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Volume 7, Issue 1, First Quarter, 2009

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 to the e-mail notification and contact us.

Notice: If you do not wish to receive announcements about JAN E-News and JAN Consultants' Corner, please send an e-mail to unsubscribe@askjan.org


  1. JAN Enters Social Networking Venues
  2. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act: Practical Guidance for Employers
  3. Speak Up!: Limitations of Voice Disorders in the Workplace
  4. Entrepreneurship Options for Veterans with Disabilities During Challenging Economic Times
  5. An Example of Direct Threat
  6. CAP Wins Award
  7. Robust and Comprehensive Business Case Now Available
  8. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  9. Contact JAN

1 - JAN Enters Social Networking Venues

Social networks are those online communities that work together to share and disseminate information. The goal is to build these networks so that a community of online users can quickly gain access to information in one or more interest areas. These networks highlight current events, videos, blogs, bookmarks, and Website hotspots. JAN has entered the world of social networking and hopes that customers can enjoy a community space to discuss employer success, experiences, and current legislative and accommodation issues surrounding the employment of people with disabilities.

JAN will make these communities as accessible as possible with alternate ways to find information and the inclusion of captions, alternative text, and the ability to mouse over material and head to the JAN site directly.  As these communities evolve and grow, find a network that meets your goals and visit JAN on the Web:

Blog: Post to JAN's Blog at http://askjan.org/blog and start blogging!

MySpace: Visit JAN's MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/jobaccommodationnetwork and become a friend!

Facebook: Visit JAN's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Morgantown-WV/Job-Accommodation-Network/44771734164 and become a fan!

Twitter: Visit JAN's Twitter page at http://twitter.com/janatjan and catch up on JAN's tweets!

Delicious: Visit JAN on Delicious at http://delicious.com/JobAccommodationNetwork and check JAN's bookmarks!

Digg: Visit JAN on Digg at http://digg.com/business_finance/Job_Accommodation_Network and locate JAN documents, multimedia, and other networks and if you like them, Digg them!

Coming Soon: Look for JAN on Second Life and YouTube.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

2 - The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act: Practical Guidance for Employers

On January 1, 2009, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect, making major changes to the definition of disability. These changes apply to both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, which means they apply to a large number of private, state, local, and federal employers. What are these changes and how will they affect covered employers?

The overall purpose of the ADAAA is to broaden the definition of disability so more people are protected against discrimination. To accomplish this, the ADAAA made the following changes: revised the definition of substantially limits, expanded the definition of major life activity, stated that mitigating measures other than "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses" shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability, clarified that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active, and provided that an individual subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire) because of an actual or perceived impairment will meet the "regarded as" definition of disability unless the impairment is transitory and minor.

For more information about the new definition of disability, visit Accommodation and Compliance Series: The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 at http://askjan.org/bulletins/adaaa1.htm.

Many argue that these changes were made to restore the definition of disability to what it originally was before the courts got involved, while others argue that the new definition is much broader than the old. But whether the ADAAA broadens or restores the definition of disability, one thing is certain – many more people will meet the definition of disability. In the workplace, this means that there will be more emphasis on employer actions and whether they discriminate against people with disabilities. From a practical standpoint, employers may want to take this opportunity to review their job descriptions and their policies and procedures related to hiring, benefits and privileges of employment, and promotion and advancement to make sure they are not discriminatory.

For more information about writing job descriptions, visit Accommodation and Compliance Series: Job Descriptions at http://askjan.org/media/JobDescriptions.html.

Broadening the definition of disability also means that more employees will be entitled to reasonable accommodations so employers may want to review and update their accommodation policies and procedures.

For more information, visit Fact Sheet Series: Five Practical Tips for Providing and Maintaining Effective Job Accommodations at http://askjan.org/media/FivePracticalTips.doc and JAN's Multimedia Training Library at: http://askjan.org/training/library.htm.

And remember, JAN can help!

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

3 - Speak Up!: Limitations of Voice Disorders in the Workplace

Winter weather and exposure to dry indoor heat may take a toll on anyone's voice.  However, employees with vocal disorders may experience changes in vocal quality such as chronic hoarseness or low volume throughout the year.  There are many varieties of voice disorders.  Some, such as unilateral or bilateral vocal fold paralysis result from damage to the nerve pathways that control the movement of various parts of the voice box or larynx.  Others result from damage to the vocal folds, which are commonly called vocal cords.

One of the more common types of voice disorder is vocal nodules.  A vocal nodule is a small bump similar to a callous that forms on the inner surface of a person's vocal folds.  These may occur on one or both sides.  Overuse of the voice is one risk factor for vocal nodules.  Others include excessive coughing and frequent attempts to clear one's throat.  When taken to excess, these behaviors may be described as vocal abuse.  Vocal rest, which means reducing or eliminating use of the voice and elimination of vocal abuse are important to the process of treating vocal nodules and preventing their reoccurrence. Employees with vocal nodules may experience changes in the volume of their voice.  They may also experience changes in pitch as well as breathiness or hoarseness. These changes may result in difficulty being heard and understood by others.

What challenges might an employee with vocal nodules or other voice disorders experience in the workplace?

An employee with a voice disorder may experience some or all of the following:

How can an employee with a voice disorder be accommodated? Here are some ideas to consider.

An employee whose voice is low in volume or who needs to avoid straining her voice may benefit from use of a portable voice amplifier.  Many models are available.  Most have either a head set or neck loop microphone and a belt or clip, which is used to attach the speaker portion of the device to one's person.  Keep in mind that a more powerful system may be needed in noisy environments or for presentations.  

Devices are also available to amplify one's voice when using the telephone.  Other options for telephone access include use of a TTY or speech to speech relay.

Some employees may need to reduce the amount of speaking that they do in the course of the work day.  In an office setting, it may be helpful to allow increased use of text based communication such as email, instant messaging, and texting.

For employees who need to communicate from outside the office, there are a number of devices that offer texting capability and some such as the Blackberry and Peek also allow use of email.

In one-on-one conversations something as simple as use of a pen and paper may be helpful. 

For more information on accommodation ideas for employees with voice disorders and other speech and language impairment please see http://askjan.org/media/spee.htm.

- Teresa Goddard, M.S., Consultant - Motor Team

4 - Entrepreneurship Options for Veterans with Disabilities During Challenging Economic Times

Urban Miyares of the Disabled Businesspersons Association recently speculated that 2009 may become known as “the year of self-employment.” With the increasingly severe economic downturn of the past several months -- marked by unprecedented job losses, frozen credit markets, bank mergers and closures, and an uncertain labor market forecast -- a focus on self-employment as a job creation strategy, particularly micro-businesses, may be a key component in local and regional economic recovery plans.  For individuals having to identify creative ways to replace or supplement lost family income due to a job loss or lack of available employment, self-employment or developing a small business may be a viable option to consider. For some, times of economic hardship require a “packaging” of income sources that may include, for example, combinations of part-time employment, home-based business income, independent contracting, and various income supports in lieu of the immediate prospect of securing full-time employment. A recent article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (2009) cited the increasing number of inquiries the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Pittsburgh office began to receive regarding self-employment in response to job losses in the community. Despite mounting economic challenges, entrepreneurial options will continue to play a vital role both in the ongoing economic recovery of communities, as well as in the strategies employed by individuals to get through these tough times.

For returning service members from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly those with a range of disabilities transitioning back into the workforce, the current economic climate may be particularly daunting. However, entrepreneurship remains an important component in the menu of employment options available to veterans, perhaps even more so given the economic environment they are returning home to. Consultants with JAN’s self-employment team can provide individualized technical assistance to veterans with disabilities considering the option of self-employment. JAN staff can also put customers in touch with local, state, and federal supports that can provide assistance with business plan development, financing options, marketing research and planning, assistive technology and computing needs, veterans-specific services, and entrepreneurship programs for people with disabilities.

Recent Articles on Small Business Development in Today’s Economy:

Signs of a Weak Economy Can Be Seen Everywhere (2009)
Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Small Business Hopes Flourish - No Shortage of Help for Those Who Want A Company to Call Their Own (2009)
Atlanta Journal Constitution

Interest Still Strong in Starting Businesses (2009)
Richmond Times Dispatch

Select Resources for Veterans with Disabilities Interested in Entrepreneurship:

Small Business Administration (SBA)
Office of Veterans Business Development

SBA - "Getting Veterans Back to Business"
Veterans Small Business Resource Guide

Start-Up USA - Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources, & Training

Facilitating Self-Employment for Disabled Veterans
Urban Miyares

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The Center for Veterans Enterprise Web Portal

- Kim Cordingly, Ph.D., Lead Consultant - Self-Employment Team

5 - An Example of Direct Threat

Over 70 million Americans have heart conditions, which is one in four individuals (American Heart Association, 2013). In the preceding 12 months, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has received over 350 calls regarding individuals with heart conditions. A common theme of these calls is employer fear that employees may suffer a heart attack while performing their duties.   While in some cases these employers may have legitimate concerns, it is important for them to remember their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the ADA, while it is true that an employer can require that an employee with a disability not pose a “direct threat” to the health or safety of himself/herself or others, the risk must be considered “a significant risk of substantial harm.” Employers may not deny an employment opportunity merely because of a slightly increased risk. Additionally, any assessment of “direct threat” must be strictly based on valid medical analyses and/or other objective evidence, and not on speculation. Even in an instance where an individual may pose a direct threat because of a disability, the employer must attempt to eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level with reasonable accommodation before refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee (see “Health or Safety Defense” in Chapter 1 at http://askjan.org/links/ADAtam1.html#III).

An example of a related call recently received by JAN was from an employer of a delivery driver. The employee in question has to carry moderately heavy items to and from businesses throughout the day. The employee was returning to work after recovering from a heart attack and the employer was concerned that the employee could suffer another heart attack at work due to the strenuous nature of the job, even though the employee’s doctor gave the employee a full release to return to work. After a discussion with a JAN consultant, the employer worked with the employee to implement accommodations, which decreased the physical demands of the position.

Employers should consider the ADA when dealing with an employee who has a heart condition. If the employee has a disability, as defined by the ADA, then the employer must be careful not to violate the rights of a qualified employee with a disability.

6 - CAP Wins Award

JAN staff members congratulate the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) and Director Dinah Cohen for being named the 2008 Recipient of The Presidential Award for Management Excellence –The President's Quality Award. The President’s Quality Award is the highest award given to Executive Branch agencies for management excellence.  Read more at: http://www.health.mil/Press/Release.aspx?ID=454.

7 - Robust and Comprehensive Business Case Now Available

The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Website has a new look for the release of several reports, fact sheets, and documents of interest.  To view them, go to http://www.dol.gov/odep/.  Here are a few highlights of what you will find on the ODEP site:

ODEP’s revised Business Case for Hiring People with Disabilities, including returning disabled veterans, features video clips, research, and anecdotal information from businesses and industry leaders on how hiring people with disabilities improves an organization's bottom line across six themes: Return on Investment, Human Capital, Innovation, Marketing, Diversity, and Social Responsibility.

The Survey of Employer Perspectives on the Employment of People with Disabilities is the first of its magnitude, with responses representing more than 2.4 million companies nationwide. The survey reveals that a majority of large businesses hiring people with disabilities are discovering that costs for accommodations differ very little from those of the general employee population. Additionally, the survey showed that once an employer hires someone with a disability, they are much more likely to hire other people with disabilities.

8 - JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule

Events of particular interest:

Get the most up-to-date and comprehensive training on employing people with disabilities in the Federal Sector. To view the complete schedule go here: http://askjan.org/training/On-the-Road.htm

9 - Contact JAN

E-mail: jan@askjan.org

JAN Website: http://askjan.org

Call JAN: 800-526-7234 (Voice), 877-781-9403 (TTY), 304-293-5407 (Fax)

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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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