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ENews: Volume 9, Issue 1, First Quarter, 2011

The JAN E-News is a quarterly online newsletter of the Job Accommodation Network. Its purpose is to keep subscribers informed about low-cost and innovative accommodation approaches; the latest trends in assistive technologies; announcements of upcoming JAN presentations, media events, trainings, and Webcasts; and legislative and policy updates promoting the employment success of people with disabilities.

An e-mail announcement is sent to an opt-in list when a new issue is available. Please use the links at the end of this document to subscribe or unsubscribe.

Index

  1. Multimedia Accessibility & the Changing Workplace
  2. Going Green in the Workplace Series: Ideas for Improving More Than Just the Environment
  3. Going Green in the Workplace Series: Advantages of Telework Turn Employers Green
  4. Going Green in the Workplace Series: Going Green the Photosensitive Way
  5. Material Lifting Devices, Part 1 of a Continuing Series
  6. Phobias in the Workplace
  7. The Job Accommodation Process for Individuals with Speech and Language Impairments: An Introduction for Service Providers
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Multimedia Accessibility & the Changing Workplace

Employers are using innovative ways to train and motivate workers to perform and be the best they can be. For example, videos and other forms of multimedia are often incorporated into company training, either online or at conferences, and used for promotional purposes. When using videos as training tools, it is important to keep accessibility in mind in order to ensure that all workers, including workers with disabilities, can benefit from the video's message or participate in training.

When developing accessible multimedia, start with the question, "How can the media be useable by as many people as possible?" Typically, there are three specific groups of people who can benefit from proactive steps taken to create accessible multimedia. These are people who are blind or visually impaired, who are deaf or hard of hearing, and who have cognitive challenges.

Accessible multimedia for people who are blind or visually impaired includes the integration of audio descriptions of the video, i.e., additional audio information is included to describe important visual elements of the film or video. People who are deaf and hard of hearing benefit from various forms of text captioning. There are "open" captions – visible to all viewers as they have been integrated or coded into the video – and "closed" captions – seen by only those who activate the captioning on their viewing screen. For people who have cognitive impairments, the accessibility solutions vary according to their particular challenge. However, oftentimes simpler visuals are better, i.e., less Adobe Flash.

For the broadest accessibility, videos need to be audio described (including DVD selection menus), captioned, and contain the least amount of complex visuals or flash. With proper planning and a high level of skill, all of these features may be integrated into a single accessible version of a video. Or, multiple versions of the video may need to be considered. According to Skills for Access: The Comprehensive Guide to Creating Accessible Multi-media for elearning, "The best solution may be to provide separate 'accessible' versions of the media: including 1. video plus audio, 2. captioned video plus described audio, 3. described audio as a sound file (for example MP3)." (http://www.skillsforaccess.org.uk/howto.php?id=104)

When developing a training video, public service announcement, or other multimedia product, insure that the in-house development team understands the need for the piece to be captioned and audio described from the very beginning. And then, prior to production the developers should inform the rest of the team how the product will be made accessible. Accessibility being at the forefront of development will insure most effective captioning and audio description.

An example of an organization using separate accessible versions of a single multimedia product is the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE). The CDE is a collaborative of leading disability and business organizations that works to educate employers, marketers, and others about the value that people with disabilities add to the workplace. With the support of DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy, collaborative members developed a number of outreach products to promote employment of people with disabilities, including a video public service announcement (PSA) entitled, "I Can."

To view the various accessible PSA products generated by the CDE, go to: http://www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org/blog/index.php/video. Note how the three minute "I Can" PSA offers a description of the video in its entirety in advance of the video, thus making the video fully accessible.

When in question about an accessibility issue, remember that many organizations representing people with disabilities are willing to collaborate on these sorts of projects. Or, if you are a large corporation and have an employee resource group or affinity group for people with disabilities, consider calling upon a member of the group to serve on the development team for a new multimedia product.

- Louis Orslene, MPIA, MSW, Co-Director, and Tracie DeFreitas Saab, M.S., Program Manager, Campaign for Disability Employment

2 - Going Green in the Workplace Series: Ideas for Improving More Than Just the Environment

JAN Goes Green Recycling Symbol

The color green used to be just one of many that could be found in a box of crayons. Now it is associated with a movement toward altering the way we think and live. To "Go Green" is an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and raise awareness of how the use of everyday products can adversely affect our environment. The concept of going green has expanded from recycling old newspapers and milk cartons to the development of chemical free or low emission household cleaning products, electronics, appliances, cars, and even environmentally friendly homes. People of all ages have become eco-conscious in their thinking, which can positively impact more than just the environment.

For those individuals with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), fragrance sensitivity, or any number of respiratory disorders, the availability of green products can reduce the effects of exposure to harmful chemicals in the home, work environment, and public places. Common symptoms of MCS, fragrance sensitivities, and allergies can include itchy or inflamed skin, fatigue, concentration or memory difficulties, irritability, nervous tension, depression, drowsiness, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, nasal congestion, muscle and joint aches, ringing in the ears, gastrointestinal distress, palpitations, and asthma attacks. Many times these symptoms can be severe enough to impact the individual's ability to perform everyday tasks, such as working, and it may be necessary to explore reasonable accommodations.

Exposure to a wide variety of chemicals can occur in any type of work setting. Fragrances in perfume, laundry detergent, and personal hygiene products are brought into the workplace by other employees or the public and a multitude of chemicals can be found in conventional cleaning products, carpets, paint, and furniture. While many employers are implementing some type of fragrance-free policy as an accommodation for employees, this may not always be a fail-safe solution. Additional steps can be taken to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals lingering in the workplace directly benefiting those who have made the accommodation request, indirectly benefiting all employees, and using the green strategies and products that have been developed over recent years. For example:

In the past, these products may have been difficult to find but are now sold in major retail stores and can be readily found through online search engines. Although there is no requirement for manufacturers to list the ingredients, it may be beneficial to look for products that tell you what's not inside, for instance "No ammonia," "No chlorine," "No petrochemicals," and "No sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate." Independent groups such as Green Seal, Cradle To Cradle, the Leaping Bunny, and the EPA's Design for the Environment program analyze product ingredients and certify that those chemicals do not pose harm to your health or to the environment. These alternatives do not contain harmful ingredients and can be substituted for little to no added expense for conventional cleaners that often pose health hazards, especially for those who experience chemical and fragrance sensitivities. It may also be beneficial to ask an employee who has made an accommodation request if there is a specific product or manufacturer that she/he uses at home or that has been used in previous places of employment that has proven to be effective.

Choosing products that have been deemed as green (e.g., biodegradability, low toxicity, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, low life cycle energy use) and taking steps to reduce exposure in the workplace can minimize harmful impacts to employees and the public, improve indoor air quality, and reduce pollution while also ensuring the effectiveness of cleaning in removing biological and other contaminants from the facility. So, when evaluating accommodation requests or making purchasing decisions, remember that going green can be an easy way to make a positive impact on more than just the environment. Resources include:

- Elisabeth Simpson, M.S., Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

3 - Going Green in the Workplace Series: Advantages of Telework Turn Employers Green

Go green, give your car a rest, and telework! That is the slogan the Telework Exchange is using to encourage workers to telecommute during the week of February 14-18, 2011. The Telework Exchange is a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the tangible value of telework and serving the emerging educational and communication requirements of the Federal teleworker community. During a Webcast on December 15, 2010, teleworking was highlighted as a way to go green. Less traffic, as well as a reduction in energy consumption and more efficiency in employer operations are positive outcomes of telecommuting. Continued productivity during power outages, severe weather, and pandemic flu, as well as travel management, reducing the real estate footprint, and environmental friendliness are all viewed as advantages of teleworking. The basis for the push to telecommuting is the Telework Enhancement Act (H.R. 1722) signed into law on December 9, 2010, by President Barack Obama.

Three primary groups that would benefit the most from teleworking were identified as veterans, individuals with disabilities, and service member spouses. JAN consultants answer many questions daily about telework as an accommodation for persons with disabilities. Even if employers have no telework program in place, they must look at providing telework as an accommodation if it would be effective for the employee and not cause an undue hardship for the employer. The effectiveness of this accommodation will depend on whether the essential functions of the position can be performed at home. There are many obvious situations in which telework would not be effective. Jobs where the essential functions can only be performed at the worksite, such as food servers, drivers, and/or cashiers cannot be effectively accommodated by telework. Considerations such as the employer's ability to adequately supervise the employee or the employee's need to work with specialized equipment or tools may also help determine if telework would be an effective accommodation. The amount of time an employee works from home as an accommodation may be as varied as the individual, his or her disability, and the job. For conditions that have intermittent exacerbations, the employer may need to be flexible about how much time an individual employee needs to be able to work from home. An employee who has had surgery or treatment for a disability may need to work from home for an extended amount of time. An interactive meeting between the employee and the employer to discuss the issue of working from home would be vital in working out the details.

For more information on telework as an accommodation contact JAN and speak to a consultant.

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

4 - Going Green in the Workplace Series: Going Green the Photosensitive Way

With Federal "green" legislation supporting the reduction of incandescent light bulb use, individuals with disabilities who are light sensitive, also called photosensitive, may find they need to request workplace accommodations more frequently than in the past. Numerous conditions can cause photosensitivity such as lupus, Lyme disease, Bloom's Syndrome, skin cancer, some skin conditions, migraine headaches, seizure disorders, and sensitivities caused by certain medications. Accommodations for photosensitivity can include:

The following situations illustrate how these accommodations are used for employees with photosensitivity:

With careful planning, "going green" benefits everyone, including people with disabilities.

- Sheryl Grossman, MSW, Consultant, Self-Employment / Motor Team

5 - Material Lifting Devices, Part 1 of a Continuing Series

Ergonomic Power Vertical Lift from ERGOdynamics

As a means of preventing workplace injuries involving heavy lifting, carrying, or moving items, one must first practice safe lifting techniques, then consider devices or products to assist with these problematic activities, and finally never lift heavy items without assistance. Basic procedures for lifting, carrying, or moving heavy items include keeping the object close to one's body, keeping one's body straight, and using one's leg muscles to do the actual lifting, not back muscles.

Many material lifting devices are designed for use with large, heavy objects, but several of JAN's inquiries involve lifting activities in a small work environment like an office or stockroom. Workers are often expected to lift and move heavy boxes of computer paper, small appliances, freight parcels, or computer related items. Small but heavy items can be difficult to lift, carry, or move in confined spaces. Compact, portable lifting devices can boost productivity and reduce injuries to the worker. Two recent examples of JAN calls illustrate these points.

Portable, self-contained material lifting devices can be operated by one person in a variety of settings. Often these devices allow any size user to move heavy loads. Some of these lifts are operated manually, others have electric features. Below are product links to equipment suitable for use in offices, stockrooms, or warehouses:

The Job Accommodation Network does not sell lifting devices, but we do make information available as to manufacturers and distributors of lifting devices. For more information regarding product information, prices, specifications, and vendors, visit JAN's SOAR at:

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

6 - Phobias in the Workplace

A Federal employee with a fear of confinement cannot wear a seatbelt. A delivery driver living near a large city cannot drive through the actual city with overpasses and bridges. A water treatment worker cannot do the job of checking irrigation systems for fear of snakes. A sales manager for a national corporation cannot fly on a small airplane. All of these employees have a fear that might prohibit them from doing their jobs. Are these fears considered phobias? Are phobias disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act? What accommodations will work for individuals with these various fears? These are some of the types of questions JAN consultants answer for employees and employers alike concerning phobias.

We answer the question of whether a phobia is a disability the same as we answer any question about whether a particular medical condition would qualify as a disability under the ADA. Following the definition of disability under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), each case would be looked at on an individual basis. Because a phobia would likely be a mental impairment, we would look at whether the impairment substantially limits the individual in one or more major life activities. Major life activities include but are not limited to breathing, sleeping, and concentrating. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily system such as the respiratory or circulatory system.

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, phobias are irrational, involuntary, and inappropriate fears of (or responses to) ordinary situations or things. People who have phobias can experience panic attacks when confronted with the situation or object about which they feel phobic. A category of symptoms called phobic disorder falls within the broader field of anxiety disorders. Phobias are usually long-term, distressing disorders that keep people from ordinary activities and places. They can lead to other serious problems, such as depression.

No matter what type of phobia you have, it is likely to produce the following reactions: a feeling of uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of your fear, the feeling that you would do anything to avoid what you fear, and the inability to function normally because of your anxiety. Even knowing that your fears are unreasonable or exaggerated does not help, because you may be powerless to control them.

According to the above information, a phobia could very well be considered a disability under the ADA and might very likely need to be accommodated in the workplace. Let us look at the phobias presented earlier and see what accommodation might be provided to enable the employees with these specific limitations to continue working.

Contact JAN if you have questions about phobias and how they might affect work situations.

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

7 - The Job Accommodation Process for Individuals with Speech and Language Impairments: An Introduction for Service Providers

Teresa Goddard and Beth Loy presented a poster session on The Job Accommodation Process for Individuals with Speech and Language Impairments: An Introduction for Service Providers part of the 11th Annual Conference of ASHA Special Interest Division 12 (Augmentative and Alternative Communication - AAC), which took place in Orlando, FL, from January 24-26, 2011. For additional information, visit http://www.atia.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3904

Successful employment of individuals with speech and language impairments depends on finding the right tools to bridge the gap between their needs and their opportunities. Speech and language impairments may impact one's ability to communicate effectively with supervisors, coworkers, and members of the public. Individuals with speech and language impairments may have difficulty speaking with sufficient volume, speaking fluently, speaking clearly, and understanding others. This can be especially problematic during instruction about workplace processes and procedures; understanding written communication; and expressing thoughts, ideas, and feelings. These limitations may result in difficulty giving and receiving information necessary to complete work related tasks.

Service providers may assist in the job accommodation process by providing medical documentation and information about assistive technology such as AAC devices that will optimize job performance and strategies for effectively using AAC devices during work related tasks. By attending this session participants learned about ways to support individuals with speech and language impairments who are seeking reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Topics included how to develop successful accommodation solutions that involve speech and language impairments and AAC use and how to implement an effective accommodation process. Participants also learned about the benefits and costs of workplace accommodation solutions while exploring individual accommodation scenarios involving individuals with speech and language impairments.

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

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 here: http://AskJAN.org/training/On-the-Road.htm

11 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

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This document was developed by the Job Accommodation Network, funded by a contract 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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