Accommodating Truck Drivers with Motor Impairments

Posted by Kim Cordingly on June 12, 2018 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Products / Technology | Be the First to Comment

By: Lisa Mathess, Lead Consultant – Motor Team

The trucking industry can bring a unique set of challenges when it comes to accommodating employees with motor-related impairments. The limitations caused by these impairments can vary, but frequently reported limitations include back pain while sitting, lifting restrictions, and problems with reaching and bending. Luckily, there are more assistive technologies and equipment options becoming available to enable people with disabilities to perform their job tasks specifically in and around trucks.

When employees are limited in reaching overhead due to back impairments or shoulder injuries, they can use a step stool or aerial lift that can raise the employee up so that reaching is performed at or below shoulder height. For example, a long-haul trucker who contacted JAN often had to move trailers with open loads, such as wood, hay, pallets, and scrap metal. Periodically, the loads had to be covered with a tarp and fastened with a ratchet strap. This particular driver had problems accessing the top of his load. He was provided with a small aerial lift that attached to the trailer to complete this task.

Entering the truck may pose a problem for employees with climbing restrictions. Options to consider can include extended tractor steps and folding steps that both provide additional steps, which can reduce the climbing distance to get into the truck cab. There are also seats that swivel and sometimes extend out of the truck to make it easier for someone to enter. For example, an over the road truck driver with a hip impairment could not climb the large standard truck steps. The employer modified his truck with extended tractor steps that enabled the driver to enter the truck comfortably.

Moving and lifting materials and goods can be physically demanding, especially for someone with a motor impairment. Products that may help include winches and chain hoists, hitch systems, truck mounted cranes, compact mobile cranes, and lift gates. For instance, a package delivery driver often has to move large boxes weighing upwards of 75 pounds. A driver with a back impairment had a lifting restriction of 25 pounds. The employer purchased and installed a lift gate for this specific truck that raised the boxes from ground level into the tractor-trailer.

Sometimes truck drivers are required to do maintenance and/or visually check the underside of the truck or load. An employee may consider the use of low task chair or mechanic’s seat and creeper if limited in bending, kneeling, or stooping. In another JAN call, a tow truck driver returned to work following surgery to repair a torn meniscus. In order to strap down the car, the driver had to get on the underside of the tow ramps. He had bending restrictions in one leg, but was able to perform this task by using a low task chair.

Although it can be tricky to consider alternative ways of doing things in and around a truck, these products and others can enable a qualified truck driver with a disability to effectively and efficiently perform job tasks.

For additional accommodation ideas, visit JAN’s Accommodation Information by Limitation page.

To discuss a specific situation, please contact a JAN consultant for one-on-one assistance.

Resource:

Trucking with a Disability
Dan Woog, Monster.com Contributing Writer

 

 

 

A Farmer in Our Midst – An Interview with JAN’s Own Dr. Beth Loy

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 22, 2018 under Accommodations, Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, Organizations, Products / Technology, Veterans Issues | Comments are off for this article

As the Lead Consultant on JAN’s self-employment team, I’m often fielding questions from individuals with disabilities interested in starting a business in agriculture. These types of businesses include a diverse range such as organic vegetable farms, egg producers, herb and flower growers, livestock/ranch businesses, fish production, fruit farms, Christmas tree growers, equine therapy, and sheep/wool producers. We have even received questions about farm tourism where guests vacation at a family farm to experience life there. Often, accommodation issues come into play in the planning of these businesses.

We are fortunate at JAN to have an individual who has years of experience as a JAN consultant and manager, an academic and researcher, and mostly importantly, a farmer. We are not sure how she does it all, but felt it was about time to have her share her vast expertise with JAN’s agricultural entrepreneurs.

Can you describe a bit about your academic background and your role at JAN?

I’ve worked for JAN since 1996. In this capacity, I am a Principal Consultant.  I have a Ph.D. in resource economics from West Virginia University. I have master’s degrees in industrial relations, safety management, and resource economics. I am a member of RESNA and the HTML Writers Guild and hold certificates in Grantsmanship, Web Technologies, and Web Graphics/Multimedia. I am a member of JAN’s management team and travel nationally to speak about disability issues.

You own and manage a family farm in Hampshire County, WV. Can you tell us about the history of the farm, your family’s role in its development, and how it’s grown and changed over the years?

Loy’s Farm was established in 1852 in Hampshire, VA. Following the Civil War it became Hampshire County, WV. The original tract was 180 acres, and now it’s expanded to a compound that covers a total of 225 acres. It contains three cabins, two houses, four barns, and a shop. Over the years, it has housed chickens, cattle, hogs, and goats. Apples, eggs, vegetables, grains, and hay were readily produced on the farm.

Currently, the farm focuses on raising Angus cattle and Savanna goats while producing hay. It isn’t a factory farm, but it has benefited from some of the same tools. Modernizations of the farm continue to be implemented with the help of tablets, software, tractors, security systems, and smartphones. For example, programming reminders for vaccinations, planting seasons, and breeding improve preciseness and time management.

At JAN, we have individuals with disabilities who contact us interested in starting, managing, or expanding an agricultural business. While there are many different types of farming (e.g., organic vegetables, livestock, or trees), what are the five most important tips you would pass on to anyone considering a farm business?

#1. Develop a business plan with advice from farmers in similar businesses and a financial planner from your funding institution. Be sure to do your research.

#2. Cater to your demographics. Know the wants of your region and build your business locally first.

#3. Understand the role of social media, especially having a domain name, Twitter account, and Facebook page, in expanding your business and selling your goods within and outside of your traditional farming markets.

#4. Invest in infrastructure and equipment that will assist you with farming in all types of weather.

#5. Prioritize your relationships with other, more seasoned farmers so that you can learn from their successes and mistakes.

You have extensive experience providing accommodation information to JAN customers with diverse disabilities in a variety of work settings, as well as to having hands-on experience managing and operating a family farm. While each individual accommodation is unique to that person and the job task, can you describe some examples of accommodations that you’re likely to encounter in a farming environment?

When it comes to farming, there are a variety of tasks that are very dangerous. Anytime people are working around animals and machinery, accidents can happen in very tight quarters. And, it’s often true that farmers tend to be older and have various abilities because of the type of work they’ve done for their entire lives.

On the farm, I built a livestock handling system designed from the works of Temple Grandin. The pen is used to gather livestock. It is designed with curves instead of corners. It takes advantage of the natural circling tendencies of livestock that travels in herds. It limits the stress on animals and improves the safety of handlers. But, it was also designed to accommodate me.

Livestock Handling System

About a year and six months ago I began the process of having my feet reconstructed. I was born with extra bones in my feet that started giving me significant problems in my forties. As the bones grew, my tendons became weak and had to be replaced or repaired and the bones had to be removed. It will take two years of rehabilitation and recovery for each foot to recover.

In order to work the livestock and accommodate me, the handling system was designed to keep animals weighing up to 2,000 pounds away from my feet and to help them remain calm. So, I used the ideas of Temple Grandin and my accommodation knowledge to design a corral that individuals with all abilities can safely use. It has multiple safety mechanisms using gates and safety latches, a solid chute, a waist height working area, two uniform colors, automatic catch head gate, a working alley that reaches to the ground, and a sweeping system that separates the handlers from the livestock.

Other farming-related accommodations that I’ve seen or used are: all-terrain vehicles, smart hitches, winches, platform and chair lifts, added steps, grab bars, long-handled tools, powered tools, tool balancers, creepers, ergonomic tools, equipment with both foot and hand controls, backup cameras, and lifting devices. We’ve even designed a few devices to access water, feed, and bottle-feeding more easily.

Assistive technologies (AT) are often characterized as low tech versus high tech. Can you share an example of a low tech and a high tech accommodation in a farm setting?

Low Tech Accommodation

When we have baby goats on the farm, we often put them with their moms in a 4’ X 4’ pen. We then feed and water them separately from the herd to help built their strength. We call this the maternity ward, and we have to carry them water when they are in the ward. We use a stainless steel can on the end of a 1” X 2” slat to dip water out of the water troughs used by goats in the field. You see, this water is heated in the winter so we don’t have to worry about the water freezing.

Anyone, regardless of mobility, can access the water troughs used by the goats without being in their larger pen. We place the slat over the fence and we can dip the water right out of the trough and empty it into a bucket without touching a goat or the water. The total cost of the accommodation was $0. We found a bolt, tap, and washer that wasn’t being used. The slat was left over from another project, and the large stainless steel can came from a local restaurant. The can is food-grade and can be sanitized.

High Tech Accommodation

One high tech accommodation that we implemented is a 3-point hydraulic bale unroller. This device grasps a 2,000 pound round hay bale in the center of both sides. Then, the user drops the bale to the ground using a hydraulic cylinder control from inside a tractor. The friction between the bale and the ground unrolls the hay. No lifting, pushing, pulling, or pitchfork is required, and the device cuts down on waste. The cost of an unroller ranges, but the one on the farm was around $1,000.

When we think about accommodations in farming, we’re more likely to think of modifications related to mobility impairments (e.g., back injuries) as opposed to cognitive/neurological impairments (e.g., depression). Yet, one of the areas where farming has expanded are projects in agriculture targeting veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Can you talk about why you think the connection between veterans with PTSD and agricultural careers has been an important one?

Veterans are usually very natural farmers. They are often hands-on learners who enjoy physical work and have excellent mechanical skills. Farming engages every part of the human body because of the physical and mental connection a farmer must have to the livestock or the crops produced. Farming is a way for veterans to be a part something where they are an integral part of a team and a community where others depend on them.

Surprisingly enough, farmers and veterans already have a lot in common. They both want meaningful employment, enjoy working outdoors, believe in restoration, and want to provide others a service. It is a career that will last a lifetime.

Finally, more women than ever have taken on primary roles in agricultural businesses. What changes have you seen over your lifetime from growing up on a multi-generational family farm to being the woman in charge of the operation?

Well, when it comes to being taken seriously, farming still isn’t an easy prospect for women. But, once you prove yourself, it’s like any other career. Your work speaks for itself. I’ve had a lot of farmers ask about the livestock handling device, as they are interested in accommodating themselves now that they are aging. When something comes natural to you, you have to believe in yourself and your decisions. There are no mistakes, there are just teachable moments.

Resources:

1. Learn more about Dr. Loy and her farm

Loy’s Farm, LLC.

Farm Credit of the Virginias
Feature – Women in Agriculture
Back to the Farm

Hampshire Review
Back in Business

2. National AgrAbility Project
Breaking New Ground Resource Center
Purdue University
ABE Bldg., 225 South University Street
West Lafayette IN 47907-2093

Veterans & Beginning Farmers

“The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities, so that they, their families, and their communities continue to succeed in rural America. For this target audience, ‘success’ may be defined by many parameters, including: gainful employment in production agriculture or a related occupation; access to appropriate assistive technology needed for work and daily living activities; evidence-based information related to the treatment and rehabilitation of disabling conditions; and targeted support for family caregivers of AgrAbility customers. AgrAbility addresses a wide variety of disabling conditions in agriculture, including, but not limited to: arthritis, spinal cord injuries/paralysis, back impairments, amputations, brain injury, visual impairments, hearing impairments, disabling diseases, cerebral palsy, respiratory impairments, and head injury.”

3. Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

Dr. Temple Grandin’s Livestock Website

Thinking in Pictures – (My Life with Autism)

4. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Veterans – USDA Supports America’s Heroes

Women in Agriculture

5. PBS – Independent Lens

Farmer/Veteran

 

 

 

Magnifiers, Screen Readers, and Braille – Oh My!

Posted by Kim Cordingly on February 28, 2018 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology, Vendors | Comments are off for this article

By Brittany Lambert, Consultant – Sensory and Cognitive/Neurological Teams

February is Low Vision Awareness Month. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 253 million people are living with vision impairments with 36 million individuals who are blind and 217 million having moderate to severe vision loss. When you hear the phrase “low vision,” what types of accommodations come to mind? As a consultant on JAN’s sensory team, I often handle questions regarding devices and technology designed for people with low vision. Some of the accommodation ideas frequently discussed include magnifiers, text to speech technology, and Braille materials. Let’s take a closer look at these popular accommodations.

 Magnifying devices allow the user to view an enlarged version of an object or document. Magnifiers can be handheld or stationary. The portability of handheld magnifiers can make them a practical choice for many situations, but they are generally not ideal for prolonged use. Stand magnifiers may be more appropriate for tasks that require extended periods of usage, like reading long passages of printed text. Head-mounted magnifiers can be useful for hands-on activities such as threading a needle.

Digital magnifying devices are also popular among people with low vision. Video magnifiers, such as closed-circut televisions (CCTVs) and portable video magnifiers, feature cameras used to project an enlarged image onto a display screen. These devices also allow users to modify the appearance of the magnified image by adjusting contrast, brightness, and color settings. This can help to enhance readability.

Computer usage has become practically essential in today’s work world, and screen magnification software can help to ensure that the information on-screen is accessible to people with vision impairments. Most of these programs allow the user to choose the level of magnification, as well as the portion of the screen that will be enlarged. Some users may prefer full-screen magnification, while others may work best with only a small window of magnification.

Screen magnification software is helpful for many, but will not benefit individuals with little to no usable vision. Screen reading software helps to fill this gap. This software provides access to on-screen information by converting text into synthesized speech. While the use of voice output is common, it’s also possible to access this information by connecting a refreshable Braille display to the computer. Unlike the text-to-speech option, the use of a Braille display allows users an opportunity to read the materials.

Text-to-speech technology can make printed materials accessible as well. Devices with optical character recognition (OCR) features allow the user to scan printed text, then hear the information relayed in a synthetic voice or save it to a computer. Traditionally, OCR systems were only able to read printed text; anything handwritten could not be converted to synthesized speech. This standard has been changed by Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which now includes a handwriting recognition feature.

According to a report by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB), Braille literacy has been on the decline in the United States. Despite this trend, Braille can still play an important role in the workplace. Providing materials in Braille can be greatly beneficial to employees who are proficient with this reading system. It can also be used in conjunction with other tools, such as text-to-speech software, as appropriate. Employers can work with companies providing transcription services to obtain Braille versions of necessary documents. It may also be possible to create alternative versions in-house with the use of Braille translation software and a Braille printer or embosser. In addition, Braille notetakers can be used for word processing, document storage, and web browsing. Many newer Braille displays have note-taking capabilities, but it is possible to purchase a notetaker as a standalone device if desired.

Adding Braille signage throughout the workplace may also be a beneficial accommodation. A Braille labeler can be used to help the employee organize and identify frequently used items in the workspace. It’s possible to purchase office products, like telephones, that feature Braille characters.

Of course, this is only a small sample of the accommodation ideas that may be useful for employees with low vision. The specific accommodation needs of an employee with a vision impairment should be assessed individually, and the employer should strive to find a solution that is most effective for that person. If you have questions about a particular workplace situation, feel free to contact JAN for an individualized consultation!

Additional Resources:
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Vision Impairments
JAN Product Listing for Vision Impairments

 

 

 

 

 

Hearing Aid Tips When Using Telephone Headsets

Posted by Kim Cordingly on January 18, 2018 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology, Vendors | Comments are off for this article

By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant – Sensory Team

As the Lead Consultant on the JAN Sensory Team, I receive many questions about hearing aids and telephone headsets. One common issue with these type of questions is that there are many different types of hearing aids, as well as numerous models of headsets. Some hearing aids can work with specialized types of headsets, but in many cases, it is necessary to think outside the box and find a solution when there isn’t easy compatibility.

When seeking a hearing aid compatible headset, it may be necessary to clarify the features of the hearing aid that will be used, in relation to the type of headset features that provide the greatest compatibility. The assistance of an audiologist may be helpful in determining whether a specific type of equipment configuration will meet an individual’s needs.

For those with Bluetooth enabled hearing devices — whether hearing aids or cochlear implants — a typical approach is not to seek a Bluetooth headset, but instead connect to the phone in such a way that the sound from the phone is sent wirelessly into the hearing aid or cochlear implant to be amplified according to the treating audiologist’s chosen settings. This approach requires a Bluetooth streaming device that connects to the hearing aid or implant (via Bluetooth), and a telephone accessory or adaptor to connect the streaming device to the phone. The streaming device usually has a built-in microphone so that it can pick up the sound of the user’s voice and send it to the phone via an accessory or adaptor.  It also receives sound and sends it wirelessly to the user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. An example of such a product from Oticon is the ConnectLine.

An audiologist, otolaryngologist, or hearing device vendor may be helpful in determining the best type of streaming device to use, since not all streamers are compatible with all Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. Due to recent changes in regulations, it is now possible to purchase some types of hearing aids over the counter.  This means that more hearing aid users may be limited in their access to an audiologist.  However, it may be possible to get input from a hearing services professional via a telephone helpline or manufacturer’s website. These same professionals may be helpful in determining the best means of phone access for a particular individual, which in some cases may involve other technology instead of, or in addition to, technology to access the Bluetooth features of a hearing device. In some cases, a smartphone with a mobile app may substitute for the streaming device.

As an alternative accommodation example, a non-Bluetooth enabled phone can be adapted using a Bluetooth streamer such as the Plantronics MDA200 with a SSP-2714-01 Bluetooth Dongle to connect the streamer to a desk phone. Some users may also prefer to use a handset lifter, such as the Plantronics HL10 Handset Lifter in order to answer the phone from a distance. These Plantronics products are but some of many examples of assistive technologies that may be beneficial in accommodating sensory impairments. JAN does not endorse or recommend products or vendors, but offers options that may facilitate an effective accommodation.

Not all hearing aids have Bluetooth capability; some use a different technology. One such alternative technology is the telecoil or t-coil, which also receives sound signals wirelessly. Some headsets designated as “hearing aid compatible” by manufacturers and vendors are compatible with hearing aids that have a telecoil, but are not compatible with Bluetooth enabled hearing aids, or those that have neither telecoils nor Bluetooth chips.

Some individuals may have been instructed by an audiologist to use their hearing aids in microphone mode (as opposed to t-coil or Bluetooth) with a headset. This may be because of the specific type of hearing aid they are using. When this is necessary, some individuals find it helpful to use a speakerphone or a high-quality headset with large ear cups and lots of padding, and perhaps other features designed to block ambient sound.

For more detailed assistance with these types of workplace accommodation questions, contact JAN for one-on-one support.

Resources:

Noise Cancelling Headsets
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Hearing Loss
Hearing Impairments – Frequently Requested Products

 

Breaking the Mold with Workplace Accommodations

Posted by Kim Cordingly on December 6, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Brittany Lambert, Consultant – Sensory and Cognitive/Neurological Teams

The consultants on JAN’s sensory team frequently field questions regarding allergies and respiratory impairments. One common trigger for allergic reactions and respiratory distress is exposure to mold. Many employers are unsure of the appropriate steps to take upon learning that an employee has a sensitivity to mold. Is this an ADA issue? What accommodation options should be considered? These are just a couple of the questions employers may have while navigating the interactive process with an employee who is sensitive to mold.

What exactly is mold? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several thousand species of fungi that are classified as molds. Some of the most common species of molds include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, and Aspergillus. Mold spores are present virtually everywhere, but mold growth is particularly plentiful in warm places with lots of moisture and humidity. Buildings that have been subjected to water damage are especially prone to mold growth.

Many employers who contact JAN are unsure whether mold sensitivity is considered a disability under the ADA. The ADA does not include a list of medical conditions that are considered disabilities. Rather, it contains a general definition of disability. Under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who:

  1. Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  2. Has a record of such an impairment; or
  3. Is regarded as having such an impairment.

In order to fall under the ADA’s protection, an individual must meet this definition. JAN provides additional guidance that may assist employers in making this determination.

The health consequences of mold exposure will vary from person to person. This means some individuals with mold sensitivity will meet the ADA’s definition of disability, and some will not. For those with relatively healthy immune systems, symptoms of exposure may be mild. The CDC states that the most common symptoms include nasal stuffiness, wheezing, coughing, and irritation to the eyes or skin. People who have respiratory impairments, mold allergies, or compromised immune systems may experience more severe symptoms. Individuals with asthma may be at increased risk for an asthma attack when exposed to mold. According to the Mayo Clinic, those with compromised immune systems may develop an allergic reaction or infection in the lungs after contact with Aspergillus spores. This disease, known as aspergillosis, can become very serious if the infection enters the blood vessels.

How can employers accommodate employees with mold sensitivity? Exposure to mold should be eliminated or reduced whenever possible. Mold remediation can be a good place to start. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance on this process in its 2008 publication entitled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. If the employer chooses to continue operations during the cleanup, it may be appropriate to move the employee to another location, or allow the employee to telework until the mold has been removed. Temporary job restructuring, as well as leave time, may also be effective.

After remediation has occurred, the employer should take appropriate steps to prevent future mold growth. It is critical to identify and address sources of moisture within the workplace. Installing a dehumidifier can help to eliminate excess moisture in the air. An air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter may reduce the spread of allergens by trapping airborne mold spores. It can also be beneficial to consult with a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist to ensure optimum air quality within the building. You can find an industrial hygienist in your area by using the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s Consultants Listing resource.

Masks can sometimes be an effective solution, but employers should consider this option carefully. While masks may work well for some employees, they pose significant concerns for others. Depending on the individual and the medical condition involved, masks may be contraindicated. We generally advise employees to consult with a medical provider to determine what options may be safe to use. Not all masks are created equal, and it’s important to choose an option that is designed to filter the irritant in question. Some employees may be uncomfortable with wearing a mask because it will be visible to others in the workplace. To avoid coercing employees into disclosing that they are receiving an accommodation, employers should not insist that employees use a mask unless an employee wishes to do so voluntarily. Employers should consider these factors when examining the effectiveness of this accommodation option.

It may be necessary to provide accommodations that allow the employee to manage symptoms if exposure does occur. The employee may benefit from additional breaks to use medication or get fresh air. A flexible schedule, including intermittent leave as needed, may also be effective.

Dealing with workplace mold can be challenging, but appropriate accommodations may help to ensure the safety, well-being, and productivity of employees. If you have further questions, feel free to contact JAN for an individualized consultation.

Additional Resources:

Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Environmental Illness (EI)

Accommodation and Compliance Series: Respiratory Impairment

Searchable Online Accommodation Resource: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

 

 

Shining a Light on Sun Safety

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 25, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month! As thunderstorms hit and temperatures rise, I’m reminded that summer is quickly approaching. Time sure does fly by — it feels like we were just celebrating the holidays. With warm weather comes gardening, swimming, cookouts, hiking, and various other outdoor activities. It’s important that we remember to protect ourselves when we are in the sun. While having a warm summer glow can be nice, we want to make sure we are staying hydrated and protecting ourselves from harmful UV rays.

At JAN, we receive calls regarding skin cancer or other medical conditions that cause sensitivity to the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer within their lifetime. In addition, they estimate that there will be 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma that will be diagnosed in the U.S. during 2017.

Whether you are in the sun for leisure or work, there may be preparations you can make to protect yourself. If you are planning to spend some time in the sun, make sure you are equipped with water, sunglasses, a protective hat, and most importantly, sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher supplies good protection. The SPF appropriate for you may vary depending on complexion, medical history, and sensitivity. Be sure to read the bottle to know how long it will last and when to reapply.

If you are in need of extra protection, you might look into sun protection clothing, window film, or even UV shelters if you will be spending a lengthy amount of time in the direct sunlight. These types of products might be helpful for home use or on the job.

If you have a disability or medical condition that causes sensitivity to the sun, and you work outdoors or are regularly exposed to the sunlight, you might contact JAN and explore specific accommodations that might be needed or could be beneficial.

Don’t let sun sensitivity bring you down and make you stay indoors this summer. There may be solutions that can help you stay protected while also having fun.

JAN Staff promoting Skin Cancer Awareness
JAN Staff Supporting Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Resources:
Accommodation ideas for Photosensitivity
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Cancer
UV Protection Shelters
Sun/UV Protective Clothing

 

 

Reading Made Easier

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 5, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Events, Products / Technology, Vendors | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

This past February, I had the opportunity to attend the annual California State University Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology conference in San Diego. While I was there, I got to take in a wide variety of products, resources, and sessions. One particular product that caught my attention was the C-Pen Reader. I noticed their booth across the hall from our JAN booth on the first day. When I got the opportunity to walk around the exhibit hall, I decided to check it out. I soon learned that the C-Pen Reader was a pocket size device that looked similar to a pen or highlighter.

The first pen I tried at the booth was the Reader pen. To use the pen, you simply move it over the line of text you need to read, then hold it up to your ear. The pen also has a place to plug in headphones to help with listening as you scan. The pen reads out loud to you the information on the written document. I thought this could be such a great resource for an individual who occasionally has to read written documents for their job. If someone has difficulty reading or processing auditory information, this might allow them to get through the information more easily, or ensure that they are understanding things correctly. The Reader pen can read aloud in English or Spanish and has a built in dictionary feature that can be used. When needing to know the meaning of a word, you can select the dictionary option and it will display and read the definition. The pen can also scan lines of text to be uploaded to a PC or Mac device.

The second pen I saw was the C-Pen Exam Reader. This pen has the same functions as the Reader pen without the dictionary feature. It can be used for testing situations and allows the material and questions to be read to the employee or student. This pen has the sole function to read and has the ability to be used with five languages — English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German. This pen could be a resource for individuals to request to use in testing situations, or could be something that employers or teachers have on hand for individuals who may benefit from it.

The third type of pen I experimented with was the Dictionary Pen. This pen is used for the dictionary function alone and can be beneficial when there are words that an individual does not know or needs to be reminded of. The Dictionary pen has the ability to work with English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Russian, and Mandarin.

On the cognitive/neurological team here at JAN, we frequently receive calls regarding learning disabilities or other impairments that may affect reading or the way someone processes information. These pens could be helpful as an accommodation for individuals in a variety of situations that require reading.

If you feel you or someone you know may benefit from a product such as a C-Pen, you can find more information on the company’s Website.

For information on typical kinds of accommodations we see for individuals with learning disabilities, as well as some ideas for testing situations, see the following publications:

Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Learning Disabilities

Accommodation and Compliance Series: Testing Accommodations

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

Mental health is how we feel, think and behave as we manage our lives. Our mental health impacts our relationships and the decisions we make. Living in an increasingly fast-paced and complicated world may cause us to experience difficulty when managing our lives. Like our physical health, paying attention to our mental health is equally essential throughout our lives.

Life can be stressful for all of us at one time or another. Stress can be caused by the annoyances of daily life such as traffic, deadlines at work, or illnesses. It can also be caused by more serious issues like the termination of a job, the loss of a loved one, or financial difficulties. How do we determine if the stress or discomfort we are feeling is a normal reaction to a passing difficulty in our lives or the symptom of a more serious problem, possibly a mental health impairment that may require treatment?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), mental health impairments are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. Mental health impairments can affect persons of any age, religion, or race, or any level of income or education. They are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. Mental health impairments are common – they affect approximately 43.8 million Americans in a given year. According to NAMI, one in five adults in the U.S. will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

Based on an article on the Mayo Clinic Website entitled Mental Health: What’s Normal, What’s Not, factors you should consider when evaluating your mental health may include the following information about your symptoms:  how long you have had them; how serious they are; how upsetting they are to you; and how they affect your life. If you have questions about your feelings, thoughts or actions and whether the problems you may be experiencing are “normal” or merit some type of evaluation, remember to ask for help. Contact a health care provider such as a family physician. They often can refer you to a more specialized professional if it’s warranted. According to NAMI, early identification and treatment is of vital importance. It’s important to note that the best treatments today for even serious mental illnesses are highly effective.

The Cleveland Clinic offers tips for improving both your physical and mental health and helping to reduce stress. Here are just a few:

  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Don’t rely on drugs or alcohol.

Job accommodations can be vital for the successful employment of individuals with mental health impairments. Difficulties with concentration, memory, organization, task completion, and coworker interaction are just some of the issues an individual with a mental health impairment may experience in the workplace. JAN consultants provide technical assistance to both employees and employers who are seeking information about effective workplace accommodations that affect job performance. See JAN’s mental health publications for accommodation ideas.

The following “real life” examples show how three employees with mental health impairments were successfully accommodated.

An administrative assistant in a social service agency has bipolar disorder. Her duties include typing, word processing, filing, and answering the telephone. She experiences difficulties with concentration and short-term memory. Her accommodations include assistance in organizing her work and a dual headset for her telephone that allows her to listen to music when not talking on the telephone. The use of the headset minimizes distractions, increases concentration, and relaxes the employee. Also, meetings are held with the supervisor once a week to discuss workplace issues. These meetings are recorded so the employee can remember issues they discuss. She can replay the information as often as she needs.

An architect with an anxiety disorder works in a large, busy, and open office. She requests a private workspace to help her handle stress and emotions brought on by the open, crowded, and often noisy environment. The employer agrees, and also provides telework as an option as well as flexible scheduling for when the employee is particularly stressed while under firm deadlines.

An employee with agoraphobia works from home full-time as a benefit of employment.  When new management comes on board, the whole telework program is scrapped and everyone is required to return to the office. The employee, who never had to disclose and request an accommodation, now asks for a policy modification that allows him to continue to work from home. The new management considers his request and finds no hardship in allowing him to continue to telework.

If you or someone you know needs more individualized assistance with job accommodations, contact JAN directly. Our services are free and confidential.

Additional Resources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Mental Health Month
NAMI – StigmaFree
Mayo Clinic – Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIMH – Mental Health Information

 

Do-It-Yourself Accommodations

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 20, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Matthew McCord, Consultant – Motor Team

Back in 2014, Elisabeth Simpson wrote a Blog post on low cost accommodation solutions. Three years have passed since then, and I think it is time to revisit this subject and provide you all with some additional options to keep in your toolkit. However, this post will focus more on Do-It-Yourself style accommodations. So, if you are one to enjoy rolling up your sleeves and tackling accommodation needs directly rather than purchasing a product, then this Blog article is for you. Even if you aren’t a hands-on kind of person, some of these options may still be helpful.

To begin, I think it is best to lay down the rules of what this Blog is about. Have you ever looked into accommodation options and thought, “I am sure you could make this yourself and it would be much cheaper to do so?” If so, that is the question that drives this Blog. Some of you may be worrying that the following may be a little out of your depth, so let me assure you, it is certainly possible that you have done more complex projects of your own than what I will be giving you below.

First, let’s start simple. Have you ever looked into height adjustable table legs as an accommodation option? Well, if you do not need the ability to periodically adjust from sitting to standing height, you can increase the height of a desk by lifting it up and placing the legs on cinder blocks or bricks. You can similarly lower a desk by removing the legs entirely and placing it on cinder blocks to achieve the height needed.

Next, let’s go for a little more complex option. Sit/stand workstations are a very common accommodation request and I often point out our vendor listing for monitor risers as a solution for those needs. However, you can achieve the same results by stacking some phone books up to the appropriate height and then placing a second monitor on top of them. To make that monitor usable, you will need to raise up a keyboard tray to place a second keyboard and mouse on. You could also use the same keyboard and mouse for both monitors, but depending on individual needs, it may be best to get another set rather than constantly moving things around. To make such a tray, you can use a shelving insert from an old bookshelf for instance. You can also look into using pink board, which can be purchased from building supply stores, if no empty bookshelves are readily available. If you are concerned about towers of phone books toppling over, then you can bind them together using duct tape. As a bonus, you can also create a footrest out of old phonebooks that are bound together in the same manner.

On the topic of desks and computers, spare binder clips can be used to help organize electronic device wiring. This can be helpful for IT employees with vision impairments to quickly locate the needed wires. An additional step that can be helpful here is using a strip of scotch tape and labeling each wire by writing on the tape and then sticking it on the binder clip or using some tactile dots and markers as an alternative method of labelling depending on severity of the individual’s visual impairment. This will provide the added benefit of making an otherwise incomprehensible mass of wires tidier as well!

In the spirit of keeping things organized, this next idea can be very helpful for people with memory limitations. If you have an employee with such issues who often leaves keys laying around, you can use a carabiner to keep multiple sets of keys together and allow the employee to clip them directly on their clothing via belt loops. This is a practice that I learned from my father. As a custodian for a school, he needed to carry around a bunch of keys and this was how he kept track of them all.

This last option will be the only one that involves the use of power tools. Let’s say you are looking into options for an employee with pain and cramping in the wrist and hands from all the writing they need to do. This can be a big problem for people with carpal tunnel syndrome. A simple way to help with this is to measure the writing utensil being used (pens, pencil, and whiteboard markers are all common targets for this), and then use a power drill a make a hole through a tennis ball just big enough to fit the utensil through it. Now, the employee can hold onto the ball instead of the pen, pencil, or marker and put less pressure on the wrist to hold it. If you are one to shy away from using power tools, or simply do not own them, there are similar styles of writing aids available to purchase directly from vendors.

I know it is an impulse to immediately think of purchasing something when accommodations are requested. Sometimes this is the only real option. However, I hope this Blog has helped to give you some brain food on what we can do to help accommodate our employees and even ourselves with a little ingenuity. A bit of elbow grease and out of the box thinking can go a long way!

JAN Goes West to CSUN

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 12, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Events, Products / Technology, Vendors | Comments are off for this article

By: Lisa Mathess, Senior Consultant — Motor Team

JAN was lucky enough to travel to sunny California at the beginning of March to present and exhibit at the 32nd Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. JAN has had a presence at this conference consistently for the past 10 years. The exhibit hall held more than 120 exhibitors displaying new and upcoming assistive technologies (AT), along with vendors promoting new improvements on existing products. The JAN booth was buzzing with traffic from service providers, instructors, and individuals with disabilities who all were pleasantly surprised to learn about JAN’s mission and services, especially that they are free! We were also greeted by loyal JAN fans that just stopped by to say, “Hi — glad to see you are here!”

JAN consultants gave two presentations at the conference – the first on accommodating employees with disabilities in a healthcare setting and the second on accommodating educational professionals with AT. If you would like to view corresponding publications on these topics, please see JAN’s Accommodation Ideas by Occupation or Industry.

In between exhibiting and presenting, I managed to find some time to attend some other sessions focusing on accommodations within the Federal government. It is always interesting to see how others implement their accommodation programs and make effective accommodations for their employees. Although the Federal sector is technically covered under the Rehabilitation Act, the same principles apply as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to private employers. The Federal sector strives to be a model employer, so often they are held to higher standards than the ADA would require. It’s also satisfying that during their sessions, these Federal agencies recommended JAN as a resource for accommodation solutions and ADA compliance. For more info, please see Federal Employment of People with Disabilities. Another useful accommodation resource available to some Federal departments is the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) located at the Department of Defense (DoD). CAP’s mission is “to provide assistive technology and accommodations to support individuals with disabilities and wounded, ill and injured Service members throughout the Federal Government in accessing information and communication technology.”

If you have questions about the JAN presentations at CSUN or want more information on accommodations, please feel free to speak with a JAN consultant at (800) 526-7234 (Voice), (877) 781-9403 (TTY), or visit us online at AskJAN.org.