), Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and a personal favorite of mine, the Indianapolis 500. But it also brings with it awareness — awareness of different disabilities — such as National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day; Better Speech and Hearing Month; Mental Health Awareness Month; National Headache Awareness Week; and National Arthritis Month. As I think about all of this and observed all of the various posts about it on social media, it brings to mind how many of my friends and family (myself included) deal with silent disabilities on a daily basis and how many people out there are unaware that silent disabilities exist.
There are many individuals who have silent disabilities and hearing these words uttered can be hurtful. Many people do not realize that it can be a daily struggle for some just to get out of bed, take a deep breath, put on their shoes, walk the dog, etc. It can be difficult to do the most mundane of everyday tasks that most people take for granted.
So, the next time you see someone park in an accessible parking spot or use one of the scooters at the store, please try not to judge them. You just never know — they may be dealing with a hidden disability and could probably use a kind word or a smile.
And while many struggle daily to deal with their disabilities, they often do not let it stop them from working and doing what they want to and can do. Here are some famous people with disabilities who never let their disabilities define them or stop them:
Charlie Kimball – The first and only licensed Indy Car driver with Type I Diabetes -3rd place finish in the 2015 Indianapolis 500!
Muhammad Ali – Professional boxer with Parkinson’s
Abraham Lincoln –16th President of the United States believed to have experienced depression
Mary Todd Lincoln – Former First Lady of the United States who was believed to have had schizophrenia
Woodrow Wilson – 28th President of the United States who had dyslexia
John F. Kennedy – 35th President of the United States who had asthma
Ronald Regan – 40th President of the United States and actor who had dementia
Michael J. Fox – Actor with Parkinson’s disease
Harrison Ford – Actor who has experienced depression and OCD
Bob Hope – Actor who had asthma
Rita Hayworth – Actress who had dementia
Agatha Christie – Author who experienced epilepsy
Alexander Graham Bell – Scientist credited with being the inventor of the first telephone who had dyslexia
Albert Einstein – Theoretical physicist was thought to have autism, dyslexia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
John Nash – Mathematician who lived with schizophrenia
(And the list goes on…)
For more information on silent/hidden disabilities:
Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations (Includes workplace accommodation information for many of the disabilities mentioned)
JAN Presentation – Shedding Light on Hidden Disabilities
Anne Hirsh, M.S. and Beth Loy, Ph.D.
Invisible Disabilities Association
But You LOOK Good – How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain
By: Daniel Tucker, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
April is Autism Awareness Month, and in honor of that, we wanted to touch on how to accommodate employees with ASD by incorporating disability awareness training into the process. In many cases, the problem an employee may be having at work is related to social interaction and communication. Because individuals with ASD may have deficits in understanding social cues and norms of communication, they may have difficulty working effectively with coworkers. Something employers may want to consider in such circumstances is providing disability awareness training. This could be a broad training that covers disabilities generally, but in some cases, it may be beneficial to have a training specific to the disability. This will allow an employee (with his consent) to be a part of the training process and to explain how the disability specifically affects him. This empowers the employee to suggest steps that may be taken to help with more effective interaction and communication.
When coworkers are not aware of the characteristics of ASD, miscommunication can easily arise. For example, in some cases an individual with ASD may speak louder than is appropriate in a given situation. This could be perceived as aggressive or dominant behavior by coworkers, when in fact the employee doesn’t even realize he is speaking loudly. An individual with ASD may also seem to display inappropriate affect, such as not smiling when greeting someone. These behaviors can be considered rude, but in actuality, the individual may have no idea that his actions are being perceived this way; his behavior is simply being misunderstood.
Disability awareness may be able to address this particular issue to some extent because when coworkers are aware of the unique communication differences that individuals with ASD exhibit, they may be more tolerant and able to find better ways to interact and ensure they are being understood by the employee as well. It may be beneficial to have agreed upon “signal words” that a coworker can use when the employee is speaking too loudly, for example. The employee can then rely on the feedback of coworkers to make adjustments as needed.
It is important to stress that this type of training should only be done with the permission of the employee. Employers should not try to push an employee into talking about a disability if he is not comfortable doing so. It has been our experience at JAN that many employees would appreciate the opportunity to have an open conversation about their disability if it means the possibility of better working relationships with coworkers and a better chance of being successful in their work.
By: Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist
Congratulations, you’re having a baby! You’re overwhelmed with thoughts about designing a nursery, buying baby clothes, diapers (lots of diapers), and meeting your baby for the first time. Pregnancy can be a joyous and exciting time, but it can also present challenges for some workers who experience limitations or complications associated with their pregnancy. This can lead to the need to request job-related changes at work to help you meet the demands of the job and stay-on-track with the pregnancy. Workers who are pregnant should engage in an interactive process with their employer to identify ways to manage the potential impact of pregnancy-related limitations on the performance of their job functions.
Before engaging in an interactive process with your employer, learn about the various laws that offer workplace protections for pregnant workers. You don’t have to be an expert in the laws, but it helps to know which laws can apply to your situation. For example, you may be entitled to job modifications/reasonable accommodations under federal laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You may also be eligible for unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). There are also many state and local non-discrimination, pregnancy-disability, and family leave laws that apply to workers who are pregnant.
Under the PDA, a covered employer is responsible for making job-related modifications [also thought of as accommodations] for pregnant workers that are similar to those made for other employees who are temporarily unable to perform job functions. The duty to request a change in job duties falls on the employee who is pregnant. An employer can request reasonable documentation of the employee’s limitations if this is what the employer requires of employees who seek workplace changes for reasons other than pregnancy. A change in duties may include light duty, alternative assignments, additional breaks, or unpaid leave, if these types of modifications are provided to other workers who are not pregnant but are similarly limited.
Pregnancy alone is not considered a disability under the ADA (because it is not an impairment), but a worker who is pregnant can be protected under the ADA in some situations. Changes in the interpretation of the definition of the term “disability” resulting from enactment of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) make it easier for workers who are expecting who have pregnancy-related impairments to demonstrate that they have disabilities for which they may be entitled to reasonable accommodation under the ADAAA (EEOC, 2014). For example, a pregnant employee may be entitled to reasonable accommodation for substantial limitations resulting from pregnancy-related complications, or for limitations resulting from an exacerbation of an existing impairment, due to pregnancy (e.g., pregnancy-related anemia, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, substantial lifting restrictions, bed rest, etc.). Accommodations can include a modified schedule, ability to have snacks or drinks at a workstation, a modified attendance policy, frequent breaks, light duty, or leave, among other solutions.
When a job-related change is needed at work because of limitations or complications associated with pregnancy, it is suggested that these changes be requested in writing. Sometimes it’s useful to have a paper trail in case there is a dispute about whether or when you requested an accommodation. Support your request with information from your medical provider regarding your limitations and restrictions. No particular law must be mentioned in your letter, but you’ll want to explain what medical limitations are affecting your ability to perform job functions. This is sufficient to establish a request for accommodation and then that is when the interactive process begins.
JAN offers a document to guide employees in drafting a written request for accommodation. This document is ADA-focused, but can be used as a guide to make a written request for job-related modifications in general, under the PDA or other laws, if ADA is not applicable. For more information see JAN’s How to Request an Accommodation.
After an accommodation is requested, an employer must determine if the employee qualifies and if the accommodation that is being requested is reasonable. Employers are not required to change or eliminate essential job functions or lower production standards as a reasonable accommodation. An employee who is pregnant can be held to the same production standards as others in their job category. For information about accommodation ideas for workers who are pregnant, see the JAN Website.
JAN Consultants can assist workers who are pregnant and their employers by offering information and technical assistance regarding applicable laws, guiding them through the interactive process, and providing accommodation solutions and resources. For additional guidance, contact JAN directly. To learn more about your rights under the PDA, ADA, FMLA, and state laws, see the following resources:
Pregnancy Discrimination Fact Sheet
EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (EEOC, 2014)
Questions and Answers about the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues
The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division — FMLA information
The U.S. Department of Labor also maintains a Website that provides information about state-level employment protections for workers who are pregnant or nursing.
By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The theme for the 2015 to 2017 campaign is: Not Alone.
The Not Alone campaign provides a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury in the U.S. and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available.
The Job Accommodation Network has just released a brain injury training module this month in conjunction with the national awareness campaign. This module will be helpful to employers, employees, family members, and others who are interested in information on the potential impact of a brain injury on an employee’s experience in the workplace. In particular, the module presents information on effective accommodations that can be provided to help employees with brain injuries be more successful in the workplace. Our hope is that this training module will educate and promote a better understanding of brain injuries and the impact they have on employment.
In this module, you will find information on:
- Disclosing a brain injury to an employer;
- Understanding the three reasons why it might be necessary to disclose a disability and how to go about doing so;
- Learning about the medical information that may be required by the employer;
- Discovering effective accommodations for physical and visual limitations and difficulties with maintaining stamina and concentration;
- Exploring accommodation options for organizational and problem-solving challenges, as well as memory difficulties and handling change, stress, and emotions.
Real-life situations and solutions are interspersed throughout the module to help show how practical and successful accommodations can be.
In addition to the training module, the JAN Website includes a variety of resources on accommodations ideas for brain Injury in the workplace.
By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team
For some, the month of February is about expressing love for family, friends, and even co-workers. For others, February is about thawing out from the cold and dark of winter and beginning to realize results from health commitments made in the New Year — to eating a healthier diet, exercising more regularly, and improving overall heart health.
However, for those who have experienced a heart attack, atrial fibrillation, or other heart conditions requiring a pacemaker to assist in maintaining a normal rhythm, February like any other month is a time to focus on the love of one’s work and new heart related concerns. This may seem particularly daunting to those who work around utility lines, strong electrical/medical equipment, or near the potential for a spark, like when welding. Electro-magnetic radiation emanating from these devices may cause electro-magnetic interference (EMI) that can interrupt the pacemaker’s functioning.
Fortunately, advances in occupational safety allow for job accommodations that may not have been possible years ago. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) provides many suggestions for working around electrical appliances, cellular telephones, medical devices, and when working as arc welders if an individual has a pacemaker.
Due to increased exposure of those with pacemakers to EMI-producing elements in their day to day lives, pacemaker manufacturers have responded with more and better implant protection; however, this cannot protect against all incidents of exposure. For this reason many people using pacemakers also use an EMI detector to warn them of an EMI source above the threshold for their implanted device in the near vicinity. Most individuals will experience only minor and temporary interference with their implants when exposed and this will most often disappear as they move away from the source of the interference.
Employers can assist these individuals who are returning to work by:
- Ensuring electrical appliances and equipment are well-maintained to prevent leakage and sparking;
- Shielding gas-powered generators and gas-powered saws;
- Providing EMI protective gear for these workers;
- Providing electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) blocking/shielding devices and appropriate long-corded, headsets for cellular telephones;
- Allowing the use of an EMI detector and the ability for one to move away from an area if the alarm goes off.
On the JAN Website, you can find additional tips for accommodating people using pacemakers in the workplace.
By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team
For the past 7 years, February has been designated as National Jewish Disability Awareness Month in the United States. Across the country, Jewish organizations have initiated programming and embarked on construction projects aimed at creating fully inclusive communities, including the world of work. While there are hundreds of organizations participating in this nationwide effort, we’d like to highlight two of these that have focused in particular on employment.
RespectAbilityUSA is a national, non-profit organization working to enable people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, in her role as president states, “Indeed, Jews with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges. Many people with disabilities can be fantastic employees — when they are fully welcomed and included.”
She goes on to say, “People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to workplaces that benefit employers and staff.” She continues, “The majority of working age people with disabilities want to work and they deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream.” To this end, RespectAbility has introduced a toolkit to assist those with disabilities to obtain competitive employment.
Ruderman Family Foundation
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, is looking to achieve full inclusion in all aspects of community life. He emphasizes, “The surest path to full inclusion in our society comes from meaningful employment. People with disabilities are the most excluded members of our society because they are unemployed at the rate of 70 percent.” As a result, he said, “We must hold up as shining examples those employers who have demonstrated a commitment to hiring people with disabilities.” The Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with the Jewish Week Media Group, has now launched its “Best In Business Campaign” to do just that.
While February is National Jewish Disability Awareness Month, inclusion happens 365 days per year. For tips on how your business can be fully inclusive by hiring and retaining more workers with disabilities, visit the JAN Website.
By: Elisabeth Simpson, Senior Consultant – Motor Team
Between Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, February is a time of year when connecting with others and taking care of ourselves is pushed to the forefront. So what better way to connect with others while keeping your heart healthy than to find your heart-healthy buddy in the workplace? Having a colleague or co-worker who is in the same boat as you or just wants to develop a healthier lifestyle can have a positive impact on your heart, other areas of health, and even on how you do your job.
According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (HBP) (American Heart Association, 2014). Even though HBP doesn’t typically have any symptoms associated with it, there can be deadly consequences for not treating this disease. On a positive note, HBP is a disease that can be prevented and treated. The AHA offers a list of eight suggestions for controlling HBP.
- Eat a better diet, which may include reducing salt
- Enjoy regular physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage stress
- Avoid tobacco smoke
- Comply with medication prescriptions
- If you drink, limit alcohol
- Understand hot tub safety
So how do we integrate these preventative measures into our work life routines where stress can be constant and various factors limit how well we take care of ourselves during the workday? JAN’s suggestion: Find a “heart-healthy buddy!” It can be hard to start a new routine and stay on track. Finding a co-worker who is interested in making or maintaining healthy lifestyle choices can be a great support system.
Here are 5 tips for maintaining a healthy heart in the workplace with your heart-healthy buddy that address a number of the tips for controlling HBP provided by the AHA.
- Meet up at lunch for a short walk, yoga, meditation, etc.
We know it can be hard to step away from the desk and take advantage of the breaks provided, especially when the temperature starts to drop! But physical activity not only helps to control HBP, it helps manage weight, strengthen the heart, and manage stress levels (AHA, 2014). Even short periods of exercise can make a difference! The AHA (2014) recommends that those who need to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week, with physical activity being performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes. Flexibility and stretching exercises are also suggested (AHA, 2014). Of course, those with chronic conditions should talk with their healthcare provider before increasing their activity level. Once you have the go-ahead, put that smart phone down, give the computer a break, and get moving!
- Hold each other accountable for meals at work including lunch, parties and celebrations, and off-site employer sponsored events.
You get busy during the morning and forget to pack a lunch. Next thing you know, it’s 11:45 am and you are starving. What to do? Are you tempted to call up the local pizzeria and have that meatball hoagie you love so much delivered right to your office? And what about those holiday parties, monthly birthday celebrations, and work retreats? It can be hard to resist the pot-luck casseroles and cakes without having someone holding you accountable. Knowing that your heart-healthy buddy will be there for support, and vice-versa, can make the decision-making process easier at events where it is especially hard to pass on the homemade cupcakes you both love so much!
- Swap heart-healthy dinner recipes.
The AHA has indicated that eating a heart-healthy diet is important for managing your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and other diseases (AHA, 2014). But after a long day of work it can be daunting to think about preparing a meal that is heart-healthy and easy to make. One way to take the stress out of meal planning can be to swap your favorite heart-healthy meals with your buddy. If you have the time, planning out your menu for the entire week over the weekend or even prepping parts of the meal can be helpful.
- Take turns bringing in heart-healthy snacks that can be shared.
Mid-afternoon hunger pains can get the best of us and making a stop at the snack machine can be hard habits to break. The AHA (2014) recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day, which is less than ¾ teaspoon of salt per day. Raw vegetables and fruits can be a great alternative to chips and salted nuts and are great for sharing. The AHA offers free recipes online that include snacks and appetizers including a Greek yogurt dip and hummus to go with fruits and vegetables shared during an afternoon break with your heart-healthy buddy (AHA, 2014).
- Offer support to one another to help manage stress.
Although stress is not a confirmed risk factor for either high blood pressure or heart disease (AHA, 2014), managing stress in the workplace can help to reduce emotional discomfort or anxiety that results from feeling stressed. One way to combat stress during the workday is to be mindful of when you are feeling stressed and employ techniques to reduce stress. This can include talking with your heart-healthy buddy about what triggers your stress, how to mitigate the effects of stress, plans for managing stressful events that can’t be changed and, brainstorming how to solve problems that contribute to stress.
Following these tips and getting support from a heart-healthy buddy may help you to feel better while at work and have a positive impact on the work that you do. Of course, if there are accommodations that can be made in the workplace that are needed because of a heart condition your employer may need to provide them, absent undue hardship. Visit the JAN Website for more information on heart conditions and accommodating employees with heart conditions.
American Heart Association. (2014). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp.