Avoiding “The Waiting Place” After Requesting Medical Information

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 13, 2016 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist

In his beloved book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss writes about “The Waiting Place” — an imaginary (or perhaps not) place in life where everyone is waiting for something:

“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No…”

In my experience, it seems that employers sometimes feel stuck in this very place when medical information is requested after an employee makes a request for accommodation, during the early stage of the interactive accommodation process.

Medical information isn’t always needed when an accommodation is requested. But, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when the impairment and need for accommodation are not known or obvious, employers do have the right to request documentation that verifies the existence of an impairment; that the impairment affects a major life activity; and that the impairment is substantially limiting in some way. There is no required procedure for employers to follow, or medical certification form that must be used to obtain medical information for ADA purposes. Also, there is no ADA-required time frame for employees to obtain medical information requested by an employer after a request for accommodation. This, in some situations, leads those engaged in the interactive process to…the waiting place.

There are ways to detour the waiting place. One way is to have a comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy that serves as a step-by-step guide for the interactive process and includes time frames for each step — time frames that apply to both the employer and the individual with the disability. As part of the process, employers often require individuals to complete “ADA paperwork” – employer-created documents used to gather information about the individual’s impairment and need for accommodation. This paperwork often includes a request for medical information to support an individual’s request for accommodation. The ADA does not regulate the amount of time employees may take to respond to a request for medical information, and so, an expected return date is a detail that really should be included in a reasonable accommodation policy or procedure, and also on the ADA paperwork.

How much time should an individual be allowed to return ADA paperwork and/or to provide a note from a healthcare provider? Because there is no required time frame under the ADA, I often suggest that employers use the same time frame that applies under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, employers must allow employees at least fifteen calendar days to obtain the required medical certification (USDOL, 2013). Employees who provide incomplete information should be advised why the certification is incomplete and then allowed a reasonable opportunity to remedy the insufficiency — seven calendar days, for example. Of course, under ADA, the timeframe is up to the employer’s discretion, but this is a sensible place to start and allows time for the individual to meet with his or her healthcare provider. Sometimes, it’s not feasible for the individual to arrange an appointment to see a specialist in this amount of time and exceptions may be necessary. If the employee is making a concerted effort to obtain the required information, take this into consideration.

When there are no time frames, it can be difficult to avoid the waiting place, and this often leads to frustration about how to proceed in the interactive process. So, what can be done to avoid being stuck in the waiting place? Consider the following:

  1. Request that medical information be provided within a reasonable time frame. Provide an actual deadline. For example, fifteen calendar days after the employer’s initial request.
  2. Communicate with the employee shortly before the deadline (e.g., five days) to remind the employee, in writing, that the deadline to provide the requested information is approaching.
  3. If the deadline is not met (even after a reminder), issue a notice that explains that sufficient medical information/completed paperwork was not received and is necessary to proceed with the interactive process. Explain why the information is needed. Consider extending the deadline five more days, or for an appropriate number of days given the specific circumstances (e.g., individual has an appointment with his or her healthcare provider after the specified deadline).
  4. As a practical matter, when the impairment and need for accommodation are known or obvious, consider focusing on gathering detailed information about the requested accommodation, rather than asking for unnecessary medical information. When medical information is necessary, ask specific job-related medical questions about the individual’s limitations, ability to perform job duties, and need for accommodation, to make the process of obtaining information more efficient. Simply sending the employee to a healthcare provider with a job description will not yield the most useful information. Address the specific work-related issues in order to obtain sufficient information in a timely manner.
  5. If an accommodation cannot be provided without the requested medical information, because the disability is not known or obvious, it is possible to close or deny a request for accommodation due to failure to receive the necessary medical information. Notify the employee, in writing, why the request was closed or denied.

If the individual’s accommodation request is closed or denied for failing to provide the information, he or she may submit another request at any time. Under the ADA, an individual with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation at any time during the period of employment because the duty to provide reasonable accommodation is an ongoing one (EEOC, 2002). According to the EEOC, if an individual’s disability and need for reasonable accommodation are not obvious, and he or she refuses to provide the reasonable documentation requested by the employer, then he or she will not be entitled to reasonable accommodation (EEOC, 2002).

For more information about requesting medical information under the ADA, please contact JAN to speak with a Consultant, or go to AskJAN.org and see the A-Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Medical Exams and Inquiries.

References:

U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. (2013). Fact Sheet #28G: Certification of a Serious Health Condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28g.pdf

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2002). Enforcement guidance on reasonable accommodation and undue hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html

New Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act Announced at DMEC Employer Compliance Conference

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 12, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist

The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) recently held its annual FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being an ADA/FMLA geek, I always enjoy this event and believe it ranks among the top educational opportunities for those involved in absence and disability management. The Compliance Conference offers employers an opportunity to learn about compliance strategies and practical approaches for implementing the myriad of federal and state leave and disability employment laws. Of course, FMLA and ADA take center-stage at this event so many of the speakers are government officials from relevant policy and enforcement agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); labor and employment law attorneys; and leave and disability management experts from across the nation.

I appreciate the format of the Compliance Conference, in that, it kicks-off with general sessions offered the entire first day and the morning of the second day. Why is this a smart educational strategy? Offering general sessions for all participants to attend insures that everyone has the opportunity to be informed about compliance updates together without having to pick and choose which sessions to attend based on interests or professional needs. And, unlike many conferences where general sessions are often rather “fluffy,” the general sessions offered during this year’s conference were robust. Practical information was offered by experts who shared examples of court decisions that illustrate recent compliance developments, top challenges for employers in leave and accommodation administration and tools to support these efforts, industry best practices, ways to avoid lawsuits, and strategies for engaging in the interactive process.

This year, a new FMLA compliance assistance guide was announced during one of the general sessions. Helen Applewhaite, Branch Chief, Branch of FMLA and Other Labor Standards, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. DOL, announced that they have released an Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers have long-awaited a guide of this kind to answer common FMLA questions and clarify responsibilities and protections. This guide offers a road map that begins with an employee’s leave request and guides employers from granting leave to restoring the employee to the same or an equivalent position at the end of the leave period. It addresses many complicated FMLA requirements in a practical manner that includes “Did you know?” tips for compliance.

In addition to the new Employer’s Guide, DOL recently issued a new General Notice FMLA poster. All FMLA-covered employers are required to display a DOL poster summarizing the major provisions of the FMLA. Employers are not required to replace their current poster with the new version, but the new version highlights information regarding employees’ rights and employers’ obligations in a more reader-friendly format.

JAN does not offer detailed technical assistance on the FMLA. However, FMLA and ADA issues often overlap, and so, JAN consultants do address some of the more common FMLA issues and refer customers to DOL and other relevant resources for detailed technical assistance. JAN offers a number of FMLA-related resources on our Website, in our A-Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Family and Medical Leave Act, including the new Employer’s Guide and also DOL’s Employee’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

Accommodating Cooks with Low Vision

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 6, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology, Vendors | Comments are off for this article

By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant – Sensory Team

Cooking and eating together are powerful ways of building relationships and creating a sense of community at work. Whether you are seeking to include an employee in cooking activities, or accommodating a food service employee with a vision impairment, there are many ways to make a kitchen more accessible to employees with vision impairments.

Some typical suggestions for accommodating cooks with low vision include the following:

  • Use measuring tools with large print, color coding or tactile marking, or modify existing measuring cups and spoons with customized markings.
  • Use knife guards or specialized tools such as vegetable peelers for cutting and peeling.
  • Use guards, cut proof gloves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as needed when handling or cleaning sharp objects.
  • Use measuring tools and cutting boards that contrast with the substance being measured or cut.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to measure cookie dough and place on a baking sheet.
  • Use parchment paper when baking to prevent sticking and simplify cleaning.
  • Use color coded prep bowls to keep track of ingredients that have been measured out.
  • Use liquid level indicators when pouring hot liquids.
  • Use talking thermometers and timers.
  • Use oven mitts when handling pots and pans.
  • Use extra-long oven mitts, oven rack grabbers, and oven rack guards for oven tasks.
  • Use magnifiers, bar code readers, or Optical Character Reading (OCR) technology to access information on labels.
  • Avoid placing pots, pans, and bowls directly on slippery or slick surfaces.
  • Use pot stabilizers for safer pouring and ladling.
  • Use boil control discs to prevent boil overs.
  • Make a plan for how to effectively clean and sanitize cooking area, dishes and utensils.
  • Use a talking calculator when modifying, halving, or multiplying a recipe.
  • Consider induction cooktops for increased safety when practical.
  • Modify lighting according to need. Some individuals need more lighting or task lighting, other may need lower light levels, filtering of light sources, or an alternate type of light source.
  • Use dial type controls, which may be easier to modify/memorize.
  • Use tactile marking or color coding to mark important buttons.
  • Try magnification or hand held OCR to better access digital displays.
  • Use a talking oven thermometer to verify oven temperature.
  • Digitize inventory and temperature logs as needed for improved accessibility.
  • Use fluorescent tape to mark routes of travel and tips of stairs.
  • Seek customized recommendations and individualized assistive technology (AT), occupational therapy (OT), or vision rehabilitation therapy (VRT) assessments when appropriate.

Visit the JAN Website for more information on low vison cooking aids.

The American Foundation for the Blind offers information on modified tools and methods for safe cooking for individuals with low or no vision.

Many tools that may be useful to a cook, chef, or baker with low vision can be found at vendors of standard and commercial kitchen supplies. There are however some vendors with specialized products for individuals with low vision that include kitchen aids. Examples of these types of low vision aids for cooking tasks can be found here, here, and here.

You can link here to information on talking thermometers.

JAN’s Website includes information on talking bar code scanners and talking scales.

For highly specialized cooking and baking tasks, scientific instruments designed for use by individuals who are blind may be helpful.

If you would like to discuss specific accommodation situations in more detail, we invite you to contact JAN directly.

 

 

Tips for Starting a Food Related Small Business

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 15, 2016 under Accommodations, Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant – Self-Employment Team

Many JAN customers contact us with an interest in starting a food related business.

Below is a sample of the type of food businesses we have been contacted about:

  • Food truck or concession
  • Cottage food product (such as homemade jams, cookies, breads, and so on) –typically sold at a farmer’s market, local shop, or online
  • Catering service
  • Coffee/tea cart
  • Fruit/vegetable stand
  • Consumer supported agriculture (CSA) – subscribing to receive produce from a local farm throughout their growing season
  • Cupcake shop
  • Limited or full service restaurant or bakery

While the scale of planning requirements and applicable food laws and regulations involved for each of these businesses can be quite different, we’ve included below some general tips that can be instrumental in making any food related venture successful.

Tip 1: Take the time from the outset to research your business idea in the context of your local community and potential market

JAN is located in Morgantown, WV – a medium sized college town with a large public university and many coffee drinkers. Theoretically, opening a coffee shop seems like a sure bet in a town like this. Yet over the years, many coffee shops have come and gone, while a small number have endured. Why? Bad coffee? No parking? Too pricey? If you are considering opening a coffee shop, an important step is to map this market – both historically and now. Which markets are being filled and which are not? What makes what you will offer different, better, cheaper or more desirable? I remember when it was considered to be a competitive edge to have Wifi access. Now this is available in almost any coffee shop, fast food restaurant, or bookstore. My point is that whatever your business idea – even before you embark on a formal business or marketing planning process – get to know your local community and potential market well.

Tip 2: Start small, test your ideas, then scale up

You have a dream of opening a small storefront bakery selling breads, cakes, muffins, and pies. You’ve been baking your whole life and inherited a number of wonderful family recipes you’d like to use. But where to start? Even with a small shop, the initial costs appear daunting – rent, commercial cooking equipment, baking ingredients, insurance, advertising, and so on. If you’ve ever watched the Food Network TV show Cupcake Wars, you may have noticed some of these expert bakers do not have their own storefront shops yet. They are either making their products in their home; in a rented commercial kitchen space; at a culinary incubator; as a business within an already established business; or another creative arrangement. The reason for this is it gives the entrepreneur the chance to start small and test their product ideas without the huge capital investment. This also gives you the chance to build up a client base, establish local business and financial relationships, and then scale up your operation. For example, you might begin by investing in a booth at the local farmer’s market and sell baked goods there. Further down the road, you might advertise at the booth being available to cater parties and special events. You might also make an arrangement to sell baked goods at the local food coop or coffee shops. Through this process, you are collecting data about what works and what doesn’t – what types of muffins are most popular — refining not only recipes but your own vision for your future storefront bakery.

Tip 3: Learn the state and local regulations and laws that apply to your food business

Producing food products commercially whether in a food truck, home kitchen, or restaurant are governed by strict laws and regulations that ensure sanitary standards and the safety of products sold to customers. You need to know what laws and regulations will apply to your business. Some businesses may require special permits – such as those operating a food truck or a business in the home. Organizations such as a local your Small Business Development Center, a Women’s Business Center, or your state extension service are often a good place to start. Your state Department of Agriculture will also have information about food related businesses. Many will also have guides about starting a food related business such as this one available for food entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania.

Some states have passed Cottage Food Laws, which Harvard University’s Food Law and Policy Clinic defines in its publication Cottage Food Laws in the United States (2013) as:

At their most basic, cottage food laws permit the inhome production and sale of nonpotentially hazardous foods. As of the publication of this report, fortytwo states had some sort of cottage food law, and nine states, including Washington, D.C., did not.  Although more than twothirds of states have cottage food laws, there is no uniformity among the laws. Some states restrict homebased food processing activities to a very narrow category of processors (such as onfarm only). Others cap allowable sales at a low amount, such that inhome processing activities can only be a hobby and not a viable business or launching pad for a more traditional food processing business. Some cottage food laws are relatively easy to find in the states’ laws and have clear requirements, while other states’ cottage food laws are difficult to find and may not clearly state the requirements for a cottage food operation. 

These laws will vary by state, but may also be guided by additional regulations at the city level, such as these in the City of Chicago. You will need to do your research to find out what laws, regulations, or permits will apply to your business.

Tip 4: Build any needed accommodations into the design of your business and test them out

This tip is certainly not exclusive to a food business, but can be very important particularly with accommodations that involve food related work environments such as kitchens, food trucks, shops, or farmer’s markets, as examples. JAN consultants can suggest specific accommodation examples and products, but some potential examples in the food industry may include:

From the JAN’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR):

Gripping or Pinching Tools or Objects – This could apply to cooking utensils such ergonomic knives; reachers to eliminate bending; or specialized baking equipment.
Sitting – This could include anti-fatigue mats for those who need to need to be on their feet all day; headsets that free up hands for cooking; or copyholders that could also hold recipes.
Moving, Carrying, or Lifting Materials or People – Lifting devices to move large food products; motorized carts for use when catering; or eating aids.

Food related business ideas are increasingly popular for JAN customers. We’ve highlighted a few tips that can help in the development of these types of businesses. For more specific information about becoming a food entrepreneur, contact JAN directly and we would be happy to put together individualized resources for you.

Fonts for Readers with Dyslexia

Posted by Kim Cordingly on under Accommodations, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultants – Cognitive/Neurological Team

While some of you may be familiar with the two dyslexia fonts highlighted below, many may not be aware of the specifics of how they can assist as reading improvement tools. Several of our JAN staff learned more about these fonts while attending the 2016 CSUN Conference — 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference held at California State University Northridge in San Diego a couple of weeks ago.

Both of the following fonts have been shown to be highly effective in improving reading skills for many people with dyslexia by helping to better differentiate between letters, aiding in the reading process.

Here’s a brief look at how they work:

Dyslexie uses a heavier, bolder line thickness that emphasizes the bottom of most letters. This anchors the letters and helps prevent substituting, rotating, and flipping of letters. The Dyslexie font is designed so that every letter has its own unique form. Some differences between the Dyslexie font and others are slanted lines, weighted bottoms, larger openings in the letters, such as a, e, and c. The ascending stems of letters like f and h have been made taller, as well as the descending tails of letters such as p, q, and y. The spacing between letters and words is increased to prevent crowding. The capital letters and punctuation marks are bolder so that it is easier to identify the beginning and ending of sentences.

OpenDyslexic is a font also created to increase readability for individuals with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. OpenDyslexic is created to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Letters have heavily weighted bottoms to indicate direction. Readers are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down, aiding in letter recognition, and helping keep the brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping. OpenDyslexic is being continually updated and improved based on input from users with dyslexia.

If you or someone you know has dyslexia, be sure to check out both Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic to see how effective they might be!

For information on Accommodation Ideas for Learning Disabilities, visit our JAN Website.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Let’s Light It up Blue!!

Posted by JAN Tech on April 1, 2016 under Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

According to Autism Speaks, people all over the globe will wear blue and light up their communities for World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow, April 2, 2016.

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.   Autism Speaks shares this information:  Autism is a lifelong condition. In fact, each year 50,000 children with autism transition to adulthood. Many of them are capable of going on to meaningful employment and living on their own. But they need more employment opportunities and housing and residential supports. Autism Speaks continues to work with public and private partners to ensure people with autism successfully transition to adulthood. Together we can make a difference in the lives of people with autism by accepting their many gifts and recognizing the challenges they can face. Autism currently affects 1 in 68 people — these are our loved ones, friends and neighbors. We owe it to them on April 2, and every other day of the year, to make the world a more understanding place. So let’s Light It Up Blue together and shine a global spotlight on autism!

JAN is contributing to the celebration of autism awareness by helping to shed light on autism in the workplace.  We have several publications of note that will help in this area.  Accommodation and Compliance Series:  Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorder shares various accommodation ideas for impairments that may be associated with ASD such as issues of change, stress management, social skills, and processing sensory stimuli. We also have a Consultants’ Corner: Interviewing Tips for Applicants with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that can be helpful to applicants when they are looking towards employment and contemplating disclosure and accommodation.  Applicants will gain insights on how to be prepared and represent themselves to a prospective employer in the best possible way. JAN also provides contact information on resources that may prove helpful as well.

Check out the JAN staff wearing the autism awareness colors!

JAN staff wearing blue JAN Staff wearing blue

 

 

JAN Goes to the White House

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 15, 2016 under Events, General Information, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team

February 18, 2016, will be forever etched into my brain. This was the day when approximately 130 Jewish disability rights advocates convened in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss where we as a community have been, and where we need to go.

My work at JAN is greatly informed by my Jewish tradition, where we find the work of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14) who stated that “the highest level of tzedakah [righteous act, often mistranslated as charity] is helping one help themselves,” or “setting one up in business rather than providing for someone,” or more commonly, “teaching one to fish, rather than giving one a fish.”  It was important, and humbling as someone working in the field of work-related disability accommodations to see this be included in the wide array of topics seen as normal in Jewish Community.

As the day’s events unfolded, we received a great history lesson from featured speaker Judy Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. This was enhanced by comments later in the day from Chai Feldblum, Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who was present during the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is familiar with how the “religious exemption” (where under Title III of the ADA, religious entities are exempt from having to make their public access facilities accessible) came to be.

The main event of the day centered around four panelists discussing the future of our movement:

Dr. John Winer of the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities talked about making the experience of disability normalized in the community.  “People with intellectual disabilities have the right to housing, to an occupation, and to feeling like productive members of society. We need to do the right thing by being beneficent,” he said. “No individual wants to feel like they are a chesed project [charity case].”

Sheila Katz, vice president for social entrepreneurship at Hillel International stressed the need for organizations to be open and transparent about not knowing what they do not know. She shared the vision for Hillel going forward to actively engage Jewish students with a disability in an effort to ensure greater inclusion in campus life, including religious activities.

Aaron Kaufman senior legislative associate at the Jewish Federations of North America made a great point about the fact that some pieces of the inclusion puzzle do cost money, but if we prioritize inclusion, we will find a way to pay for it. This really resonated with me: building a mikveh [ritual bath] costs money, but if the community wants it to happen, we find a way to pay for it.  So too with inclusion Aaron pointed out.

Ruti Regan, co-founder of Anachnu, an organization that teaches the Torah from a disability perspective hit the nail on the head by visually demonstrating how an action has a very different connotation in different contexts that are learned behaviors in society. An example she used was that a person with a developmental disability may display a behavior of rocking back and forth – this being perceived as a “problem” or deviation from a norm. In a different context, a person in prayer might be rocking back and forth and this is perceived as devout behavior. Her point was that we need to become aware of how we prescribe meaning (good or bad) to the same behaviors based on the context.

Comments from Shane Feldman, Lauren Tuchman, and Liz Weintraub, amongst others highlighted improvements that have been made and concerns for issues that still need much attention.

All in all, it was an energizing day that I feel sure will just be a springboard for more good inclusion work to come. Many thanks to the White House staff who made this event happen:  Matt Nosanchuk and Maria Town – both from the Office of Public Engagement.

Spring Cleaning Your Workplace

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 7, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, General Information, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

After the long, dark, and cold winter, we yearn for spring. We look forward to warmth, flowers, birdsong, and spending time outdoors. We also look forward to the opportunity to spring clean our homes, workspaces, and classrooms. What better time to get rid of clutter and lighten up? It would be a much easier task if it were one we kept up with throughout the year, but most of us find that difficult to do.

While for some of us messiness may be a routine annoyance, for employees with organizational difficulties as a result of attention deficit disorder (ADD), cognitive issues and/or fatigue due to cancer treatments, fibromyalgia, brain injury, multiple sclerosis (MS), or other impairments, creating and maintaining order may be especially challenging.

For those of you who work from home, you may find it even more difficult to keep up with the clutter in your work space. Maybe the fact that you don’t have co-workers who can see your mess makes it easier to let it go and let it grow! There is also the chance at home that items not belonging in your office have an easier time migrating there.

Regardless of whether you work in a classroom, an office, a cubicle, or a home office, reducing the disarray in your workspace may very well increase your sense of professionalism and productivity. Look to the following tips for help in organizing your workspace and reducing your clutter to a more manageable level.

  • Don’t become overwhelmed when you look at the area about to be cleaned. Take heart! Be brave!
  • Start from one side of the room, area, or desk and move in a path to the opposite side.
  • Remove rarely used tools and gadgets from your desk top and drawers. Place them in a storage area that is convenient for when you do need them. Label areas for easy retrieval.
  • Do you have books that you rarely use? Remove those to storage as well. If you haven’t used a particular book within the last 60-90 days, it is probably not something you need to have at your fingertips.
  • If you are a collector of whatnots and trinkets, consider limiting the number you display on your desk at a time. Put the others into storage and plan to rotate them in and out for a fresh new look.
  • If you have extra furniture in your space that is not needed, consider removing it. It may create more surface area that allows you to collect even more clutter.
  • Think about hanging photos of your family, sports teams, etc., on the walls instead of having them take up desk space.
  • If you have a mountain of paperwork, go through it with only three categories in mind: things to act on, things to file, and things to toss.
  • Color-code files to help identify them with ease.
  • Invest in stackable bins or trays for papers. Label them.
  • Use a bulletin or magnetic board to keep often-used items, schedules, or policies / procedures within eyesight. If you are a person who likes to collect photos, cards, or whatever, consider having one board for work use and one for personal use.
  • Have a trash can handy while opening mail. Toss absolutely everything that does not need to be responded to or remembered.
  • If your office recycles paper, have a tray handy for that. Take to the larger recycling area at least weekly.
  • Arrange the items on your desk and in your office according to how you use them. Your desk and surrounding office / cubicle space may look different if you are left-handed, for example.
  • Having an efficient usable workspace isn’t about it looking good, it’s more about the space being functional for you and your needs in your particular job.
  • Try to reserve 10 minutes at the end of each day to put things away, clear off your workspace, and prepare for the next day.

You can take charge and control your clutter by not allowing it to accumulate. Then when spring rolls around, you may be able to spend more time enjoying the flowers, the birds, and the outdoors!

 

Whether You Are a Night Owl or Morning Bird, Make Sure You Are Catching Your Zzzs

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 4, 2016 under Accommodations, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

This year, The National Sleep Foundation will celebrate Sleep Awareness Week starting March 6th. The hope is to spread awareness of the importance of sleep to our health, safety, and productivity.

In theory, we know from our own firsthand experience how important sleep is to our well-being. But lately, I feel like I have been hitting the snooze button more and more. I found out recently that hitting the snooze button can actually make you feel more tired during the day. Dr. Yizhak Kupfer from the Maimonides Medical Center in New York talks about how relying on the snooze button can diminish the positive effects of a good night’s sleep.

When we first wake by the sound of the alarm, we are pulled out of REM sleep, the most restorative sleep stage. REM sleep helps us feel awake and focused for the day. When we try to catch those extra 10 minutes, our bodies start a new phase of REM sleep. Unfortunately, those extra 10 minutes don’t allow enough time to complete the cycle, and our brain can stay in it after we have finally forced ourselves to get up and out of bed. This can throw off our circadian rhythms (internal clock) and cause us to feel tired or sluggish the rest of the day. It’s time to stop hitting snooze. Easier said than done, right?

When we are young, we tend to need more sleep than we do as adults. Ever notice how upset and sometimes “cranky” little ones can get if they miss their nap? As we grow older, it is still important to make sure we get an appropriate amount of sleep for our bodies to function properly.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following for sleep duration based on age.

Newborns: 14 to 17 hours

Infants: 12 to 15 hours

Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours

Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours

School-aged Children: 9 to 11 hours

Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours

Adults: 7 to 9 hours

Not receiving a sufficient amount of sleep can affect us in a variety of ways. It can cause difficulty with concentration, memory, and stamina. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc not only in our personal lives but also in our work lives. Lack of sleep can cause our productivity during the day to significantly decrease. It can sometimes cause issues on the job, especially if performance suffers as a result. For more information on how sleep can affect us at work and accommodations that may help, see http://askjan.org/media/Sleep.html.

There are certain things that can help us try to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, which in turn will help us to function properly and be productive throughout the day. One of these tips is to develop a bedtime routine. It is easy to think that bedtime routines are only a thing for children, but they can also be important for adults. Having a routine can prepare us and ease us into a restful sleep.

In addition to having a bedtime routine, the environment in which we sleep also plays a key role. The National Sleep Foundation talks about using our senses to create a sleep environment that fits our needs. They base these ideas on the five senses: touch, see, hear, smell, and taste. The following are some examples.

Touch: Getting a good night’s sleep means being comfortable. Things to consider:

  • Adjusting the temperature of the room
  • Using the right type of mattress and pillows
  • Making your bed in the morning

See: Light can affect our body’s circadian rhythms (internal clock) and disrupt our sleep patterns. Things to consider:

  • Using curtains and closing them at bedtime
  • Turning off electronics before settling into bed

Hear: As we sleep, our brains still register and process sounds on a basic level. Noise can disrupt our sleep causing us to wake or move between stages of sleep. This can also cause us to experience changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Things to consider:

  • Turning off the TV while sleeping
  • Using white noise such as a fan or other device to reduce the difference between background noise and “peak” noise, helping you to sleep better

Smell: According to the National Sleep Foundation, some smells may have an effect on our sleep. Things to consider:

  • Periodically changing sheets to ensure freshness
  • Using relaxing scents in the room. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and put us into a relaxing state

Taste: What we eat and drink before bed can also affect our sleep. Things to consider:

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine leading up to bedtime
  • If hungry before bed, eating a light snack as opposed to a meal

You can find additional information on bedroom environment from the National Sleep Foundation here https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/.

Practicing healthy sleep habits can help our bodies continue to function properly, and help us stay alert and ready to tackle whatever the day throws our way. It is time to take our sleep seriously and listen to our bodies. What better time to start than National Sleep Awareness Week 2016?

References:

National Sleep Foundation

The Snooze Button- Friend or Foe Maimonides Medical Center

Why Hitting The Snooze Button Will Screw Up Your Entire Day The Huffington Post

 

 

JAN Goes to the ATIA Conference

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 2, 2016 under Accommodations, JAN News, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant — Sensory Team; Kelsey Lewis, Consultant — Cognitive/Neurological Team; Lisa Mathess, Senior Consultant — Motor Team

At the beginning of February, a few JAN consultants had the privilege to travel to sunny Orlando, Florida to attend the annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference. All week, JAN was well represented with a booth in the exhibit hall along with consultants giving three presentations on a range of topics.

As part of the educational sessions, JAN offered a presentation titled Apps at Work: Accommodating Employees Effectively with Mobile Technology! showcasing a variety of mobile apps that could be used as part of, or as, a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. JAN talked about apps for limitations stemming from sensory, motor, cognitive, and psychiatric impairments.

JAN also gave a presentation on real-life situations and solutions from inquiries handled by our consultants regarding employees with multiple impairments and therefore various limitations. The presentation Multiple Impairments, Multiple Limitations: Accommodating Employees with Complex Needs was well received, as accommodation needs can be very complex and ever changing.

Finally, on the last day of the conference, JAN collaborated with alliance partner AbleData and presented on assistive technology options and accommodation ideas for employees with autoimmune disorders — Workplace Accommodations & AT for Individuals with Autoimmune Disorders.

The exhibit booth was visited by people from a variety of backgrounds, including educational professionals, rehabilitation professionals, students, employees with disabilities, and product manufacturers. Consultants discussed the various services offered at JAN and handed out publications and goodies to over 300 attendees.

If you’re interested in viewing the presentation PowerPoints, they are available on the JAN Website for download.

One of the things that we as JAN consultants enjoy most about attending conferences is visiting the booths of other service providers and vendors. Conference exhibit halls are a practical and hands-on way for us to keep up with the latest information on assistive technologies and disability services so that we can share up-to-date information with our consumers. This year, the ATIA exhibit hall showcased a wide variety of vendors and organizations. As usual, vendors of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices and vision-related products were well represented. Due to the recent merger of Dynavox and Tobii, both of which are well known for their AAC devices and eye gaze systems, we were particularly interested to see how they would combine their product lines. We learned that the DynaWrite2.0, a speech-generating device particularly well suited to meet the needs of literate adults who need to be able to use a land line phone for work, had been discontinued. However, one of the Tobii DynaVox reps assured us that a similar product, the highly portable Lightwriter SL40 Connect, will continue to be available. The Lightwriter can be used to make mobile phone calls.

In addition to presenting for JAN, we were able to attend multiple educational sessions. One unique and entertaining session was called Music-Making = Differentiated Instruction and Unique Therapy Protocols, which featured a new [to us] product called Beamz. Beamz is a laser-based music device. It includes three prongs (shaped like a “W”) and laser beams running from each prong. Each laser acts as a different musical instrument that can be played with the stroke of a hand.

The Beamz device can link to IOS products, MAC, and PC, allowing users to view the corresponding instrument with a laser beam on the screen of their device. Users can choose among many genres, including country, hip hop, classical, and even nature sounds. In addition, users can choose to add their own musical twist to already-synced songs ranging from Beamz original compositions, to karaoke hits, and today’s latest radio jams.

Beamz is currently used in multiple settings including schools, geriatric and long-term care facilities, at home, and as a therapy/ rehabilitation tool. It is thought to improve cognition, socialization, and motivation through memory recall, improved communication, and “brain fitness.” Beamz also claims to help with fine and gross motor skills along with improving range of motion.