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ENews: Volume 13, Issue 3, Third Quarter, 2015

The JAN E-News 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. What's in an Anniversary? The ADA Turns 25
  2. The People Have Spoken: New "By Limitation" Section on AskJAN.org!
  3. Accommodations for the Summer Season
  4. Back-to-School Survival Kit
  5. Tell 'Em About It: Educating the Workforce about the ADA & Accommodations
  6. Tech Tip: Don't Forget About Tab Order!
  7. JAN Academy: Navigating the Disability Employment Process
  8. JAN Blog Growing
  9. JAN Releases New Resources
  10. E-vents
  11. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  12. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - What's in an Anniversary? The ADA Turns 25

An anniversary is simply a moment in time that commemorates a previous event. It can be mournful and sad or cheerful and happy. For the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we may feel a little bit of each emotion. We might be happy that the law has changed so much, but sad that the law still has strides to make. We might be hopeful that the ADA continues to have a strong presence in our lives, but disappointed that we have battles left to win. One of these battles is the myth that employing people with disabilities is expensive. Setting feelings aside, we can look to statistics to remove any emotion from the argument that employing people with disabilities makes good business sense.

The July 26th anniversary of the ADA reminds us that not only is there an emotional side to this day, but also after 25 years, we have the data to support that workplace accommodations not only are low cost, but also positively impact the workplace in many ways. We can, after a quarter of a century, dispel the myth that making job accommodations under title I of the ADA such as ramps, ergonomic chairs, parking spaces, mechanical lifts, telework, and software is bad for business.

A study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), shows that workplace accommodations not only are low cost, but also positively impact the workplace in many ways. Employers who make job accommodations for employees with disabilities report multiple benefits as a result. The most frequently mentioned benefits are: (1) the accommodation allowed the company to retain a qualified employee, (2) the accommodation increased the employee's productivity, and (3) the accommodation eliminated the costs of training a new employee.

How much of an investment do we have to make to reap these rewards? Fifty-seven percent of employers state the accommodations needed by employees cost absolutely nothing. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was $500. For businesses who are still concerned about the cost of employing people with disabilities, the anniversary of the ADA is unemotional. It’s about the bottom line of a financial statement, and the numbers say cost is not an issue.

For those employers out there who want to reap the rewards of employing people with disabilities, look for how to hire, retain, and accommodate employees with disabilities. Nearly three-fourths of all job accommodations are effective. It’s a bet any successful entrepreneur would take. You can comply with the law and save money. Look to JAN to help you move through your interactive process, have an effective training program, educate decision-makers, and provide technical assistance on how to find solutions. JAN can help by providing free, confidential technical assistance on title I of the ADA and job accommodations. Mark the 25th anniversary of the ADA by making JAN just a bookmark away at AskJAN.org.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

2 - The People Have Spoken: New “By Limitation” Section on AskJAN.org!

By popular demand, JAN has decided to add a new section to its A-Z page – accommodation ideas by limitation. After the ADA Amendments Act broadened the definition of disability so more employees are covered by the ADA, many employers found it more productive to focus on an employee’s limitation rather than a specific diagnosis when searching for accommodations. Those employers encouraged JAN to make it easier for them to find information on the JAN Website. In response, JAN created the A-Z by limitation page.

But wait, don’t you need to know an employee’s diagnosis before you can explore possible accommodations? Not necessarily. There may be situations in which a diagnosis is necessary, but when it’s not, you can go straight to the limitation that is causing the workplace problem. Here are a few examples to show you how it works:

Example 1: A clerical worker lets her employer know that she is having trouble using one arm and needs accommodations for typing, filing, and taking messages while on the telephone. The employer can see that the employee is having trouble using her arm so decides not to ask her for more information. Instead the employer visits the JAN A-Z by limitation page under “Use of One Arm” and finds ideas for one-handed keyboards, file carousels, and hands-free telephones. With these accommodations, the employee is able to perform her job.

Example 2: An employer started receiving reports that one of its accountants had a strong body odor that was interfering with her coworkers’ ability to work. The employer talked with the accountant and she said she was having a medical problem that was causing the body odor and she hoped that it would be resolved in a few weeks. Prior to meeting with the employee, the employer had visited the JAN A-Z by limitation page under “Body Odor” so was prepared to discuss possible solutions, including working from home temporarily. The employee said she would appreciate working from home until the body odor went away.

Example 3: A mechanic began experiencing numbness in his hand when grasping tools. His doctors were running tests, but had not yet been able to diagnosis the problem. In the meantime, he was having trouble performing his job. He and his employer explored accommodation ideas on the JAN A-Z by limitation page under “Grasping” and found products to reduce vibration when using power tools, grip aids, and ergonomic/pneumatic tools. With these products the mechanic was able to keep working while his doctors continued to try to figure out what was causing the grasping issues.

JAN is in the process of building the A-Z by limitation section of its Website, so visit the site periodically to see all the information available. And don’t forget, you can still explore accommodation ideas by the name of the disability and by topic!

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

3 - Accommodations for the Summer Season

With summer in full swing, there’s often more manual work tasks to be done outside in a variety of jobs and industries. Accommodating workers with motor and mobility impairments in the great outdoors can be seen as a challenge but, with help from JAN consultants, employers and employees can continue working throughout the summer season.

Lucky for us, now more than ever there are more mainstream equipment and assistive technologies designed for outdoor use with ergonomics in mind. Between garden and lawn tools with neutral hand positioning and mechanical devices designed to withstand weather and rough terrain, the options for equipment that can also serve as a workplace accommodations are growing.

The following are some examples that highlight motor-related accommodations in the outdoor setting:

All work and no play makes me a dull JAN consultant! For those moments of rest and relaxation away from the workplace, there are assistive technologies that can enable a person with a disability to engage in a variety of outdoor leisure activities such as fishing, soaking up the sun, or cooling off in the pool.

Don’t forget you can always contact JAN and speak with a consultant for specific issues.

- Lisa Mathess, MA, Senior Consultant, Motor Team

4 - Back-to-School Survival Kit

As an educator, have you ever received a back-to-school survival kit?  These kits are a thoughtful, fun way to look at the difficulties and challenges teachers face and to provide an object as a “solution” to those challenges.  A few examples of objects that might be found in a survival kit include a crayon to color your day bright and cheerful, a paper clip for holding it all together, a rubber band to help you remember to stay flexible, bandages for when things get a little rough, smiley face stickers to remind you to always wear yours, animal crackers for when the classroom becomes a zoo, and a clothespin for hanging in there. If only it were that easy!

But educators who have difficulties and challenges because of a disability need real solutions.  Those solutions can come in the way of job accommodations.  For an educator with a disability, being prepared for the new school year may mean having your accommodations put into place before the school year actually begins. This will go a long way towards easing your mind and allowing you more confidence and success in the classroom. Let JAN assist you in the accommodation process.  Our Occupation and Industry Series:  Accommodating Educators with Disabilities can do just that.  It contains helpful ADA information, resources, and a vast array of accommodation ideas. Our consultants can provide assistance with questions you may have concerning any step in the process.  And of course, JAN services are free and confidential.

Below are examples of actual accommodation situations and solutions fielded by JAN consultants that allowed educators a more effective school year:

So instead of waiting until you need the tiny shovel in your survival kit to help you dig out from underneath the difficulties you are experiencing or using the piece of string to tie everything together when it all falls apart, consider letting JAN help you get your accommodations in place before school starts and the challenges become overwhelming.

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

5 - Tell 'Em About It: Educating the Workforce about the ADA & Accommodations

The 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA offers an opportune time to encourage businesses to educate the workforce about the ADA and disability employment issues. Informing employees, beyond simply posting an equal opportunity poster, can benefit businesses by creating a more knowledgeable and inclusive workforce, reducing the likelihood of discrimination through awareness, and improving productivity by recognizing value in providing reasonable accommodations. There are many ways to educate the workforce about the ADA and reasonable accommodation. Consider these strategies:

Train HR Professionals, Supervisors, and Managers. JAN cannot stress this enough. Train management staff on the ADA and accommodations – early and often. These key employees will have a significant impact on job performance success rates if properly informed, trained, and equipped with the information and tools necessary to comply with the ADA and engage in the interactive process. Here are some training tips that will benefit any management team:

Implement a Reasonable Accommodation Policy … and Tell Everyone About It! There is no requirement under the ADA for employers to follow specific policies and procedures when trying to accommodate an applicant or employee with a disability. However, having a formal reasonable accommodation policy and procedures – and sharing them with everyone – is recommended. A formal process creates a standard of practice for HR professionals, managers, and supervisors to follow, which increases the likelihood that accommodation requests will be handled properly and consistently. When formal policies and procedures are shared with all employees, this helps all workers know about the ADA, how to request accommodations, what to expect after doing so, and also helps them understand (if they personally do not need accommodation) that other employees might be requesting and receiving accommodations. EEOC’s own accommodation procedures can be used as a model for employers who would like to draft their own. See, Procedures for Providing Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities.

Make a Statement! … About Reasonable Accommodation. Another way to educate the workforce about the ADA and accommodations is to be sure the organization has a formal reasonable accommodation statement that is widely disseminated. A reasonable accommodation statement can be included as part of an equal opportunity (EO) statement that makes it clear that the organization has no intention to discriminate on the basis of disability or other legally prohibited bases. Employers should consider including an EO/RA statement in job postings, employee handbooks, on websites and intranet sites, in on-line applications, and other sources of workplace policies distributed to applicants and employees. For sample reasonable accommodation and EO statements, see JAN’s Consultants’ Corner article, Making a Statement – About Reasonable Accommodation and Equal Opportunity.

Incorporate ADA & Accommodation Practices Into the Onboarding Process. The purpose of an onboarding process is to smoothly integrate new employees into their positions and company culture. The onboarding process should include information about the ADA and reasonable accommodation. If a new hire with a disability needs an accommodation, how will s/he know how to request it? Make sure new hires know that they can and should ask for an accommodation if they know or think they may need one. Many individuals who know they need an accommodation to do the job successfully will choose to make an accommodation request. Others may fear the job offer will be rescinded if they do so, and some may not be sure if they need an accommodation or may not know how to request what they need. To overcome these issues, the individual making the job offer or preparing the employee to start working can share information about the company's desire to facilitate a smooth transition and integration for the new employee and explain various employment policies and procedures, including the organization’s reasonable accommodation policy. For more information, see JAN’s E-News article, Incorporate Reasonable Accommodation Practices into your Onboarding Process

Recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Do you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month? NDEAM is an opportune time to raise awareness about disability employment issues and demonstrate a commitment to an inclusive workplace through disability training or informal educational events that can include information about the ADA and accommodations. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) makes it easy to recognize and celebrate NDEAM. Every year, ODEP creates an NDEAM theme and develops free promotional and training materials to support the event. The themes endeavor to advance disability employment and help employers promote inclusive workplaces. The theme for October 2015 is “My disability is one part of who I am.” ODEP offers a list of ideas on the NDEAM website to facilitate NDEAM activities each day in October.

Harness the Viral Power of Online Media. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used to share information related to disability employment issues, the ADA, and accommodations. Post or tweet useful facts and resources to enable the workforce to easily seek out further information about disability-related topics. For example, share information about the JAN service, post links to EEOC documents about the ADA, tell the workforce about October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month, or retweet and share information distributed by trusted disability-related organizations. Include a disability employment-related segment as part of a regular ENews article or blog that is distributed to the entire workforce (e.g., HR’s ADA Column, Accommodation Corner, etc.). Add a page on the employer’s Website or intranet that links to information for all staff about the company’s reasonable accommodation policy, how to access resources to assist with the interactive process, and how to request an accommodation. Create an information site for HR and management staff to easily access training on the ADA. See JAN’s ENews, Blog, Consultants’ Corner, and various social media platforms at AskJAN.org for ideas about how to use viral media to communicate disability-related information.

Use JAN to Educate the Workforce. Everyone has access to a professional, trusted, free service that offers technical assistance on the employment provisions of the ADA and job accommodations. JAN is that service! Leverage the JAN service to provide training to HR professionals, supervisors and managers, and all employees about the interactive process and the requirements of the ADA and similar disability employment legislation; to provide accommodation solutions, product resources, and information referral; and to access free ADA and accommodation information through the AskJAN.org website. The AskJAN.org website is rather extensive and offers many resources that can be used in various ways to educate the entire workforce. Visit AskJAN.org for a variety of contact options. For additional guidance on ways to educate the workforce about the ADA and accommodations see JAN’s new publication, Effective Accommodation Practices: Educating the Workforce about the ADA & Accommodations or contact JAN directly.

- Tracie DeFreitas, MS, Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist

6 - Tech Tip: Don't Forget About Tab Order!

Many people navigate websites with a keyboard or assistive technology that uses keyboard controls as opposed to a mouse. The most basic way to navigate through the links on a site is through the use of the tab key. As a best practice, the tab order of the site should match the visual order of the page. In other words, as you hit the tab key to move through a page, it should follow the way you would visually read the page, left to right and top to bottom.

By default, the tab order of the page follows the underlying code of the page. For example, HTML layout of the page can have all of the navigation and footer code before the main content of the page. Visually the page can be made to look just like any other but the keyboard user will need to tab through everything, including the footer, before being able to navigate the main content.

Don't get us wrong - writing your code this way is perfectly valid! It might be easier to redesign your site so that the code order reflects the visual order, but if you can't this attribute will greatly enhance your site's accessibility.

Tabindex is a powerful tool, but should be used only when necessary. As with any design or coding decision, make sure you test it to make sure it works as it should and minimizes any unexpected behavior.

- Lyssa Rowan, Social Media/Web Coordinator

7 - JAN Academy: Navigating the Disability Employment Process

Are you new at managing accommodations? Would you like to know more about creating an inclusive workplace? Can you benefit from a refresher on strategies for complying with the ADAAA? Then consider attending an exciting new pre-conference workshop opportunity, the "JAN Academy: Navigating the Disability Employment Process" at the USBLN 18th Annual National Conference.

New this year at the USBLN Conference, the JAN Academy is designed for professionals who are either new to the field of disability and employment or who desire to refresh their knowledge about reasonable accommodation issues and the interactive process. Participants will learn about disability etiquette and awareness, best hiring and onboarding practices for people with disabilities, and practices for successfully navigating the interactive accommodations process.

For more information about the Academy, please see: http://www.usblnannualconference.org/jan.html. Questions about the JAN Academy can be directed to Louis Orslene at orslene@jan.wvu.edu. The JAN Academy is a joint program of the USBLN and JAN as part of their Alliance activity.

8 - JAN Blog Growing

The Ask JAN Blog provides an opportunity for you to share with others your workplace accommodation solutions. JAN receives over 40,000 contacts per year – conversations with all of you that help us better understand what’s working effectively in your workplaces. We have a great deal to learn from one another. We encourage you to share your experiences and interact with the JAN staff. Your accommodation success stories can benefit many others around the Nation. Enjoy the new postings and additional Spanish selections:

Become a part of the new JAN blogging community!

9 - JAN Releases New Resources

10 - E-vents

11 - 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.

12 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

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