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ENews: Volume 11, Issue 1, First Quarter, 2013

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.


  1. JAN Goes to Guam, "Where America's Day Begins!"
  2. Accommodating Pregnancy in the Workplace
  3. Annual Requests for Medical Documentation and Long-Term Accommodations
  4. The DSM-V and the New Category of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  5. Harnessing the Accessibility Features of Mobile Devices for Use as Reasonable Accommodations
  6. National Wear Red Day
  7. ODEP Launches Media Campaign Encouraging Youth With Disabilities To Pursue Career Goals
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - JAN Goes to Guam, "Where America's Day Begins!"

Dr. Beth Loy, Principal Consultant

JAN recently participated in the Island of Guam’s first Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) Conference. Held January 9-11, 2013, and organized by the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities (DISID), the conference theme was “Konsigi Mo’na” (Moving Forward). Participation in the conference was targeted to private business owners, hotel and restaurant owners, day care centers, and shopping malls. Audience members included human resources representatives, hiring managers, GovGuam administrators, and applicants with disabilities. Attendees also included representatives from the Guam legislature and Governor Eddie Baza Calvo.

Zenaida Napa Natividad, Ph.D., DISID Administrator of Evaluation, Enforcement, and Compliance, explained that the aim of the conference was to step-up Guam’s efforts in making the Island community understand the changes brought about by the ADAAA. JAN’s focus was to provide customized training to enable attendees, specifically human resource managers, to understand and implement workplace accommodations in accordance with Title I of the ADA.

As a territory of the United States since 1950, Guam, along with other U.S. territories, has unique challenges and brings distinctive strengths when implementing the ADA. Physical distance from the mainland can sometimes lead to confusion on the enforcement provisions, timing of when complaints can be heard, and how complaints are handled within the Territory. For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the territorial court in the District Court of Guam. This Court is to have the same jurisdiction as a U.S. district court. Although the intricacies of the Court's tenure and makeup differ because of its territorial designation, the ADA applies as it does in the states. For the sake of the ADA, “the term ‘state’ means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands of the United States, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, JAN, was joined by Alberto Ruisanchez, J.D., Deputy Chief of the Disability Rights Section, U.S. Department of Justice, and Barbara Judy, R.N, P.A., President of the National Association of ADA. "Hafa Adai" (Hello) to all of those who participated and welcomed JAN to the Island.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

2 - Accommodating Pregnancy in the Workplace

While many women work through their pregnancies without difficulties, some women with physically demanding jobs or complicated pregnancies may seek accommodations at some point during pregnancy. But under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), pregnancy itself is not considered a disability. Why not you may ask? Because to have a disability under the ADA, a person must first have an impairment and pregnancy is not considered an impairment; it is a natural process related to reproduction, not a disorder.

So if pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, does that mean that pregnant women are not entitled to accommodations? What about women with pregnancy-related impairments? Are they covered by the ADA? What about other laws, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)? Does the PDA entitle pregnant women to the accommodations they need to continue working during pregnancy? Are there state laws that entitle pregnant women to accommodations? These are the types of questions currently being examined by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and other women’s legal organizations. According to NWLC, both the ADA and the PDA will often require reasonable accommodation for pregnancy.

Let’s start with the ADA. The regulations interpreting the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) state that pregnancy-related impairments can meet the definition of disability if they substantially limit a major life activity, NWLC notes. Pregnant employees with impairments that meet the definition of disability will be entitled to an accommodation under the ADA. Because the ADAAA has broadened the definition of disability to include many temporary and less severe impairments, more workers with pregnancy-related impairments will now qualify for direct coverage under the ADAAA.

In addition, according to NWLC, the interaction between the PDA and the ADA will often result in a heightened duty to accommodate even those pregnant employees who do not meet the definition of disability under the ADA. NWLC’s argument is this: The PDA requires that employers treat pregnant women at least as well as other employees with similar limitations in their ability to work. Now that the ADA requires employers to accommodate a wider variety of medical conditions, pregnant women will often have similar limitations to people who are entitled to accommodations under the ADA and therefore they will be entitled to accommodations as well. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made clear that the ADA now requires reasonable accommodation of a temporary back injury that leaves an employee unable to lift 20 pounds for a few months; because pregnant workers must be treated as well as employees with similar work limitations, a worker who has been instructed not to lift weights of over 20 pounds because of her pregnancy must also be accommodated, according to NWLC.

Both employers and employees benefit when employers’ obligations are clear. In order to ensure that employers’ legal obligations to provide accommodations are unmistakable, the NWLC and a broad coalition of other groups from the health, disability, and women’s rights communities are urging Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), draft legislation that clearly states that pregnant women are entitled to reasonable accommodations that can be provided without undue hardship to an employer—the same sorts of accommodations available to people with disabilities under the ADA. In addition, some state laws already expressly provide pregnant workers with rights to workplace accommodations, as described in a recent report by Equal Rights Advocates.

Accommodating pregnant employees may not only be legally required, but also in employers’ financial interest. The NWLC provides several sound business reasons why employers should accommodate their pregnant employees. And those reasons are the same reasons employers should accommodate employees with disabilities. Data show that the costs of these accommodations are likely to be minimal and that providing them will have bottom line benefits to the employer, including reduced workforce turnover, increased employee satisfaction and productivity, and savings in workers' compensation and other insurance costs.

Despite the legal and financial arguments, there are still employers who are not accommodating pregnant employees. For this reason, the EEOC recently identified “accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the ADAAA and the PDA” as a priority area for its enforcement efforts through 2016.

If you are an employee who was not accommodated during your pregnancy or you believe you were discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy, the NWLC would like you to share your story. Employers interested in sharing their experiences accommodating pregnant employees or in consulting about best practices are also invited to contact NWLC, at pregnancyandwork@nwlc.org.

And keep in mind, when it comes to providing accommodation ideas, JAN services are not limited to people who meet the definition of disability under the ADA. JAN consultants will brainstorm accommodation ideas for anyone with any type of limitation, including limitations related to pregnancy, whether or not the particular limitation qualifies for direct coverage under the ADA. So if you are an employer trying to accommodate pregnant employees or you are a pregnant employee looking for accommodation ideas to present to your employer, feel free to contact JAN for assistance!

- Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant with comments from the National Women's Law Center

3 - Annual Requests for Medical Documentation and Long-Term Accommodations

Upon receiving a request for accommodation under the ADA, when the disability and/or need for accommodation are not obvious, an employer is permitted to ask for medical documentation from an employee. The purpose for requesting this documentation is to assist the employer in determining if the individual has an ADA disability by learning about the nature of the disability and the individual's functional limitations. Of course, there is no requirement under the ADA to obtain medical documentation to grant an accommodation and often it is unnecessary. Employers are encouraged to focus less on who has a disability and more on making accommodations that are reasonable and effective.

Medical documentation often establishes the need for long-term accommodations for an employee who has a disability of an extended or lifelong duration. An example would be an employee with diabetes who needs a flexible work schedule to receive weekly dialysis. The accommodation of a flexible schedule could be needed indefinitely over the term of the individual’s employment and it is likely that the individual’s medical condition and/or need for accommodation will not change over time. Employers sometimes ask JAN Consultants if updated medical documentation can be requested annually from employees who are receiving long-term accommodations for ADA established disabilities. The stated purpose for such a request is to “recertify” an employee’s need/qualification for an accommodation. The following questions address this issue.

Requesting annual medical documentation would not be prudent under the ADA. Where reasonable medical documentation that establishes an ADA disability was provided by an employee for the purpose of obtaining an accommodation, an employer will not have cause to request updated information on an annual basis. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an employer cannot ask for documentation when the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation are obvious, or the individual has already provided the employer with sufficient information to substantiate an ADA disability. If the medical information provided previously sufficiently established the existence of a long-term impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, then EEOC says that an employer cannot ask for documentation that the person has an ADA disability. However, the employer may ask for reasonable documentation that addresses the specific need for the accommodation (if the need is not obvious).

While many accommodations are provided long-term, the EEOC has informally stated that an individual with a disability receiving a reasonable accommodation is not necessarily entitled to receive it forever. There are several reasons why an employer may stop providing a specific accommodation, or change the type of reasonable accommodation being provided. For example, a person’s disability may no longer necessitate a reasonable accommodation, or the accommodation might become an undue hardship on the employer. It’s important for the employer and employee to discuss any changes in accommodations. If an accommodation becomes an undue hardship, it may be possible to identify an alternative solution. JAN Consultants can help identify alternative accommodation solutions. Visit AskJAN.org for more information.

To learn more about requesting medical documentation from employees under the ADA, see questions 6 – 8 in EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the ADA. Also, JAN offers many resources related to requesting medical documentation, determining disability, and providing and maintaining job accommodations. Examples include:

- Tracie DeFreitas Saab, M.S., Lead Consultant

4 - The DSM-V and the New Category of Autism Spectrum Disorder

DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and it is the primary manual used by clinicians to provide the diagnosis of different psychological disorders and conditions, including a formal diagnosis of autism and related disorders. The manual outlines the specific criteria that must be met to receive a diagnosis, as well as the corresponding label and numerical code that is sometimes used by insurance companies to identify the diagnosis. The current version of the DSM is the DSM-IV, but the APA intends to publish the DSM-V in 2013, culminating a 14-year revision process.

One of the more significant revisions the APA plans to make in the new manual is combining several previously separate diagnoses, including autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS) into one category. The new category will be called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The proposed diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder will define a range of severity as well as describe the individual’s overall developmental status not only in social communication, but also in other relevant cognitive and motor behaviors. The revisions have been made with the hope that the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders will be more specific, reliable, and valid. For more information, see http://www.autism.com/index.php/news_dsmV

JAN has already received many questions and inquiries about how this new categorization will affect individuals with Asperger syndrome on the job. So what will the new guidelines and diagnosis mean for an employee with Asperger syndrome who has been receiving accommodations or who may be planning to request accommodations for the first time? The short answer is that it should have no or little effect.

Since January 2009, when the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect, employers should have been focusing more on getting information related to making accommodations than they do on the disability itself. Accordingly, determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity should be done quickly and should not demand extensive analysis.

Of more importance than the actual diagnosis is the description of the limitations that are contributing to workplace issues, such as performance problems. If we look at what the diagnostic criteria specifies, as stated above, “a range of severity and description of the individual’s overall developmental status, in both social communication and other relevant cognitive and motor behaviors,” we see that many individuals with the same diagnosis will have different limitations. So when gathering information related to workplace accommodations, it is the limitations themselves that must be addressed, more so than the diagnosis. Information about functional limitations will provide the employer with the knowledge needed to help determine how to accommodate an employee.

So, for employees asking for accommodations for the first time, the changes to the DSM will have little effect on what documentation the employer gets. The main difference will be in the name of the employee’s diagnosis, but employers will still need to focus on functional limitations, just as they have always done. For employees who already have accommodations and who already provided medical documentation to their employers, the changes to the DSM should have no effect – an employee with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome in the past will still have the same abilities and limitations now that the diagnosis may become Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Simply changing the name of the employee’s condition, or re-categorizing it, does not change the employee’s limitations, need for accommodation, or the assessment of whether the employee has a disability and needs an accommodation. Unless an employer has a reasonable belief that something more than the name of the employee’s condition changed, the employer probably does not have a legitimate reason to ask for updated medical information or to change the accommodation.

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

5 - Harnessing the Accessibility Features of Mobile Devices for Use as Reasonable Accommodations

From Blackberries to iPads to Windows-based tablets, mobile technology is an ever more common feature in America’s homes and offices. We see them everywhere from planes to trains to preschool classrooms. However, you may not be aware of just how accessible these devices are becoming. Although we have a long way to go before universal access is reached, it is easier than ever for individuals with disabilities to access smartphones and tablets. Also, app developers are growing more aware of the benefits of making their software accessible. This is good news for anyone wants to make mobile devices part of their accommodation toolkit.

There are a couple of ways to approach the use of mobile technology as part of an accommodation. One way is to use an accessory or built-in accessibility feature such as VoiceOver, a text to speech feature in iOS, to make a device accessible. Another way is to use an app on a mobile device instead of a using stand-alone product. For example, there are a number of free and low-cost color identification apps. These apps were patterned after stand-alone, hand-held devices that help distinguish and announce colors to individuals who have difficulty identifying colors.

In some cases, the device itself might actually serve as the accommodation. For example, smartphones and tablets could be used to help support someone who is working remotely though use of communication tools such as email and video chat. Also, the device might take the place of heavier laptops, printed materials, or files. Finally, one of the most practical ways to use mobile technology is to use an app in coordination with another product that the person is already using. An example is the Zoomreader app for iOS, which is relatively inexpensive at $19.99. It allows one to take a picture of a document and have it read aloud. Zoomreader in no way replaces ZoomText, but it can be a very useful tool for recording documents when away from the desk.

Sensory Impairments:

Different mobile devices offer a variety of ways to improve access to information for individuals with visual impairment. Some common options include screen magnification features such as zoom and voice output. Braille displays can work with the text-to-speech features on some devices so individuals can access text on the Braille display and enter text with the Braille keyboard.

Mobile devices can also be useful for accommodating individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. When accommodating an employee who wears a hearing aid, it may help to look at the HAC (hearing aid compatibility) rating of any phone that you are considering. If someone's hearing aid contains a Bluetooth chip or a telecoil, the person may be able to tell you about any special equipment needed. For ASL users, smartphones and tablets can be used to access Video Relay Services through the use of apps such as those from ZVRS and Purple Communications. While these types of apps are usually free, it is wise to check the terms of any data plan that will be used with the apps.

Motor Impairments:

Mobile devices also can be used to help those with motor impairments, which can range from tennis elbow to paraplegia. One thing often considered as an accommodation for motor impairments is alternative input, which allows people to access a device in a different manner when they cannot use a device in the way it was designed to be used. There are now apps that can serve as alternative input, such as the Panther Connect that turns your iPad into a track pad or touchpad, the Switchamajig that converts your iPad into six switches so you could control your office lights and thermostat all from your iPad, theTecla Access that allows you to control your mobile device by using your favorite switch or even your wheelchair joystick, and the PageBot that enables switch access for Kindle users.

Often times typing is the biggest struggle people have when it comes to using their mobile devices. Speech recognition apps can enable people to control their phone, all by the sound of their voices. This technology makes it possible to create an email, text, or search the Web without physically typing it (e.g., Dragon, Apple Siri). For people who have limited use of one hand, there are one-handed keyboard apps, which allow people to access all keys with one hand while resting their impaired hand. These often free apps give the option of left or right-handed keyboards (e.g., FrogPad, OneHand Keyboard).

Aside from apps or built-in features, there are some great accessories that can help someone overcome various motor limitations. Sometimes a touch screen is not practical for someone with tremors or a gripping limitation. For that, a stylus can enable a user to make better direct contact with the device screen. Styluses come in assorted sizes and shapes. There are adjustable lengths, ergonomic widths, and even ones made specifically for your mouth. Another helpful accessory may be a mount that can attach your tablet or phone to your wheelchair or office desk. These mounts can be adjusted to different heights or angles to make them easier to access.

Cognitive Impairments:

Individuals with cognitive, intellectual, or mental health impairments can benefit from both built-in features and apps that can assist with a wide variety of work-related tasks. Calendars and reminders on mobile devices can be used by someone who has trouble with memory or time management. Built-in clocks, timers, alarms, and stopwatches can be great tools for making sure a task is completed within a certain amount of time or as an easy reminder. Using the camera to capture sequential tasks, final products, people and places; to demonstrate appropriate behaviors in the workplace; or model specific actions can be really useful for an employee with an intellectual impairment. Apps that focus on relaxation, meditation, or sound therapy could be useful for an employee who has difficulty handling stress or who is easily frustrated. Adults with learning disabilities might benefit from text-to-speech features in mobile devices for reading or proofreading documents. Mobile devices could also be worked into an accommodation and emergency action plan. For example, an employee with epilepsy could use a fall detection or emergency response app as an alternative or in addition to stand alone fall detecting or alerting devices.

Over time, JAN Consultants have seen continued improvements in the accessibility features of mobile technology and how they can be used by individuals with disabilities. These devices are portable and can hold a great deal of information and work in places where they would never have worked just a few years ago. If there is a place for this technology, employers and employees may benefit from using the different types of devices available, either as a supplement to an existing accommodation or a stand-alone accommodation.

To learn more about harnessing the accessibility features of mobile devices for use as reasonable accommodations you can access an archive of JAN’s December, 2012, Webcast, Harnessing the Accessibility Features of Mobile Devices for Use as Reasonable Accommodations.

6 - National Wear Red Day

JAN Staff Wears Red

JAN staff took the America Goes Red Challenge on February 1, 2013, and participated in the National Wear Red Day to turn a red spotlight on America and raise awareness of the issue of heart disease in women. This marked the tenth year of "going red."

JAN provides technical assistance related to accommodations for individuals with all types of heart conditions. If you are ever looking for information on accommodation ideas related to heart conditions, you can get started with JAN's Accommodation Information by Disability: Heart Conditions.

7 - ODEP Launches Media Campaign Encouraging Youth With Disabilities To Pursue Career Goals

To help millions of people recognize what they can do to make a difference in the lives – and future careers – of young people with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Campaign for Disability Employment has released a new public service announcement titled “Because.” The PSA features real people with disabilities who are pursuing and realizing their goals and passions as a result of the support they received from everyday people in their lives.

“Many people who achieve success and have found satisfaction in their careers have done so because one person believed in them and urged them to set their expectations high,” said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “This PSA challenges viewers to rethink their ideas about what people with disabilities can achieve and consider what they might do to encourage young people with disabilities to pursue their personal and career goals.”

To watch the video or learn more about the Campaign for Disability Employment, visit WhatCanYouDoCampaign.org.

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

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.

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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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