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ENews: Volume 16, Issue 2, Second Quarter, 2018

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. Till We Meet Again
  2. Accommodating Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
  3. Assistive Technology Solutions for Employees with Speech Impairments
  4. Is the Room Spinning? Common Accommodations for Vertigo
  5. Determining If Apps Are Right for You
  6. Disability Awareness Resources to Foster Inclusion
  7. JAN Blog Growing
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Till We Meet Again

She was engaging. She was magnetic. As Director of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP), U.S. Department of Defense, Dinah Fayne Benveniste Cohen fulfilled a mission like no other. Although she recently retired from CAP, she continued to work in the disability field. Her goal was to make the world a better place, and she did. After a short bout with cancer, Dinah left us on March 23, 2018.

Dinah was a trailblazer, groundbreaker, and visionary in her professional world. She fought for equal rights for people with disabilities, and she won much more than she lost.  Losing wasn’t in Dinah’s vocabulary. She was a huge fan of JAN and worked with us on articles, presentations, conferences, and other projects. You can do an Internet search and learn about her awards and accomplishments. She did a guest interview with JAN in 2013.

In her personal life, she was hilarious and a friend who I’ve had for 21 years. We met at CSUN in 1997. She was giving one of her hundreds of presentations, and she forgot to mention JAN. I called her on it, and she asked me to lunch. She was the daughter of Holocaust survivors. I was the daughter of West Virginians. From onlookers, we had nothing in common, but fate entwined us to be forever friends. We met up in DC, Florida, California, Illinois, Utah, Louisiana, and the list goes on. Sure, we worked together and made many strides. We even changed a thing or two along the way. Dinah loved my accent, and I loved her determination.

We had instant chemistry on stage, and she made the field of disability humorous for those around her. Honestly, I never imagined a world without her enthusiasm. Through Dinah, I’ve met some of my very best friends, including Derek and Sharon, two of my very closest. Friendship is a blessing from her that keeps giving after her loss. Two of my newest friends are Catherine and Dianne, who cared for Dinah. Friendships were her greatest gifts to me.

You may be a friend of Dinah’s or know a friend through her, but when you look collectively at her friends, you see strength, compassion, and laughter. Above all, she believed in equality. Yes, she was one of our great leaders, but she was also one of our best friends. Save a star for your JAN Crew, Dinah. Some day we will put the band back together. #TeamDinah

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

2 - Accommodating Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

Social anxiety or social phobia is one of the most common mental health issues in America today. The cognitive/neurological team at JAN receives a number of calls concerning anxiety disorders, many specifically relating to the difficulties people have with being around and interacting with others in the workplace.

If an employee discloses having a social phobia and requests reasonable accommodations, the first step for the employer can be to determine whether the employee has an ADA qualifying disability - a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If clarification is needed, the employer can request medical documentation confirming the employee has a condition that meets the definition of disability under ADA, and information on limitations to better understand the accommodation needs.

If an individual has been diagnosed with social phobia, it is likely he is at least limited in his ability to communicate with others. It’s also possible that other major life activities may be affected as well. Remember, once an employer establishes that an employee is substantially limited in any major life activity, then the employer has established that the employee has a disability and is entitled to an accommodation for any limitation associated with the disability. The accommodation does not have to be only for the limitation that established disability, it can be for any limitation associated with the disability. Social anxiety can cause pervasive fear and anxiety in almost all areas of an individual’s life, so for someone with the disorder, limitations in memory, concentration, adjusting to change, working effectively with supervisors, interacting with coworkers, sleep disturbances, and others may exist.

Now, how could an employer accommodate an employee with social phobia? As always, this must be determined on a case-by-case basis. If an employee is seeking treatment for the condition, the employer may need to consider providing leave and/or a schedule modification so the employee can attend medical or counseling appointments. Other accommodations would generally be aimed at reducing and/or removing triggers, such as situations that could exacerbate the employee’s symptoms. This could include moving an employee to a different location within an office where she feels more comfortable, modifying methods of communication from face-to-face to e-mail or phone when possible, providing a schedule modification that allows the employee to work when her symptoms tend to be less severe, and providing additional breaks for the employee to call a support person and use stress-relieving techniques. The following are some examples of employment situations involving employees with social anxiety disorder and ways employers may handle such situations:

Jason is a new employee who works as a stock clerk in a large department store. He experiences severe anxiety when approached by customers for help with finding products in the store. Jason discloses his social phobia to the employer and requests reasonable accommodations. After meeting with Jason, the employer agrees to temporarily restructure his position so that he only works in the back during the day and in the front only after hours when there are no customers. The employer also schedules Jason’s work hours around therapy appointments. After one month, Jason has become familiar with where all of the products are in the store, and the employer gradually moves him to the front of the store over the course of the next month. With treatment and the reasonable accommodations provided, Jason becomes comfortable working in the front of the store, no longer needing accommodations.

Jan is an architect in a large, busy, open office space. She requested a private workspace to help her handle the stress brought on by the open, populous, and often noisy environment. During the interactive process the employer agreed to allocate a private space, but also provided Jan with telework as an option as well as flexible scheduling for times when she gets particularly stressed while under firm deadlines.

Rudy works as an engineer for a large city government. He is very good at his job, but experiences severe anxiety when meeting with his supervisor randomly to discuss his performance and progress on meeting deadlines. Rudy discloses this to his employer and requests to be given some notice prior to meeting with the supervisor, as well as the ability to have a support person present for meetings. The employer agrees to notify him one week prior to such meetings and allows Rudy to have his wife present with him during the meetings as a reasonable accommodation.

Larissa works in a call center as a customer service representative for a telecommunications company. She has done well since she started working with the company three years ago, but has recently developed severe anxiety when callers get upset with her on the phone. The effects of the anxiety have become apparent in Larissa’s performance over time, resulting in a poor performance evaluation. In response to the evaluation, she discloses the anxiety she has been experiencing and the employer sets up a meeting to discuss accommodations. Larissa requests the ability to take a ten-minute break every hour to do stress relieving exercises. The employer determines this would require lowering a production standard, which is not required under the ADA. After getting clarification from her doctor, no other effective alternative accommodation is identified. The employer finds a vacancy in a position Larissa is qualified for as a data entry clerk. The position pays less, but reassignment to the position is the only effective accommodation available. Larissa accepts the reassignment.

As the above examples illustrate, many accommodations for social anxiety disorder are simple and inexpensive. The solutions worked well in these particular examples, but there may be a myriad of other effective solutions as well. Accommodations should be considered and determined on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions about a particular situation, please feel free to contact JAN for assistance. For more accommodation ideas for individuals with social phobia, please see JAN’s publications on accommodating individuals with anxiety disorders and mental health impairments.

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

3 - Assistive Technology Solutions for Employees with Speech Impairments

Have you ever wondered how a person who hears but doesn’t speak uses the phone? Of course there are TTY and speech-to-speech relay services, but what if relay methods don’t meet the employee’s needs?  What if the nature of the work requires a more direct and confidential method of communicating?

There are devices for phone and face-to-face communication that are designed for individuals who do not speak at all or who find speaking very challenging called AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication). AAC devices, also called speech-generating devices, are an example of a type of technology that can be used by individuals who have difficulty speaking.  JAN has general information about AAC devices as well as information about AAC with telephone access.

Ideally when AAC is being considered, a speech language pathologist with expertise in AAC would be involved.  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a special interest group of professionals working in AAC.

It may be worthwhile to see if the State AT project in your area would be able to at a minimum demo some products.  In some states they may also be able to perform assessments. State AT projects are funded under the Technology-related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act and support consumer-driven state plans for the delivery of AT.

While JAN does not endorse or recommend specific vendors and products, there are some specific products worth noting:

For more information, see JAN’s Accommodation Ideas for Employees with Speech and Language Impairments and our Product Listing for Employees with Speech and Language Impairments

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

4 - Is the Room Spinning? Common Accommodations for Vertigo

Whether it feels like you are spinning or the world around you is moving, vertigo can certainly be disorienting to experience. This sensation can be caused by many different medical conditions, from a trauma to the head to sharp changes in blood pressure. However, the accommodations that may be helpful are consistent across these various conditions. They fall, no pun intended, into two main groups: accommodations to help prevent someone from falling and accommodations to minimize harm when someone falls. Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in this case a pound of harm minimization, let’s first review accommodations to help prevent someone from falling.

Preventing a fall in the workplace will often largely depend upon what sort of environment the individual works in. For instance, in an office environment, chairs with rolling casters can lead to falls when the symptoms of vertigo set in should the individual reflexively grasp onto a chair to stabilize themselves. For this situation, reviewing office chairs with brakes and locking casters may be helpful to ensure that the chair will not roll away from the individual in such a situation. Climbing a ladder can also be a cause of concern for someone with vertigo. In this environment, it may be helpful to allow the individual to climb using another piece of equipment, like a rolling safety ladder or an aerial lift. Many of these forms of accommodation may be helpful even for people without a disability in situations where dizziness or loss of balance may be a safety concern.

There is always a risk of someone falling while at work, even when they do not have a disability. However, when someone has a condition that causes vertigo, that risk will be heightened. Because of this, it may be helpful to review some accommodations to minimize potential harm should an individual with vertigo fall while at work. The first option that most people look to is padded edging. This soft padding can cover things like the corners of desks or tables to help protect the individual should they fall and hit those areas. Other options that may be appropriate depending upon the job the individual performs are fall alert devices or two-way radios. These options can be particularly helpful for positions that require the individual to work during times where the number of staff on-site is low, or if the individual needs to survey outdoor areas where other workers are unlikely to happen upon them should they fall and injure themselves.

If you would like to review additional resources pertaining to accommodations for vertigo, please feel free to review the following JAN webpages:

- Matthew McCord, M.S., CRC, Consultant, JAN Motor Team

5 - Determining If Apps Are Right for You

In today’s world technology is ever growing. Each day we see new technologies being developed, tested, and implemented into mainstream society. While there are a variety of products and technologies out there, one thing that most people have today is a mobile device or tablet. Whether it is a TracFone or the most recent version of Apple or Android products, odds are that every household has a minimum of one of these technologies.

Mobile devices today contain so much more than the simple function of making a phone call — from texting to taking pictures and videos to using the Internet and now using a wide range of applications or apps that are available. According to Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary, the term app can be defined as “a computer program that performs a special function.” Most devices today come with some apps already pre-downloaded onto them. Often this may include an app for your email, checking the weather, news, etc. Apps are becoming increasingly popular and can be easily accessed by a simple click on the device.

While anyone can use apps, there are certain functions that may be particularly helpful to individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities may experience limitations that impact their personal and/or work life. We are seeing examples of individuals using apps to help with various aspects of their life at home and work. Apps can help remove barriers and assist individuals by performing specific functions to support them. As with any piece of assistive technology (AT), apps may be a great solution for some and not for others. The following may help to determine if apps are right for you.

Step 1: How do you know if you would benefit from an app?

In trying to determine if apps could be helpful, you would want to start by assessing how much you use your device. If you are someone who owns a device, but do not feel that you use it often or only use it for phone calls, then apps may not be the best solution. If you do use your device often or have frequent access to it, then apps may be easier to get used to or insert into your day to day activities.

If you want to give apps a try, you might move on to thinking about what you feel could be useful to you. Have you been able to identify specific issues in your life that could use improvement or have you noticed any patterns? It can help to think about what you do daily.

Some examples include housework, work, school, attending appointments, taking medication, grocery shopping, leisure activities, and sleeping. Try to identify the things you do and think about whether you have difficulty with any of them. Do you have difficulty concentrating while working? Do you have a hard time taking notes? Do you often feel you forget what needs to be done around the house or what needs picked up at the store? Do you have difficulty remembering to take your medication? Do you find it hard to fall asleep at night or feel anxious throughout the day? Is it hard to read restaurant menus when you are out to eat? In any of these situations there may be an app that could help.

Step 2: What type of app are you looking for?

If you decide to give apps a try, it can help to have an idea of what you are wanting. This does not have to be an exact science, but will help to tailor your search. If you identified that you have difficulty with memory you might look into apps that help create a to-do list or that help set reminders for you. If you have trouble reading small print you might look at apps that use your device’s camera to magnify or read the writing out loud to you. You might write down some key words or phrases about what you want to look for in an app. The following are some examples:

Any words or phrases to describe what you feel you need help with can assist in pointing your search in the right direction.

Step 3: How to find an app

When searching for apps the first place to start would be to access your device’s online app store. Most devices come with a pre-downloaded app to access the store such as Google Play store for Android or iTunes for Apple. Other devices may have something similar, it may just take a quick scroll through your phone to locate. If you find it easier to search on a computer, you can start there as well and download it to your phone or tablet later.

Next is when the fun part begins. Using your app store or the Internet, simply enter in “apps for” followed by your key words or phrases and see what comes up. In addition to using a search engine you can also ask around. Talk with friends or family, a counselor, or even an outside agency such as the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) or your State Assistive Technology Project to see if they have any recommendations or lists of ideas to help get you started.

Make sure to take into consideration the features of the specific app and what might be best for you. For example, if considering timer apps to help with time management, you might find Time Timer as an option. One feature you might consider is that it uses a visual passing of time. For some, having that red disk that slowly disappears may help them remain focused and improve productivity. For others, watching the red disk slowly disappear may increase anxiety and in turn cause them to be even more distracted. It is important to remember that as with any piece of AT or accommodation it is individualized.

Another thing to take into consideration is cost. A lot of apps can be downloaded for free while others may have to be purchased. If an app has a price listed you might check to see if there is a free trial initially. Sometimes this may be available and it is a great way to test out an app and see if it will be effective for you. When searching you might not want to automatically download the first thing you see. While that may end up being what you select, do your homework first. Sometimes it may take some creativity in your search to find exactly what you are looking for.

Step 4: Putting your app to use

Once you have selected an app, try to start incorporating it into your daily life. If you were having difficulty with memory, sit down and customize your app to meet your needs with reminders, to-do lists, and calendar, then let the app do the work for you! If you had trouble reading those restaurant menus, next time you are out to eat pull out your phone and see if the app can help. Trouble sleeping? Set your meditation app to remind you to do some deep breathing at bed time. It may be difficult at first to remember to pull out your phone or tablet when needed, but try to remind yourself and gradually it should become a part of your routine.

While the above steps are geared toward individuals finding apps to help with all aspects of life, these same steps could also be helpful for employers or service providers to use. As an employer, you might be aware and try to be open to the possibility of apps being possible accommodation solutions. You might be able to help explore all possibilities with the goal of finding something that will be effective. Using an app in the workplace could involve modifying a policy to allow the employee to use a phone or tablet while working. As a service provider, you might help your clients explore whether apps are right for them and whether they could help the client in the workplace.

Apps are out there and will continue to grow, but do not let it overwhelm or discourage you. Remember to be mindful and invest in finding what works best for you.

- Sarah Small, M.S., CRC, Consultant - Cognitive/Neurological Team

6 - Disability Awareness Resources to Foster Inclusion

Many years ago, I wrote a blog about disability inclusion that shined a light on how attitudes about disability are often shaped early in life by way of exposure to adult perceptions about ability, value, and talent. When my own children were young, now 18 and 20, I was optimistic that by the time they would enter the labor force, attitudinal barriers and misconceptions about disability would be different and would cease to significantly impact employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Today, it remains true that there is still much to be done to foster inclusive workplaces where people are valued and respected for their abilities. The endeavor to re-shape a nation’s attitudes about disability and employment is a challenging one, but the effort we make now does matter, and the difference we make today CAN lead to fully inclusive work environments for everyone. We must keep trying.

Employers can foster inclusive workplaces by promoting disability awareness to help re-shape preconceived ideas about individuals with disabilities and what they CAN do at work. These workplace initiatives to raise awareness about disability employment issues often take place in October of each year – in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). However, employers are encouraged to make a commitment to maintaining an inclusive workplace by promoting disability awareness year-round. JAN offers resources to support this initiative. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers an NDEAM website that shares ideas for activities to be conducted by employers to raise disability awareness. While the information is available to promote NDEAM, the information and resources can be leveraged to promote disability awareness throughout the year. For more information, see Beyond NDEAM: Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion.

Also, the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) is a useful source of disability awareness outreach tools. The CDE was founded on the simple, yet significant, belief that at work, it’s what people CAN do that matters. The CDE’s multi-faceted outreach campaign called “What Can YOU Do?” features a series of public service announcements (PSAs) and coordinating media products, all designed to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The CDE offers three powerful PSAs – “I Can,” “Because,” and “Who I Am.” These free media products can be used to build a robust disability awareness initiative that encourages everyone to recognize that inclusive workplaces can strengthen America’s businesses and economy.

Recently, the CDE launched the #ICanCDE photo-sharing campaign, which is an effort that invites people with disabilities and other friends of the Campaign to share photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Anyone can join the movement to help spread the message that “At work, it’s what people CAN do that matters.” There are several ways to participate in this effort to change misconceptions about what people CAN do:

Training modules about hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities can be found on JAN’s Multimedia Training Microsite. These modules offer a brief overview of the value proposition for hiring, retaining, and marketing to people with disabilities, and technical assistance on how to increase comfort, confidence, and competence through disability awareness. Go to JAN’s Multimedia Training Microsite to find:

For more information about disability awareness resources to foster inclusion, please contact JAN.

- Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., CLMS, Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist

7 - 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:

Become a part of the new JAN blogging community!

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, 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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