JAN: Job Accommodation Network

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ENews: Volume 10, Issue 4, Fourth Quarter, 2012

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

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

Index

  1. Looking Back, Moving Forward
  2. ADA Rebirth
  3. Changes in Service Animal Inquiries
  4. One-Stop Centers and Accommodations
  5. Changes in Accommodations for Employees Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Part One - Communication Devices
  6. Changes in Accommodations for Employees Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Part Two - Telephone Access
  7. A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Looking Back, Moving Forward

On August 16, 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor re-awarded West Virginia University the grant to manage and operate the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network. As JAN moves forward into its thirtieth year, look for updated versions of old favorites, recent technical assistance tools, and new ways to communicate with your trusted accommodation resource.

Updated old favorites are now available, including JAN’s free monthly and Federal Webcast series trainings:

Look back through recently developed technical assistance tools, including JAN’s:

Stay tuned for new tools that can help you move forward with JAN. Look for the downloadable SOAR widget (available now), texting capabilities, and a JAN APP!

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

2 - ADA Rebirth

The last five years brought major changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that some might even call a rebirth. In late 2008, the ADA was amended to broaden the definition of disability so more people would be protected against disability-based discrimination; the courts had narrowed the definition of disability so much that hardly anyone was protected. JAN developed several products to help customers understand the changes to the definition of disability, including:

After the ADA Amendments Act went into effect, the big worry was that the courts would once again find a way to narrow the definition of disability. So far, that has not happened. In a recent Webcast that JAN hosted, Jeanne Goldberg, Senior Attorney Advisor from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reviewed court cases under the Amendments Act and reported that courts seem to be embracing the broader definition. Most courts are finding that plaintiffs meet the definition of disability and are moving on to other issues, such as whether discrimination took place and whether an accommodation could have been made. We have yet to see what the courts are going to say about many of these other issues, but at least for now they are moving in the right direction.

If you are interested in a summary of recent ADA cases, you can review the JAN Webcast and accompanying handout at the JAN Webcast Rewind Archive.

And stay tuned to the JAN Website at AskJAN.org for the latest updates on the ADA.

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

3 - Changes in Service Animal Inquiries

Talk about change! The consultants at JAN have seen quite a change in the types of questions callers are asking about service animals. In the past, service animals were usually dogs trained to perform specific tasks for individuals who most often had vision or mobility impairments. But today there are various types of service animals doing a multitude of tasks. For example:

And because bringing a service animal to work is considered an accommodation, there are many inquiries about the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and the employees concerning the presence of these animals in the workplace.

To help find the answers to your service animal questions, read JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series: Service Animals in the Workplace. Several other service animal related publications can also be found on our Website at A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations: By Topic.

And as always, if you have questions that might be a little complicated or tricky and are not effectively answered by the publications, please feel free to contact JAN and speak to a consultant. Nothing has changed about our primary service of direct one-on-one consultations!

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

4 - One-Stop Centers and Accommodations

As many of you probably already know, JAN can provide employers, rehabilitation professionals, and individuals with disabilities information on workplace accommodation solutions, entrepreneurship, and the ADA. Along with all the services JAN can provide, we can also refer users to federal, state, or local resources. One resource that is useful to many callers is their local One-Stop Center. One-Stop Centers can be a valuable resource for job seekers or individuals, for example providing resume and interview tips, job placement assistance, career assessments, and various training to help individuals further their education and qualifications.

And, One-Stop Centers are not just for individuals. These centers can help employers find qualified talent, provide technical writing aid for job descriptions, and supply information on the hiring and retention of specialized groups, such as employees with disabilities or veterans. Now that you know a little more about what One-Stop Centers are and how they can benefit you, let’s look at some accommodations that JAN has assisted with, specifically for One-Stop Centers.

To find a One-Stop Center near you, visit http://www.servicelocator.org or call (877)US2-JOBS [(877)872-5627]/TTY: (877)889-5627.

- Lisa Dorinzi, MA, Consultant, Motor Team

5 - Changes in Accommodations for Employees Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Part One - Communication Devices

Since I began working at JAN just four short years ago, I have noticed changes in the questions we get about accommodations for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. For the first few months that I answered questions for JAN’s Sensory Team, nearly all of the callers with whom I spoke were seeking information on one of three topics: interpreters, telephone access, and assistive listening devices. Some questions were very simple; individuals just needed to get some basic information about the options available or help finding a vendor. However, since 2008 questions have been getting more and more complex as new accommodation options become available.

Improvements in hearing aid technology, advancements in mobile technology, and new developments in portable communication devices have brought us not only new products, but also new features for our old favorites. Thanks to technological developments, there are more accommodation options for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing than ever before, but as products with new and different features become available it can be a challenge to make most of these choices.

Just as an example, when I first started consulting at JAN, we knew of two types of portable communication devices designed to facilitate conversations between individuals who are deaf and hearing friends, family, and coworkers. These were the iCommunicator by PPR. Inc., and the Signtel Interpreter by SignTel, Inc. The iCommunicator and the Signtel Interpreter use speech recognition software to facilitate personal communication via text, video sign-language, and computer-generated voice. These remain the only two products of which JAN is currently aware that can automatically generate signs in response to a spoken voice. Incidentally, Signtel also makes an accessible public address and emergency alert system.

I quickly learned about the UbiDuo by sComm, Inc., and the Interpretype by Interpretype, LLC. The UbiDuo is a portable, wireless, battery-powered, stand-alone communication device that facilitates simultaneous face-to-face communication through two displays and two keyboards. Two to four people may simultaneously engage in a face to face chat. With only a five second boot-up time and a battery that will let you keep on chatting for six to eight hours, the UbiDuo remains a great option for workers on the go, even though it has not changed that much over the years.

When I first learned of the Interpretype, it was very similar in function to the UbiDuo, but since that time, the products have diverged as Interpretype added new features. The Interpretype, also known as ITY, is an interactive communication system that can be used to communicate face to face in the workplace, as well as in the field. The portable ITY combines specialized software with a Windows-based laptop to enhance face-to-face communication through reading and typing messages back and forth. The device can also be customized to allow quick selection of preprogrammed phrases. Communication partners may also choose to use a microphone and have their words transcribed rather than typing. Interpretype also offers the option of automatic translation to and from French and Spanish. If Interpretype software is used on a computer with a Webcam, video remote interpreting services can also be accessed. Thanks to ongoing developments, this device can also be used with a Braille display.

Recently, another product has emerged, Interact-AS, by SpeechGear, Inc. Interact-AS is a software product that is designed to be used with a tablet PC and an external microphone.  The hearing conversation partner speaks into the microphone and the words are transcribed onto the computer screen so that the individual who is deaf can read them.  The individual who is deaf converses by writing on the tablet with a stylus or using an onscreen keyboard or external keyboard.  The software then speaks the user's words out loud so the hearing communication partner can just listen and does not have to read. Interact-AS also provides incident translation for a number of languages including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, and many others.  This feature requires the purchase of an optional translation module.

Look to JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) for more communication devices as they develop!

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

6 - Changes in Accommodations for Employees Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Part Two - Telephone Access

Moving on to other noticeable changes in accommodations for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, let us look at telephone access, which is another area where a number of changes have occurred. Over the last five years, JAN’s Sensory Team has been getting more and more questions about telephone access for individuals who use Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. In the past, almost all of our questions about hearing aid compatible headsets were about employees who use t-coil enabled hearing aids.

While all JAN consultations are individualized and JAN does not endorse or recommend products, in our experience we have found that various HATIS headset products fit the bill for successful accommodations. HATIS products are designed specifically for t-coil equipped hearing aid users. For more information see HATIS.

The situation for employees who use Bluetooth enabled hearing aids is somewhat different. Depending on the brand of hearing aid used it may be possible for the individual’s audiologist to recommend a device that will stream audio signals to the individual’s hearing aid. For example, Oticon makes a Bluetooth device called the Oticon streamer, which can be paired with many different types of audio sources. Phonack makes a similar product called the Phonack ComPilot. Because the appropriate streamer will vary according to the type of hearing aid that a particular individual uses and because an audiologist can be helpful in getting the device set up, I often suggest seeking the input of a qualified audiologist when selecting solutions for an employee who uses a Bluetooth enabled hearing aid. In fact, when I speak to individuals about their options, I always suggest that they check with their audiologist.

Interestingly, we have heard from some users who are re-purposing Bluetooth devices originally designed to stream their office phone’s audio signal to a Bluetooth headset to send a signal to their Bluetooth enabled hearing aid. This can take some trial and error, and it’s probably wise to check the vendor’s return policy before making a purchase, especially since it requires using a device in a way that it was not originally intended. However, we’ve heard from some callers that this is helping them successfully access office phones. Another option may be to forward calls to a mobile phone, which can be more easily paired with the hearing aid or with a Bluetooth streaming device.

For more information, JAN's resources on Bluetooth products.

Finally, JAN has recently been getting a lot of questions about VoIP phone lines and CapTel use. Analog phone lines just are not as prevalent as they used to be. To some extent the options for using CapTel with VOIP phones depend on which model of CapTel phone is being used or considered. The CapTel Website tells the story.

WebCapTel remains a great option, and now you can even get captions on mobile phones. I often suggest having someone from the employer’s IT department or whoever is handling the phone system, contact CapTel directly to discuss options. For information about the CapTel phone and service, see CapTel.

You can read more about accommodation ideas for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing on the JAN Website, and for more information on the many types of hearing related products see JAN’s Product Listing for Deaf / Hard of Hearing Impairments.

Remember, JAN’s Sensory Team is always available to help you sort through the many accommodation options for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. We’d love to hear from you!

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

7 - A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?

Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?"

Find more NDEAM resources and activities at ODEP's Website.

8 - JAN Releases New Resources

9 - E-vents

10 - JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule

Events of particular interest: Get the most up-to-date and comprehensive training on employing people with disabilities. To view the complete JAN travel schedule go to JAN-on-the-Road.

11 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

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This document was developed by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). Preparation of these items was funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, Grant Number OD-23442-12-75-4-54. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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