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ENews: Volume 9, Issue 3, Third 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. Much Ado About Mitigating Measures
  2. Return to Work or Stay at Work and Accommodations
  3. My Oh My, It's Hot! Workplace Accommodations for Heat Sensitivity
  4. Material Lifting Devices, Final Series Installment
  5. Getting to Work on Time
  6. Accommodating Employees with Hearing Aids: A Beginner's Guide to T-coils
  7. Twitter: Tweet Me Accessible
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Much Ado About Mitigating Measures

One of the most significant changes the ADA Amendments Act made to the definition of disability is that now, when trying to figure out how limited a person is by his impairment, we ignore the beneficial effects of any mitigating measures he uses. This change has been very confusing to some, but once you figure it out, it really is not that difficult. All it means is that we now have to determine what effects an impairment would have if the person did not use any mitigating measures.

And just what are mitigating measures? They are things a person uses to treat his impairment or overcome any limitations the impairment causes. Examples include things like wheelchairs, hearing aids, medication, prosthetic limbs, and therapy.

How do we know how limited a person would be without his mitigating measures? First we need to know if he uses mitigating measures. In some cases it will be obvious – we will see his wheelchair or hearing aid or prosthetic limb. In other cases we may need to ask him or get medical documentation when appropriate.

Next we need to find out what would happen if the person did not use the mitigating measure. Again, in some cases it will be obvious. For example, if a person with a prosthetic leg does not use his prosthesis, he will be substantially limited in walking. If it is not obvious, there are various ways to figure out how limited the person would be without the use of a mitigating measure, such as:

You may be wondering when this issue will arise. It usually comes up in the workplace when an applicant or employee requests an accommodation and the employer needs to determine whether that person meets the definition of disability and is therefore entitled to the accommodation. One important thing to remember is that ignoring the beneficial effects of mitigating measures only applies to determining whether someone has a disability. When looking at whether a person needs a reasonable accommodation we do the opposite – we will look at what limitations he has after he uses the mitigating measure. That is why the best approach is to make the disability determination a separate step from the reasonable accommodation process.

So you see, the ADA Amendments Act rule about mitigating measures is not that hard to apply. All it usually takes is some common sense. For more information, see JAN's Accommodation and Compliance Series: The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and ADA Library.

- Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant

2 - Return to Work or Stay at Work and Accommodations

Return to Work (RTW) and Stay at Work (SAW) programs are part of a business' strategy to retain valued employees and to enhance the productivity of its workforce. "The goal of a return-to-work program, sometimes called a transitional duty program, is to make job changes or provide job accommodations that return individuals to work who are absent for workers' compensation or disability-related reasons."[1]

As with workplace accommodation programs, a RTW program should have clear written policies articulating each party's responsibilities. Accurate job descriptions including the physical demands of particular essential functions should also be developed. This helps everyone in the process (e.g., doctors, rehabilitation staff, and accommodation specialists) understand the job requirements. A good understanding of the job demands and the employee's limitations and abilities is the starting point for determining if effective job accommodations will enable the employee to return to or stay at work while still recovering from injury. Effective job accommodations insure that the employee returns to work as soon as possible without risk to the employee or employer.

Of the employers who called JAN for technical assistance, most (82%) were doing so to retain a current employee.[2] Thus, most of JAN's publications contain accommodation solutions that could be generalized to a RTW or SAW situation. JAN also offers a number of examples specific to RTW.

For instance:

Situation - A warehouse employee was transitioning back to work with lifting restrictions after being injured by falling boxes of product.

Accommodation Solutions:

The full publication, Fact Sheet Series: Job Accommodations for Return to Work is available for download. If you need additional guidance in identifying a device, or need information on where to buy the device, please call one of JAN's Consultants.

Below are resources to learn more about developing your company's RTW or SAW program:

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

3 - My Oh My, It's Hot! Workplace Accommodations for Heat Sensitivity

Heat sensitivity or heat intolerance is an inability to withstand high temperatures or to maintain a comfortable body temperature. The effects of heat sensitivity come slowly and last over a longer period of time. Disabilities that are associated with heat sensitivity include, but are not limited to, multiple sclerosis, heart conditions, hyperthyroidism, lupus, respiratory disorders, fibromyalgia, scleroderma, migraine headaches, Graves' disease, and burn injuries.

Symptoms of heat sensitivity can include fatigue, weakness, inability to concentrate, blurred vision, memory problems, dizziness, tremors, heart palpitations, and vomiting. When an individual is experiencing these symptoms, she may have difficulty performing work related tasks or maintaining productivity standards. There are a variety of accommodation options that can be implemented for an individual who is experiencing sensitivity to high temperatures. Common accommodation ideas for heat sensitivity can include:

Some of these accommodations may be needed on a permanent basis while others may only be needed temporarily or intermittently, such as when temperatures are extremely high. Each situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and you can contact JAN directly to speak with a Consultant for additional assistance or referrals to products.

The following are a few recent examples of accommodations that were implemented as a result of contacting JAN:

For more information regarding accommodations and products that may be helpful for individuals who are sensitive to extreme temperatures, visit JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Reource (SOAR).

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

4 - Material Lifting Devices, Final Series Installment

Vestil Linearizer Work Platform

As stated in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, many material lifting devices are designed for use with large, heavy objects. When workers need to access areas or items beyond their reach, personnel lifts are the preferred equipment choices. All of us have seen telephone or cable installers using "bucket trucks" or "cherry pickers" in order to get to the top of poles to do their tasks. These lifts are part of the actual truck. But there are many times when a smaller, more compact device is needed, something mobile but offering a standalone approach. These devices are called personnel lifts.

There are quite a few lifts available for very specific work activities:

When workers need to be elevated very short heights, there are platform lifts that minimize possible cumulative trauma disorders or injuries and reduce worker fatigue. Raised heights of 19 inches and lowered heights of three inches or so are typical of these ergonomically designed lifts. Some models are electrically lifted; others require turning a crank. Typical work applications could include packing stations, maintenance of heavy machinery, or work areas where height is a problem. Listed below are links to product information and vendors for review.

The Job Accommodation Network does not sell lifting devices, but we do make information available about 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

5 - Getting to Work on Time

Have you ever been late for work? At some point because of an accident, unforeseen traffic, or even a flat tire, we have all had reason to be late for work. Maybe you have even overslept a time or two. But what about being late for work almost every day? JAN Consultants answer many questions about tardiness, attendance policies, and accommodations that can help employees who have difficulty getting to work on time because of their disabilities. Often times individuals with attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sleep disorders, and those taking certain types of medications struggle to be punctual. Let's look at some of the causes for the lack of punctuality, and what accommodations and new habits or routines might be helpful in reducing tardiness for employees and students with disabilities.

Employees with ADD and ADHD often report that they have so many distractions in the mornings that it is very difficult to get out the door in time to arrive at work on time. Allowing more time in the mornings by getting up earlier is not always helpful. These individuals may just find many more distractions to keep them from focusing on getting ready for work and out the door. One way to streamline what needs to be done in the mornings is to take care of as much as possible the night before. Choosing what clothing to wear, making sure the clothes are pressed and ready to go, selecting socks or hosiery, shining/cleaning shoes are all ways to speed up the morning ritual. For people who take their lunches and snacks to work, they should do as much preparation as possible ahead of time as well. For people with children, their efforts are going to have to double. They will need to check homework, backpacks, and get clothing and lunches ready before morning. If the children are old enough, they can be trained to take care of these things themselves. The less a person has to do in the mornings, the better the chance of getting to work on time.

For people who are distracted by things in the household, a watch with multiple settings that can help the person stay on task. The watch can sound an alarm or vibrate, and the task that should be completed when it goes off will be printed on the watch's face. If the watch indicates it is time to pick up the car keys to head out the door and the person does not even have his socks and shoes on, he will be reminded to get moving. Maybe setting up "rules" or guidelines will help as well – such as no morning television or e-mailing/texting. Checklists may be helpful for individuals with OCD. Sometimes multiple checks of doors, appliances, briefcases, and children's packs can keep an individual from leaving home in time to be punctual at work. Checking things the night before, and indicating what has been completed on a list can save precious time in the mornings. It does take some effort to plan and consistently stick to a routine, but this can be time well spent when the morning runs smoother as a result.

Even an employee with a disability has a responsibility to be punctual for work. It is not the employer's responsibility to make sure employees get to work on time. An employer is only required to provide reasonable accommodations that eliminate barriers in the work environment. Since the ability to get ready for work and leave the house are outside the work environment, an employer may not be obligated to provide certain accommodations, but let's look at several examples of accommodations that might be provided to assist an employee to be punctual. An employer may change a policy or provide a flexible, modified, or alternate schedule or shift.

Someone who is unable to be consistent in the arrival times at work may benefit from a flexible schedule. A flexible schedule usually involves allowing an employee flexibility in reporting to work within a specified window of time. For example, a copy editor whose hours of work are 8:15 to 4:45 may be able to report to work between 8:15 to 8:45, and then work the eight hours, leaving work between 4:45 and 5:15. Depending on the essential functions of the position, some employees may have more or less freedom in the range of time that could be flexed.

A modified schedule may involve adjusting arrival or departure times, such as working from 8:30 to 4:30 or 9:00 to 5:00 instead of 8:00 to 4:00. Factors that may help determine if a schedule can be changed relate to essential functions and how many employees are available to do the tasks until the employee comes in. An employer may find it much easier to modify the schedule of a data entry clerk who works independently than he would an assembly-line employee who would disrupt the operation of the line if absent at starting time.

One policy that may be changed is decreasing the time that has been set for call-ins when an employee is going to be late or absent. Someone with a sleep disorder may not be able to call in three hours ahead of time if the reason he cannot get to work is the inability to awaken. A policy change need only be made for the employee with the disability, not everyone else.

A shift change may be another accommodation. Some individuals find that it is much easier to be on time for work when they work a later shift, such as 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm rather than 7:00 am to 3:00 pm.

For specific questions related to a workplace situation, whether it concerns getting to work on time or another issue, please contact JAN and speak to a Consultant. JAN Consultants work in specialized teams and will be able to help sort out how limitations may be affecting a person's ability to perform the essential functions of a position and identify accommodations.

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

6 - Accommodating Employees with Hearing Aids: A Beginner's Guide to T-coils

One of the most common challenges for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing is using the telephone. Two questions leap to mind whenever I am asked about accommodation ideas to help with telephone use.

Does the employee wear hearing aids?

If yes, do the hearing aids have t-coils?

The answers to these questions provide useful information about what types of assistive technology may be helpful to the employee. For instance, many people who use hearing aids experience feedback when using a standard telephone headset. A t-coil compatible headset may be useful if the individual's hearing aids have t-coils. However, if the individual does not use hearing aids, or if the hearing aids do not have this feature, then it would probably make more sense to consider other solutions. For more information on hearing aid compatible headsets visit: http://AskJAN.org/cgi-win/OrgQuery.exe?Sol721

So what exactly is a t-coil?

Standard telephones produce a small electromagnetic field as a byproduct of the way telephone handsets are constructed. A t-coil, or telecoil, is a type of induction loop receiver that is housed inside certain types of hearing aids and cochlear implants. A t-coil works by converting the electromagnetic field produced by a telephone handset, and bypassing the hearing aid's external microphone. This reduces the amount of feedback experienced by hearing aid users and allows them to hear telephone conversations more easily because the hearing aid is not picking up background noise.

Depending on the person and the type of hearing aid used, it may be necessary to hold the handset at a slightly different angle from the norm in order to get a clear signal via the t-coil. This can be tiring. If a person uses the phone a lot or needs to type or take handwritten notes while on the phone, headsets that are designed to work with t-coil hearing aids may be helpful. Some t-coil compatible headsets are designed for use with cellular phones.

T-coil hearing aids can also be used with hearing loops. These are loops of copper wire that create an electromagnetic field that can be picked up by a t-coil. Some assistive listening devices can be used with a hearing aid that has a t-coil by adding a hearing loop. This may be helpful if the person needs to participate in meetings or access audiovisual training materials. For more information on assistive listing devices visit: http://AskJAN.org/cgi-win/OrgQuery.exe?Sol420

T-coils can be susceptible to the effects of electromagnetic interference from things such as electrical wiring, TVs, and fluorescent lights. T-coil users may experience buzzing if their t-coil switch is activated near devices that produce electromagnetic interference.

Where can you go for more information on accommodation ideas for employees with hearing aids?

Employees often know of accommodations that work well for them. A doctor or audiologist may also be able to suggest accommodations or provide feedback about accommodation ideas. You can also read about accommodation ideas for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing on the JAN Website at http://AskJAN.org/media/deaf.htm

- Teresa Goddard, M.S., Senior Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

7 - Twitter: Tweet Me Accessible

Accessible Website design is the basis for us to talk specifically about the accessibility of social networking venues. How many of you are on YouTube? How many of you operate a blog? I know the majority of readers are on Facebook and maybe even quite a few of you use LinkedIn. One of JAN's most interesting social networking endeavors is Twitter, which allows the staff to tweet with those of you who follow JAN on Twitter. JAN posts information on Twitter once or twice a week, just to give out information on what we are doing, where we might be, what documents might be available. Twitter is basically a microblogging site, and users have 140 characters or less to say something. So, it is very important that administrators of Twitter accounts have access to accessibility features. Let's review a few options.

Easy Chirp Homepage Screenshot

First, there is a Web-based application called Easy Chirp, which used to be called Accessible Twitter, that can be helpful to Twitter administrators. Easy Chirp can be used to access and control a Twitter account; all posting and reading of tweets are done through the Website. To do this, go to easychirp.com and authorize the site to access your Twitter account. What makes Easy Chirp so helpful? One of the features that is more accessible in Easy Chirp is that it gives you an easy way to retweet (RT). How many people know what it means to RT? If we post an announcement on JAN's Twitter and one of the JAN followers wants to repeat that tweet, JAN followers do not have to start from scratch. It is proper etiquette to RT an existing tweet. If you are just using Twitter.com to do that it takes several different steps, and it is not the most accessible process. If you are using Easy Chirp, RT is one of the automated features that comes with the application. The ability to RT is right there in front of you.

Easy Chirp also makes it easier to reply to messages. If you want to use Twitter to privately reply to a message, it is a little more difficult if you are using assistive technology. Easy Chirp makes that task really easy to do. Again, it is right there in front of you. Other Easy Chirp accessibility features that might be helpful include that: All links are keyboard accessible, features work without JavaScript, text is large by default with high color contrast, and a skip-to-content link is provided.

For more information on Easy Chirp features, see: http://easychirp.com/features.php

JAN Twitter Using Tweetfilter Screenshot

A second application that Twitter administrators might find helpful in increasing accessibility is called Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey is a Firefox browser extension that allows you to customize how Webpages look using JavaScript. You can also write your own custom JavaScript. Scripts designed for Greasemonkey can also be used natively in the Chrome and Opera browsers. Using add-on scripts from this open source environment allows you to make the Twitter experience much more accessible, including making it easier to reply to, delete, and favorite things.

The largest repository for scripts is Userscripts.org and there are many scripts specifically for Twitter located at http://userscripts.org/tags/twitter. A simple script that may be helpful is Reverse Tweet Order, which simply allows an administrator to reverse the order of Tweets on a Twitter page. Another useful script is Twitter Follower Sorter, which sorts your followers by whether you follow them. The most popular script using Greasemonkey is Tweetfilter. This script allows you to customize many aspects of your Twitter page, including creating individual filters to better organize or unclutter your stream. It also allows you to customize various parts of the Twitter interface.

For more information on Greasemonkey, see: http://www.greasespot.net/ and https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/greasemonkey/

Qwitter Homepage Screenshot

A third application that Twitter administrators can use to increase the accessibility is something called Qwitter. Qwitter is a Twitter client specifically designed to be compatible with all major screen reading applications. Basically, the administrator's screen reading software application becomes a Twitter client. So, anywhere you are in Microsoft Windows it will update you on Tweets and allow you to attach hot keys to the different functions that you want to do quickly in Twitter.

For more information on Qwitter, see: http://www.qwitter-client.net/

These three applications, Easy Chirp, Greasemonkey, and Qwitter will all increase the accessibility for someone wanting to be an administrator of a Twitter site. This will, in turn, increase the productivity of an organization by allowing more individuals access to update Twitter.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, and Lyssa Rowan, B.S., New Media Assistant

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

To subscribe to or unsubscribe from JAN Updates:

To subscribe, e-mail us at subscribe@AskJAN.org. When subscribing, be sure to include the e-mail address at which you want to receive the newsletter.

To cancel a subscription, e-mail us at unsubscribe@AskJAN.org. Be sure to include the address at which you are receiving the newsletter.

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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