Observations from the 2017 Harkin Summit

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 30, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Events, Organizations | Be the First to Comment

By: Lou Orslene – JAN Co-Director

On November 2nd and 3rd, hundreds of people from around the world gathered at the Second Harkin Summit on Global Disability Employment to listen, network, and discuss the continuing employment challenges faced by people with disabilities, as well as to share the many inclusionary promising policies and practices initiated by policy makers, employers, and organizations supporting the aspirations of people with disabilities. We should all be very grateful to retired Senator Tom Harkin for continuing his passion to ensure the independence of people with disabilities through employment. This event enabled various constituencies who are passionate about this topic to convene and set a goal of substantially increasing the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities worldwide over the next ten years. While the challenges and models being developed internationally are important to us all, I have chosen to speak primarily to our domestic issues.

On the demand side, many private and public sector employers (EY, Merck, MicroSoft, J.P Morgan Chase, Scotiabank, Comcast, Walmart, New York City’s Office of the Mayor) known for their inclusive workplaces and for hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities discussed their internal and external challenges. Examples of some of the challenges faced by these employers included: educating risk aversive lawyers about inclusion; understanding the value of various service providers for people with disabilities; circumventing the limitations of a placement-focused employment model; creating a process and culture where applicants and candidates with disabilities are comfortable disclosing; and the perennial question of where to source highly qualified candidates for specialized jobs. One thing I heard clearly is that employer needs are quite varied. The company’s size, culture, leadership, and hiring needs are determinates in moving the enterprise forward along the inclusion continuum. This also has implications for replicating successful practices – what may work for one employer may not easily be adapted for another employer.

On the supply side, an increased number of young people with disabilities are earning advanced degrees and graduating with the skills and knowledge needed for employment. However, transitioning from school to work is particularly challenging for many young people with disabilities who may not have the soft skills expected by employers. Others may have such low expectations of themselves that work seems unachievable. While these barriers are significant for young people transitioning to work from college or university, transitioning young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities also face difficulties. The transition from sheltered workshops to competitive employment has been and continues to be a challenge. More choices need to be available for people with intellectual disabilities. New models need to be developed and programs known for their promising results need to be expanded.

Demand side solutions proposed at the Summit included educating and partnering with company lawyers thereby creating greater confidence in the disclosure and self-identification process. Across departments and sectors, ensuring everyone in the company understands the value proposition of hiring and retaining people with disabilities should be prioritized. There was much talk too about how technology will continue to level the playing field. Accessibility builds inclusion was the mantra. One consistent message permeated the Summit – government is important for creating solutions. Strengthening of the ADA and requiring Federal contractors to hire and retain people with disabilities have been and are expected to continue to be important to increasing the employment of people with disabilities. We also heard from state and local public sector employers exploring special hiring authorities such as the Federal government’s Schedule A program. This as well as other Federal initiatives are resulting in increasing the number of people in Federal service. And, from the conversations at the Summit, it may be time for expansion of successful existing employer-driven models such as Project Search and the Going for the Gold Program or even the creation of a new disability employment model evolving out of the talent needs of employers. Finally, there were conversations about developing a workgroup to analyze incentives for employing people – while these have had limited success in the past, it seemed important for participants to continue exploring the relevance of specific incentives.

On the supply side, I was heartened to hear of the World Institute on Disability’s (WID) Employment and Economic Empowerment E3 online resource, which addresses “often overlooked roadblocks to full inclusion and equity,”  including the low expectations young people have of themselves. Empowerment was a central theme of the discussions about preparing young people for the workplace. This came through loudly during a panel featuring stories by a number of young people. The approach they suggested was to empower youth to ensure they know they fit in. These young leaders shared with other young people that they will face challenges, but it is essential to be resilient, creative, and innovative. Important to this approach also is educating those in the rehabilitation system, as well as employers, about the value young people with disabilities bring to the workplace. These presenters suggested that employers should be guided by respect for diversity and strive to create a sense of belonging for employees. In addition to WID E3, leaders from Specialisterne discussed their knowledge of matching individuals with autism spectrum disorders with employment opportunities.

The Summit also included a number of foundations committed to moving the field of disability and employment forward. The Kessler Foundation’s 2017 National Employment & Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives; the Poses Family Foundation’s The Workforce Initiative, and the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Inclusion Summit participated in the Summit. The Ford Foundation, pushing fast and furious into this area with the help of Senior Fellow Judy Heumann, was represented by the Foundation’s President, Darren Walker.

The Summit ended with Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group. One thing came through loud and clear during Dr. Kim’s discussion with Senator Harkin – while we need to overcome the historic challenges we all have recognized for decades, we also need to be cognizant of the future threat of automation and the impact this will have on employment. It is expected as rate of automation increases low skill and entry level positions will disappear. Dr. Kim suggested that we stay tuned to the World Bank’s soon to be released environmental and social framework strongly correlating government spending on health and education with economic growth. World Bank research suggests that improving health is now known to be the biggest determinant of economic growth. Preliminary data on this is overwhelming. The message is invest in people first, make sure it is an inclusive process, and then this will create growth.

A big thanks goes out to Joseph Jones, Executive Director, The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement; Andy Imparato, Executive Director, Association of University Centers on Disabilities; and their teams for organizing this event. A special thanks also to all of the other leaders who moderated sessions.

We look forward to supporting and playing a part in the Harkin Summit goal of doubling the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities in the United States in the next 10 years through our work at JAN.

 

 

 

 

October is ADHD Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 12, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Events, Uncategorized | Comments are off for this article

Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

ADHD Awareness Month is celebrated annually to help improve the lives of those living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The theme for 2017, Knowing Better: ADHD Across the Life Span, highlights how individuals are affected at all stages of their lives. Focusing on the life span means being aware of the effects of ADHD at different times of life. It’s better for parents to know that ADHD might be part of the picture so they can seek out the help their child might need. It’s better for young adults to know so they might arrange for appropriate accommodations in school or the workplace. Lastly, it’s better for adults at any stage to recognize their ADHD so they can take proactive steps in their life and won’t be faced with underachievement and frustration.

ADHD is defined as, “a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting both children and adults. It is described as a ‘persistent’ or on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development. Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function (or the brain’s ability to begin an activity, organize itself and manage tasks) and working memory.”

Over 17 million Americans are affected by ADHD. At JAN, we consult daily with numerous people in a variety of situations to help employees with ADHD become more successful and productive in the workplace. We can help answer questions and guide individuals through the accommodation process that often begins with the application and interview stages, and may continue throughout the employment cycle.

Here are a few sample situations and solutions:

Situation: Stephen is a job applicant with questions about accommodations that might be needed while taking an employment test.

Solution: We spoke to him about what is required in a disclosure when requesting accommodations. Stephen wanted to request a private room in which to take a test instead of with multiple other applicants in a larger, more distracting room.

Situation: Tony is an attorney who contacted JAN for assistance with accommodations that could be put into place to help him with organization, prioritization, and task completion. He wasn’t sure what to ask for, or how.

Solution: As we walked Tony through the accommodation process, we got more details about the tasks he had the most difficulty with. Between Tony and the consultant, many practical accommodation ideas were formulated. Obtaining a mentor to help with prioritizing; color-coding daily, weekly, and monthly calendars; and working on more difficult tasks when he has the most mental acuity were just a few of the ideas he felt could work for him.

Situation: Hector is an employee who just disclosed his disability to his supervisor after a written warning, and is asking how best to show his supervisor that ADHD is real.

Solution: A JAN employment specialist explained the need for medical documentation not only to verify his medical condition, but also to substantiate the need for the accommodations he would be requesting.

Situation: Suzette is a reporter with the skills to do a phenomenal job, but struggles with distractions in the midst of a crowded, busy, and noisy newsroom. Her employer contacted JAN with concerns after Suzette asked to work from home when faced with strict deadlines.

Solution: Suzette’s employer was concerned about her isolation from her co-workers as well as from the downtown area where most of the news occurred. A trial accommodation of telework was discussed. The employer felt it was worth trying, contingent upon Suzette’s ability to get to the scene of breaking news quickly.

See JAN publications on ADHD and Executive Functioning for further accommodation ideas. Contact us directly for one-on-one assistance.

Additional Resources:

National Institute of Mental Health – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder Association – ADHD: The Facts

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

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.

New Technology Grabs Consultant’s Attention

Posted by Kim Cordingly on February 23, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Events, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

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

Returning to work this week after traveling to the 54th Annual LDA (Learning Disabilities Association of America) International Conference in Baltimore, MD, I just had to get the word out about a new product that about blew my socks off – QuietOn.

QuietOn is a “one-of-a-kind earplug combining active noise cancellation and acoustic noise attenuation to create silence.”

Innumerable people contact JAN for assistance on how to handle auditory distractions in the workplace. Depending on the work environment and individual customer’s situation, JAN can suggest a variety of potential solutions. One of these options is to wear a noise-cancelling headset. However, one potential problem with these headsets for some people with noise sensitivity is their size and weight – this makes it difficult for them to comfortably use. Another issue is that wearing a headset can set an employee apart from others in the workplace. The QuietOn earplugs are much more unobtrusive while offering many of the same benefits as the larger headphones.

So take a look at this new product and determine if it might be the right solution for you or someone you know who may need an accommodation for auditory distractions in the workplace.

Our JAN Website also offers various publications on learning disabilities (LD), as well as other ideas on how to accommodate, reduce, and/or remove auditory distractions in the various work environments.

For Additional Resources:

Accommodation Ideas for Learning Disabilities
Accommodating Employees with Learning Disabilities
Learning Disabilities Association of America

New Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act Announced at DMEC Employer Compliance Conference

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 12, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist

The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) recently held its annual FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being an ADA/FMLA geek, I always enjoy this event and believe it ranks among the top educational opportunities for those involved in absence and disability management. The Compliance Conference offers employers an opportunity to learn about compliance strategies and practical approaches for implementing the myriad of federal and state leave and disability employment laws. Of course, FMLA and ADA take center-stage at this event so many of the speakers are government officials from relevant policy and enforcement agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); labor and employment law attorneys; and leave and disability management experts from across the nation.

I appreciate the format of the Compliance Conference, in that, it kicks-off with general sessions offered the entire first day and the morning of the second day. Why is this a smart educational strategy? Offering general sessions for all participants to attend insures that everyone has the opportunity to be informed about compliance updates together without having to pick and choose which sessions to attend based on interests or professional needs. And, unlike many conferences where general sessions are often rather “fluffy,” the general sessions offered during this year’s conference were robust. Practical information was offered by experts who shared examples of court decisions that illustrate recent compliance developments, top challenges for employers in leave and accommodation administration and tools to support these efforts, industry best practices, ways to avoid lawsuits, and strategies for engaging in the interactive process.

This year, a new FMLA compliance assistance guide was announced during one of the general sessions. Helen Applewhaite, Branch Chief, Branch of FMLA and Other Labor Standards, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. DOL, announced that they have released an Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers have long-awaited a guide of this kind to answer common FMLA questions and clarify responsibilities and protections. This guide offers a road map that begins with an employee’s leave request and guides employers from granting leave to restoring the employee to the same or an equivalent position at the end of the leave period. It addresses many complicated FMLA requirements in a practical manner that includes “Did you know?” tips for compliance.

In addition to the new Employer’s Guide, DOL recently issued a new General Notice FMLA poster. All FMLA-covered employers are required to display a DOL poster summarizing the major provisions of the FMLA. Employers are not required to replace their current poster with the new version, but the new version highlights information regarding employees’ rights and employers’ obligations in a more reader-friendly format.

JAN does not offer detailed technical assistance on the FMLA. However, FMLA and ADA issues often overlap, and so, JAN consultants do address some of the more common FMLA issues and refer customers to DOL and other relevant resources for detailed technical assistance. JAN offers a number of FMLA-related resources on our Website, in our A-Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Family and Medical Leave Act, including the new Employer’s Guide and also DOL’s Employee’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Let’s Light It up Blue!!

Posted by JAN Tech on April 1, 2016 under Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

According to Autism Speaks, people all over the globe will wear blue and light up their communities for World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow, April 2, 2016.

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.   Autism Speaks shares this information:  Autism is a lifelong condition. In fact, each year 50,000 children with autism transition to adulthood. Many of them are capable of going on to meaningful employment and living on their own. But they need more employment opportunities and housing and residential supports. Autism Speaks continues to work with public and private partners to ensure people with autism successfully transition to adulthood. Together we can make a difference in the lives of people with autism by accepting their many gifts and recognizing the challenges they can face. Autism currently affects 1 in 68 people — these are our loved ones, friends and neighbors. We owe it to them on April 2, and every other day of the year, to make the world a more understanding place. So let’s Light It Up Blue together and shine a global spotlight on autism!

JAN is contributing to the celebration of autism awareness by helping to shed light on autism in the workplace.  We have several publications of note that will help in this area.  Accommodation and Compliance Series:  Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorder shares various accommodation ideas for impairments that may be associated with ASD such as issues of change, stress management, social skills, and processing sensory stimuli. We also have a Consultants’ Corner: Interviewing Tips for Applicants with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that can be helpful to applicants when they are looking towards employment and contemplating disclosure and accommodation.  Applicants will gain insights on how to be prepared and represent themselves to a prospective employer in the best possible way. JAN also provides contact information on resources that may prove helpful as well.

Check out the JAN staff wearing the autism awareness colors!

JAN staff wearing blue JAN Staff wearing blue

 

 

JAN Goes to the White House

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 15, 2016 under Events, General Information, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team

February 18, 2016, will be forever etched into my brain. This was the day when approximately 130 Jewish disability rights advocates convened in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss where we as a community have been, and where we need to go.

My work at JAN is greatly informed by my Jewish tradition, where we find the work of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14) who stated that “the highest level of tzedakah [righteous act, often mistranslated as charity] is helping one help themselves,” or “setting one up in business rather than providing for someone,” or more commonly, “teaching one to fish, rather than giving one a fish.”  It was important, and humbling as someone working in the field of work-related disability accommodations to see this be included in the wide array of topics seen as normal in Jewish Community.

As the day’s events unfolded, we received a great history lesson from featured speaker Judy Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. This was enhanced by comments later in the day from Chai Feldblum, Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who was present during the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is familiar with how the “religious exemption” (where under Title III of the ADA, religious entities are exempt from having to make their public access facilities accessible) came to be.

The main event of the day centered around four panelists discussing the future of our movement:

Dr. John Winer of the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities talked about making the experience of disability normalized in the community.  “People with intellectual disabilities have the right to housing, to an occupation, and to feeling like productive members of society. We need to do the right thing by being beneficent,” he said. “No individual wants to feel like they are a chesed project [charity case].”

Sheila Katz, vice president for social entrepreneurship at Hillel International stressed the need for organizations to be open and transparent about not knowing what they do not know. She shared the vision for Hillel going forward to actively engage Jewish students with a disability in an effort to ensure greater inclusion in campus life, including religious activities.

Aaron Kaufman senior legislative associate at the Jewish Federations of North America made a great point about the fact that some pieces of the inclusion puzzle do cost money, but if we prioritize inclusion, we will find a way to pay for it. This really resonated with me: building a mikveh [ritual bath] costs money, but if the community wants it to happen, we find a way to pay for it.  So too with inclusion Aaron pointed out.

Ruti Regan, co-founder of Anachnu, an organization that teaches the Torah from a disability perspective hit the nail on the head by visually demonstrating how an action has a very different connotation in different contexts that are learned behaviors in society. An example she used was that a person with a developmental disability may display a behavior of rocking back and forth – this being perceived as a “problem” or deviation from a norm. In a different context, a person in prayer might be rocking back and forth and this is perceived as devout behavior. Her point was that we need to become aware of how we prescribe meaning (good or bad) to the same behaviors based on the context.

Comments from Shane Feldman, Lauren Tuchman, and Liz Weintraub, amongst others highlighted improvements that have been made and concerns for issues that still need much attention.

All in all, it was an energizing day that I feel sure will just be a springboard for more good inclusion work to come. Many thanks to the White House staff who made this event happen:  Matt Nosanchuk and Maria Town – both from the Office of Public Engagement.

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

Telework Week 2014 Begins with a March Snowstorm

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 5, 2014 under Accommodations, Employers, Events | Comments are off for this article

By: Lisa Dorinzi – Consultant on Motor/Mobility Team; Sheryl Grossman – Consultant on Motor/Mobility Team; and Kim Cordingly – Lead Consultant on Self-Employment Team

March 3-7 is Telework Week 2014 – a global initiative that strives to raise awareness of the many benefits arising when employers provide the option for their employees to telework. For many employees in the federal government, Telework Week began by working from home during another day of severe winter weather. This proved to be a timely illustration of the benefits of telework to keep a workforce productive even when they aren’t physically able to get to work.

According to the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, the term ‘telework’ or ‘teleworking’ refers to a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee’s position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work. This legislation requires federal agencies to implement telework protocol and procedures, which could allow eligible employees the option to work remotely.

As illustrated this week, the option of telework has benefits during bad weather or other emergencies. Additional advantages include saving money on office space and supplies, “going green” by eliminating the commute to and from work, and encouraging work/life balance for employees. These factors may make it easier to recruit and retain workers as well as advancing the goals and mission of the workplace.

Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation

Apart from the overall benefits of telework, it can also be an effective accommodation strategy for employees with disabilities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers guidance on how telework can be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For many people with disabilities, telework arrangements can provide years of additional productive work beyond what would have been possible in a standard work setting.  In many instances, the essential functions of a job can still be performed from an alternate location and at more flexible times. And, telework has been made a more viable accommodation option by advancements in digital technologies making various forms of communication possible across long distances, even on a shared project.  These advancements also serve to reduce previous fears that an accommodation of telework forces isolation from co-workers.  When appropriate attention is paid to the effectiveness of an accommodation, win-win situations can emerge.

As a federal collaborator, the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) at the Department of Defense (DoD) supports telework by providing services and accommodations to eligible federal workers with disabilities and wounded Service members. CAP’s employment initiative describes telework as a form of reasonable accommodation by permitting an individual to perform his or her job remotely. CAP can provide training and consultation, assistive technology, computer hardware and software, and other office telecommunication equipment to allow a person to telework.

Telework can benefit individuals with various medical conditions and the limitations they may face in the workplace. Let’s take a closer look at a few real scenarios fielded by JAN consultants where telework was an effective accommodation option.

Accommodation Examples from JAN Customers

An editor with a vision impairment was not able to drive to work. He lived in a rural area so public transportation was not an option. The employer permitted the employee to work from home. The employee was able to conference call in for important meetings when necessary.

A registered nurse with hearing loss and mental health impairment was experiencing anxiety and sleep disturbances. Her job entailed monitoring home health clients though a computer system and telephone. Her employer allowed her to install the data secured equipment in her home thus enabling her to successfully perform her job tasks while minimizing her symptoms.

A loan officer experienced migraine headaches multiple times a month. The migraines would cause the employee to be fatigued and photosensitive. This was causing the employee to only be able to work for 4-5 hours in the office causing attendance concerns. To minimize absences, the employee was allowed to telework from home where she was able to take self-regulated breaks and work when she felt her best.

An accountant with chronic pain syndrome and a back impairment had a problem sitting at his desk for extended amounts of time. The employee was allowed to work from home a few times a week, which enabled him to alternate positions and build in periodic rest breaks for stretching.

A customer service representative had multiple chemical sensitivity. The various fragrances within the office space were exacerbating the employee’s symptoms. After other options proved unsuccessful – such as a fragrance free policy, air purifiers, and an isolated office — the employee and employer mutually decided telework was the best option.

A paralegal with gastrointestinal issues had flare ups about four times a year. During these flare ups the employee was permitted to work from home, which allowed the employee to use the restroom as needed, but still perform all work tasks.

An insurance agent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would experience flashbacks and anxiety during the two hour commute to work. The employer granted telework as an accommodation, enabling the employee to give her full attention and energy to her work tasks.

For more information regarding the telework option, visit the JAN Website.

Additional Resources:

Mobile Work Exchange
2013 Status of Telework in the Federal Government – Report to Congress
Telework, Once a ‘Mom Perk,’ Keeps Government Humming During Snow Storms