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

 

 

 

Common Questions about Providing Equipment as an Accommodation

Posted by Kim Cordingly on July 15, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology, Veterans Issues | Comments are off for this article

By: Elisabeth Simpson, Lead Consultant – Motor Team

As the Lead Consultant for the Motor Team, I am asked questions daily about the provision of equipment as an accommodation. Employers, individuals, and even rehabilitation professionals often ask if JAN provides equipment, who is responsible for buying equipment, and what resources are available to the employer if the cost of a piece of equipment would be an undue hardship.

Let’s start with the easy question first: Does JAN provide equipment? The answer is pretty simple. We do not provide or supply any type of equipment, technology, etc. Additionally, JAN does not offer on-site evaluations or worksite assessments of any type. We are limited, in a way, to providing assistance and guidance from a distance, but have developed an extensive product and vendor database for this reason. JAN consultants are trained to ask questions that help us better understand the work environment so we are able to offer accommodation ideas that are effective. When possible, we can direct you to where a piece of equipment or product can be purchased or even offer a variety of options for you to choose as the accommodation.

As for questions related to who is responsible for buying equipment — the EEOC has indicated that the employer is ultimately responsible for providing work-related equipment or devices as an accommodation, absent undue hardship. In some cases, an employee may be working with vocational rehabilitation services (VR) and the cost could be shared. In other cases, the employer can choose a less expensive accommodation as long as the alternative option selected is effective. In general, when an employer purchases a piece of equipment it is then owned by that employer. In situations where the cost is shared, it is important that a discussion take place as part of the interactive process so there will be a plan for what will happen with the equipment if/when the employee no longer needs it or no longer works for the employer.

Resources may be available for some employers to help with the cost of providing equipment as an accommodation. Tax credits could be taken advantage of if the employer qualifies or if the employee is part of a targeted group. Additional information about various tax incentives are available on JAN’s Website. Federal employers may be able to take advantage of the services offered by the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP), which provides assistive technology and services to people with disabilities, Federal managers, supervisors, and IT professionals. Employees may be able to receive funding for assistive technology from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (if veterans or service members); the Social Security Administration’s Plan To Achieve Self-Support (PASS) and other work incentives; non-profit disability organizations; and civic or service organizations (Lions Club, VFW, Rotary Club, etc.). Employers can also look into state workers’ compensation programs if the disability was caused by a work-related injury.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that while there may be a cost associated with purchasing a piece of equipment, there are many options available for employers to consider when this is the accommodation being provided. Additionally, the EEOC has offered guidance on how to determine undue hardship and JAN consultants on all teams are ready and willing to discuss options with you!

Additional Resources:

Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact

JAN ADA Library

State Assistive Technology Projects

JAN Searchable Online Accommodation Resource

Assistance Dogs in the Workplace – Reflections on How to Make It Work – Part 2

Posted by Kim Cordingly on September 10, 2014 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Veterans Issues, Webcasts | Comments are off for this article

By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant

On August 5, 2014, JAN presented a Webcast entitled Best Practices – Employment and Service Dogs: Perspectives from Assistance Dog Experts during International Assistance Dog Week featuring assistance (or “service”) dog experts Dr. Margaret Glenn and Marcie Davis. For those who missed the original Webcast, this presentation is now archived and available in the training section of JAN’s Website.

This is the second installment of a two-part series on the increasingly important role of assistance dogs in the workplace and best practices that support both employee and employer.

Dr. Margaret Glenn is an associate professor in the rehabilitation counseling program at West Virginia University. In addition to her teaching and administrative responsibilities, her research interests include substance abuse and addiction; alternative health care practices; effective counseling strategies for vocational counselors; and integrative medical and mental health care. In 2012, Glenn was awarded the Switzer Distinguished Disability and Rehabilitation Research Fellowship by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to conduct an exploratory study of assistance dog partnerships in the workplace.

In our conversation, Glenn described her interest in assistance dogs as something that developed organically — partly from a desire to branch out into other areas of research, the need for more information on this topic, and a personal interest in the positive role dogs play in our lives. Little academic research has been done on the use of assistance dogs in the workplace and what factors come into play to make it work successfully from the standpoint of both employer and employee. As an increasing number of people with disabilities seek the support of assistance dogs both in public spaces and workplaces, Glenn felt there needed to be a wider conversation addressing both the benefits and concerns about these arrangements, particularly in the employment arena.

The research from her one-year study is documented in the journal article An Exploratory Study of the Elements of Successful Service Dog Partnerships in the Workplace published in 2013. Glenn’s study explores the research question, “What elements are present in the process of creating service dog partnerships in the workplace.” Based on our conversation and this article, I’d like to highlight a few important takeaways that particularly impact effective employment arrangements.

  • Assistance (service) dogs have greatly expanded their “jobs” beyond assisting those with seeing and hearing impairments to include medical response (such as alerting someone to low blood sugar), mobility and task assistance for a person using a wheelchair, psychiatric support for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name a few. Many of these functions may be for an individual with a hidden disability.
  • Dog partnerships in the workplace is new territory for many employers and Glenn highlights anecdotal concerns such as employees with allergies, potential disruption in the workplace, liability issues, a pet being called a service animal when it is not, and daily logistics such as dog relief areas.
  • There is frequently confusion between the different titles of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerning service dogs. Title II and III require covered entities to permit service animals in public spaces. However, Title I (the employment provisions) applies to the workplace and does not require employers per se to allow employees to bring service dogs to work. Instead, the use of service animals is a form of reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Therefore, when an employee asks to bring a service animal to work, the employer should engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine, on a case by case basis, whether the service animal will be allowed.
  • Glenn’s research seeks to establish a “baseline” of what components are present in successful dog partnerships in the workplace from the perspective of various stakeholders including service dog trainers, individuals with disabilities partnered with service dogs, and vocational rehabilitation counselors. She points out that a limitation of the study was the absence of employer participation despite seeking their input. Anecdotally, Glenn shared with me a conversation she had with a personal contact (and employer) concerning how he would respond to a service animal in his workplace. She was surprised at the misunderstandings and apprehension surrounding service animal use, but found after a candid conversation on the subject, he recognized the profound benefits.
  • Participants in Glenn’s research identified 68 elements they felt were germane to successful dog partnerships. These elements were clustered under the following categories: (1) dog preparation, (2) monitoring, (3) employee competence, (4) legal knowledge, (5) information and education, and (6) coworker preparation.

While not all of these items can be discussed here, a sample of “brainstormed” elements generated by participants include:

–       Under dog preparation:
The dog is well behaved; controlled by vocal command.
The service dog has received training appropriate for the specific workplace.

–       Under monitoring:
The person who is bringing the dog into the workplace must take responsibility for the dog’s behavior and reinforce appropriate boundaries with colleagues.
The dog’s ability to be invisibly present at work.

–       Under employee competence:
The employee or job applicant is able to articulate the specific job related and supportive task(s) that will include the service dog.
For those already working, having a discussion with the employer as part of the decision to obtain a service dog.

–       Under legal knowledge:
An informed understanding of the employer’s legal responsibilities and rights related to the decisions associated with a service dog team in the workplace.
A procedure for establishing options in response to coworkers who are allergic to animals.

–       Under information and education:
The knowledge that service dogs in the workplace break down barriers and facilitate positive social interactions and workplace relationships.
The involvement of vocational rehabilitation counselors and resources to assist both the business and individual in the modification or adaptation of the workplace.

–       Under coworker preparation:
The establishment and respecting of boundaries for the service dog, handler, coworkers, and customers.
A tone set by the supervisor that values and appreciates what a service dog team brings to the employment setting, modeling for the entire workforce.

  • The study participants identified the item(s) with the highest importance as those associated with the monitoring cluster, which focused on paying attention to behavior and task completion, care, and hygiene in the workplace to prevent any problems. This also reinforces an ongoing process of either formal or informal assessment with the goal of ensuring a successful workplace partnership.
  • As mentioned earlier, Glenn’s research participants outline 68 elements stakeholders felt were important to successful dog partnerships. She writes, “…the service dog partnership is successful when all operate within guidelines that provide recommendations for all concerned.” She goes on to say, “The benefits appear to be many and outweigh any potential barriers, with the right mix of information and innovation on the part of employers and employees alike.”

One interesting point Glenn mentioned was that having an assistance dog does identify you in the workplace as an individual with a disability. Because issues of disclosure can be complicated for an individual with a disability, this might be an issue to consider. Lastly, Glenn noted the expanding role of service dogs for certain constituencies – particularly disabled veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with PTSD, brain injuries, and mobility impairments.

Continued research on the expanding role of assistance dog partnerships in the workplace will play an important role in understanding how to make them work effectively and enhance employment success for employees and employers alike.

Glenn, M. (2013). Exploratory study of the elements of successful service dog use in the workplace. ISRN Rehabilitation, Volume 2013.

JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series: Service Animals in the Workplace

JAN Webcast: Best Practices – Employment and Service Dogs: Perspectives from Assistance Dog Experts

Working Like Dogs

International Assistance Dog Week

Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook

Service Dog Etiquette

Assistance Dogs in the Workplace – Reflections on How to Make It Work – Part 1

Posted by Kim Cordingly on August 25, 2014 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Veterans Issues | Comments are off for this article

By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant

On August 5, 2014, JAN presented a Webcast during International Assistance Dog Week featuring assistance (or “service”) dog experts Dr. Margaret Glenn and Marcie Davis. For those who missed the original Webcast, this presentation is now archived and available beginning this week in the training section of JAN’s Website.

In honor of Assistance Dog Week, I had the privilege of speaking with both Glenn and Davis about their personal experiences, as well as their knowledge of effective practices that help successfully integrate assistance dogs into the workplace – Marcie from the perspective of a person partnered with an assistance dog and Margaret from the perspective of an academic researcher. This will be the first installment of a two part series on the increasingly important role of assistance dogs in the workplace and best practices that support both employee and employer.

Many of us have had the experience of being in an environment where we don’t expect to see a dog, first wondering if it’s a very well behaved pet, then realizing it’s a working dog – providing services to an individual with a disability. Recently, I was in a department store with my family when an individual who was blind entered with his assistance dog, along with a friend he was shopping with. We were in the line to make our purchase when they got in the line behind us. Because the man had a visible disability, my mother and sister understood the role of the assistance dog; still, they were not sure what to do. As a family of dog lovers, they wanted to talk to and pet the dog. I think that’s how many people feel – not sure what to do – how to behave – what is appropriate. It’s a new situation. The circumstances become more confusing when an assistance dog is partnered with an individual with an invisible disability such as epilepsy or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The service these dogs provide to these individuals is no less important, but we may not know what the function of the dog is, which may be to alert a person to an oncoming seizure or to provide emotional support to a veteran experiencing residual trauma. This is why education is key to both understanding the role of assistance animals and their expanding role in the lives of people with disabilities, particularly in the workplace.

While we’ve become more accustomed to encountering assistance dogs in public spaces, in workplace settings, the presence of an assistance dog as an accommodation is more unfamiliar and complex. Margaret writes in her recent journal article An Exploratory Study of the Elements of Successful Service Dog Partnerships in the Workplace, “…many people with significant disabilities are seeking entry into the workplace with their animals in an effort to allow themselves to benefit from the more normal rhythm of life afforded to others. That is creating a challenge for employers and employees alike as they navigate the legal and social implications of animals in the workplace and work to understand the validity of their service.” International Assistance Dog Week was established by Davis with multiple goals — to honor the role assistance dogs play in the lives of human partners with disabilities, to raise awareness and educate the public about the role these dogs perform in expanding the quality of life for the individuals they’re partnered with, and to recognize the heroic deeds these dogs perform for individuals and in their communities. For effective workplace practices, the education piece is critical.

Marcie Davis – Business Owner, Advocate, Writer, and Human Partner to Her Dog Whistle

Marcie Davis

 

Davis is an assistance dog expert, founder of International Assistance Dog Week, author of the book Working Like Dogs: The Assistance Dog Guidebook, creator of the Website Working Like Dogs, and host of the radio show Working Like Dogs Radio.

When I spoke to Davis, I wanted to get an idea about her 20-year relationship with the various assistance dogs she has been partnered with over the years, particularly in a workplace context. Davis says unequivocally that having her first assistance dog changed her life completely – both in terms of daily life and in her career progression. She said that once partnered, with the independence it afforded her, career opportunities began to open up in a way they hadn’t before. Her assistance dog became an integral part of how she lived her life. She emphasized it’s a unique relationship – you’re with the dog 24 hours a day – you develop a bond and trust that has to be a two way street. She also pointed out that having a dog requires work, the training needs to be ongoing, and it’s necessary to meet the needs of the dog as well as your own. It necessitates mutual love and respect – you have to learn from one another.

Even though assistance dogs are very well trained prior to their placement, like all living beings, issues can and do arise. Davis recounts an instance with her current dog Whistle, when in training, was exposed to a gas explosion in an adjacent building. As a result, he had flashbacks related to noise that emerged in certain situations – particularly airline travel. Flying was a necessary activity for Davis who speaks internationally and travels frequently. She explained that it was necessary to bring a trainer into that particular situation to work with Whistle under those specific circumstances in order to resolve his fears. Every dog and human are different, so Davis points out that each relationship with her dogs has been unique. A reciprocal relationship means that you respect these differences and build from there. As a result, your partnered dog will want to work for you leading to an incredible relationship.

What makes for a good working dog? Davis describes a good working dog as there and attuned, but not to be seen – tucked in but always there. She describes how initially in business situations her clients would be aware of the dog, because it was something new, but after a while, they would forget the dog was even there. In a way, she said he would be like any assistive device, there enabling tasks to be carried out. Whistle accompanying Davis is no longer something she thinks about as optional; he is an integral part of her work life and goes where she goes. She described in her consulting business a potential client who wanted to hire her, but objected to the dog being on site at their facility. For Davis, this was non-negotiable. When she explained more to the client the role Whistle played for her, the issue was quickly resolved. They even requested training for their managers about the role of assistance dogs. Davis described this as a “teachable moment.”

When I asked what advice she would give to individuals with assistance dogs and employers, she emphasized that communication is THE key. Each conversation will be different for everyone, but she stressed there needs to an open, honest dialogue. Education about the important role of service dogs in people’s work lives is essential. Davis’ Website was developed as a resource for individuals with assistance dogs, dog trainers, and employers to address many of these issues. The site features Blog posts highlighting effective human-dog partnerships in various workplace settings. A recent Blog post features Kathy Taylor who is hearing impaired and her dog Janet. Kathy works in the field as a system design engineer and travels to various customer sites. While traveling together by car, Janet accompanies her and is able to alert her to police and emergency sirens, tornado warnings, and other auditory cues by nudging her. Janet will let her know when the morning alarm goes off or if a fire alarm goes off at night.

As an advocate for the positive role assistance dogs can play in the lives of people with disabilities at work and at home, Davis’ love and respect for her own dog told the whole story. Whistle will be retiring soon and each transition Davis recounted sounded difficult for both dog and human. These are working dogs who need to be engaged and on task much of the time, so retirement is necessary after a period of time. But the love and relationship does not end with retirement. This devotion is part of the reciprocal partnership between dog and human.

In our next Blog, we’ll discuss Glenn’s research on successful dog partnerships in the workplace.

Resources:

JAN Webcast: Best Practices – Employment and Service Dogs: Perspectives from Assistance Dog Experts

Working Like Dogs

International Assistance Dog Week

Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook

Whistle’s Biography

Marcie Davis’ Biography

Service Dog Etiquette

JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series: Service Animals in the Workplace

Glenn, M. (2013). Exploratory study of the elements of successful service dog use in the workplace. ISRN Rehabilitation, Volume 2013.

JAN Guest Interview: Dinah Cohen, Director of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP), U.S. Department of Defense

Posted by Kim Cordingly on July 16, 2013 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology, Veterans Issues | Comments are off for this article

Dinah Cohen is the Director of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) at the U.S. Department of Defense. Ms. Cohen works closely with senior leadership throughout the Federal sector to ensure employees, beneficiaries, and members of the public with disabilities have equal access to Federal services and employment. Ms. Cohen also initiated a program to provide assistive technology and accommodation support to wounded service members to aid in their rehabilitation and recovery process.

Dr. Beth Loy, a Principal Consultant at JAN,  had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Cohen this month about the mission of the CAP program, the importance of making effective accommodations in the Federal sector, and their role in ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to Federal employment opportunities.

Can you talk about CAP, its mission, and how CAP’s mission has changed over the last few years?

The Department of Defense (DoD) established the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) to eliminate employment barriers for people with disabilities.  CAP’s mission, since its inception in 1990, is to provide assistive technology and accommodations to ensure people with disabilities and wounded Services members have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the DoD and throughout the Federal Government.

CAP has expanded beyond the DoD to partner with 68 federal agencies making it the largest provider of reasonable accommodations in the world.  The program’s vision is to increase employment of people with disabilities and disabled veterans by ensuring they have access to accommodations throughout the DoD and Federal Government.

Since 9/11, we are seeing more disabled veterans returning to the workplace as civilians with a range of disabling conditions. They are tech-savvy and are ready to work. The assistive technology options still lag behind the general technology changes. 

What do you feel is the most important change you have seen in the field of assistive technology since being the Director of CAP?

I have noticed there are more assistive technology solutions and successful integration of the technologies that can address the needs of individuals with multiple disabling conditions. Next, the cost of accommodations has gone down and I have noticed there are more embedded solutions in the operating systems and general applications and tools. Since the baby boomers are getting older, the market for enhancements and some accommodations are being required by a larger number of individuals.

 For individuals who are reluctant to ask for modifications on the job, what can CAP do to support them?

I believe if the individual is armed with the information of their assistive technology needs AND the FREE price tag, they would be more comfortable requesting the accommodation solution. Most individuals are hesitate to bring the accommodation conversation to managers IF they think it will add a cost factor to the decision for employment OR they are not sure what would work. The employee should be familiar with their accommodation solutions to help with this conversation

 What trends do you think will occur in the near future in the field of assistive technology?

The new mobile environment has provided flexibility and user-friendly solutions to many individuals with disabilities via lots of free apps and embedded technologies. There will always be a need for some assistive technology solutions to support an individual in the workplace. We need employers to consider the needs of their employees with disabilities as they move forward on their strategic plans for the company/agency’s information environment and enterprise solutions. More and more able-body and people with disabilities want to have a flexible work environment and telework. Unless we are looking on how to provide the right tools for EVERYBODY and have a secure and flexible information environment, we will miss the opportunity of being the employer of choice.

Can you give an example of a situation involving an individual who came to CAP, received assistive technologies, and was successful in implementing the technologies at work?

We have over 100,000 stories on how we have provided accommodations and how the individual has used it in the workplace. I encourage your readers to go to the CAP website and see the videos of the technologies and to YouTube to hear the testimonial of our customers and how they are using the technology in the work place at www.cap.mil.

Anything else…

I encourage your readers to visit our Website, download the CAP APP, be a CAP Fan and continue to work with CAP and JAN to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities and wounded Service members.