Shining a Light on Sun Safety

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 25, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Be the First to Comment

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

 

 

It’s Tax Time! Resources for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 12, 2017 under Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant – Self-Employment Team

“This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher.”
(His answer when asked about completing his income tax form).   ― Albert Einstein

Tax time for small business owners and self-employed individuals can be extremely stressful. While many tax issues are routinely dealt with throughout the year and with the assistance of an accountant, the month of April still looms large for finalizing tax information. Below are resources to assist with tax issues, including how to access Social Security information that may impact tax planning and preparation. It’s never too early to start planning for next year!

Social Security Benefits Planning

For some, small business and self-employment tax issues are intertwined with Social Security regulations that can be complex and intimidating. Fortunately, there are resources and programs to assist with this. The book Making Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities (2014) by Griffin et al., includes an excellent chapter on “Small Business and Social Security Income Benefits Analysis” that discusses Social Security benefits, self-employment, and related tax implications. This book should be available through your public library system, or if not, can be requested through the interlibrary loan process at no cost to the borrower.

If receiving Social Security (SSDI and/or SSI), benefits specialists at a Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project can also provide one-on-one assistance at no charge. You can locate the WIPA project that serves your community at the Ticket to Work program site.

For more information about the Ticket to Work program and WIPA projects, you can find help by contacting the Ticket to Work Help Line at (866) 968-7842 (Voice) or (866) 833-2967 (TTY), or find your local WIPA project at Find Help. The WIPA project will be marked by the green circle.

Tax Resources

1. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
We’ve highlighted a variety of IRS resources of particular interest to small business owners, self-employed individuals, and people with disabilities more generally.

Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center

Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center

Small Business Forms and Publications

Business Taxes

Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program

IRS Certified Volunteers Providing Free Tax Preparation (Explains what issues they can and cannot assist with)

Find a Location for Free Tax Help

Earned Income Tax Credit

Disability and Earned Income Tax Credit
“The Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC or EIC, is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income. To qualify, you must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file. EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may give you a refund.”

More Information for People with Disabilities

Tax Benefits for Businesses Who Have Employees with Disabilities

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Tax Provisions (Includes tax credit information)

State Government Websites
(Links to relevant state government offices related to small business, taxation, procurement, licensing, and so on)

2. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
Focusing specifically on small business issues, the SBA information expands on tax topics that may be applicable to entrepreneurs with disabilities.

Filing and Paying Taxes

Determine Your State Tax Obligations

3. USA.gov
Tax Issues for Businesses

4.  Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
JAN’s site highlights various tax incentives related to accessibility and the employment of people with disabilities. There may be additional incentives available at the state and local levels as well.

Tax Incentives

While tax time can be both frustrating and stressful, good information can help make the load a bit lighter. We hope this information helps!

 

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

Guest Blog: Innovative Approaches — An Interview with the Owners of Picasso Einstein

Posted by Kim Cordingly on January 27, 2017 under Accommodations, Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

JAN is fortunate to be able to use the JAN Blog as a vehicle for interviewing an organization, employer, individual, or business about how their work contributes to the employability of people with disabilities. In this Blog post, we’ve interviewed Boaz and Minerva Santiago – the founders of Picasso Einstein about their efforts to promote and support viable self-employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities.

1. Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and what inspired you and your wife to start Picasso Einstein?

First off, at home, my wife and I are truly like Picasso and Einstein, although that is not how the name of the company came about. My wife, a special needs planning attorney (clearly Einstein) is very analytical; a planner. Whereas, with my psychology background and love for technology, I tend to be more “free-spirited” if you will; or Picasso-like. When my wife and I married, I was doing what I had loved doing for many years, teaching social entrepreneurship to at-risk youth. My wife said to me one day, “you know, the boys (our two boys with autism) are ‘at-risk’ too.” I was in total agreement. She had been witness, by way of her profession, to way too many families whom had adult children with developmental disabilities with no real employment plans for either the immediate or long-term future. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, as she perceived the future of her own children, knew that both boys, due to their autism, would also struggle with traditional employment; particularly our older son, who is mostly non-verbal and experiences seizures. So we asked ourselves, “If they cannot find regular work, what will they be doing when we are gone?” We had to do something about that question and we both knew that self-employment would be a great place to start. Even though we were unsure if they would actually grow up to be self-employed, we were convinced that we could use a small business venture to teach them all of the things they would have to know whether self-employed or traditionally employed, like workmanship, financial literacy, business basics, communication, community (the business kind) and so much more. And even better, we could get started NOW, even though they were only 10 and 12 years old. So we did just that; we got busy doing something about it!

2. Can you talk a bit about the process you underwent starting your company/organization?

During my years teaching social entrepreneurship, I had written a curriculum that I often used as part of the program delivery. So, my wife and I decided to amend the curriculum to be more attuned to the needs of an at-risk youth due to his/her disability. As we began to think about this venture and our two boys, it led us to the name Picasso Einstein. Why? Because they are two incredibly eccentric boys, that despite their obvious limitations, are incredibly brilliant and artistic in their own unique way. Honestly, both of them are what we would consider a perfect balance between brilliance and art.

So we began putting the pieces together for our program, and were immediately invited to pilot our program with the Dan Marino Foundation through a one-day activity with some of their students. That brief pilot eventually led to us designing, developing, authoring and delivering a one-year post-secondary Entrepreneurship Program within the Dan Marino Foundation, with amazing results. Fifteen students with developmental disabilities started off knowing very little about self-employment, and all graduated from that program by delivering a 5-minute business plan PowerPoint presentation. Each one had their own unique challenges (e.g., reading, verbal communication, self-confidence, and many others), but all were overcome on that day as they each passionately delivered a presentation they never thought possible just a year prior. Although the Dan Marino Foundation did not continue the program, we learned a very important lesson within that relationship. We were sending these students home to parents that were not fully supportive of self-employment for many reasons. Some could not at that time see the potential in their children, while others were simply not familiar with self-employment and could not think beyond traditional means of employment. So we realized that any self-employment program, in order for it to be sustainable and successful, needed the full buy-in from the parents/caregivers and support staff. How? We decided to write a new curriculum, 100% focused on parents/caregivers and professionals interested in knowing how to take the lead to assist someone interested in self-employment. This completely revolutionized our educational programs, because we were now, and continue to be, focused on educating parents/caregivers and professionals.

3. On your Website, you feature 2 quotations – one from Pablo Picasso and the other from Albert Einstein – your organization’s namesakes:
“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” – Pablo Picasso
“Science is the refinement of everyday thinking.” – Albert Einstein
Can you talk about how these quotations inform the mission of your organization?

Picasso and Einstein simply seemed so fitting, not only because it describes our children, but also because life requires both approaches. Recently, Dr. Temple Grandin was asked to state one thing that she has learned in her career. She responded: “I used to think that engineering (science) could fix everything. I now realize that creativity (art) is equally as important.” We couldn’t say it any better.

We have a deep respect for the scientists, who feverishly pursue a more in-depth understanding of developmental disabilities. We also have a deep respect and appreciation for those who take more liberal and artistic approaches in their engagement with individuals with developmental disabilities. Both are needed. Both are useful. Both are valued by us, and many. And in the spirit of balance, we would live in a different world if either Picasso or Einstein had never existed. We need both, and they need each other.

4. Can you describe in more detail your program — who you serve, how your services work, and your goals for the future?

With incredible partnerships with organizations such as the University of Miami Center for Autism & Related Disabilities; Olivia’s Angels Foundation; Adonis Autism; United Way of Collier County; and Work For America, as well as a collaboration in the works with the National Down Syndrome Society, Family Care Council of Florida and the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, we have been able to provide direct education to parents/caregivers and professionals on how to create simple, sustainable and most importantly, meaningful jobs by way of a simple self-employment model.

Initially we organized our own classes for parents, but have come to realize that our footprint is so much smaller than those organizations that already serve thousands of families with developmental disabilities. Hence, we have focused more recently on working directly with organizations interested in our model and in providing access to our education for the families they already serve. Smaller organizations can organize groups of parents that are interested in our #JobCreators program online, or at times, like we do with Adonis Autism, we deliver the 12 hour course in person. For larger organizations that have a solid infrastructure and staff, we offer a program in which we train and mentor staff with the goal of integrating our platform into their organization as a long-term service offering.

Our long-term goal is to provide access to our education to any family, any professional, any organization, and any self-advocate in the world. Recently, we launched our online portal SelfEmploy.org with the goal of providing that access. Proudly, we recently educated a family from New Zealand, confirming the global need for self-employment education.

5. In some segments of the disability/employment community, despite policies supporting self-employment and customized self-employment options, there continues to be a reluctance to support it. From your experience, can you talk about why you think this is the case and what steps you believe can help better facilitate this option?

First off, let me state for the record that Picasso Einstein’s mission is not to create entrepreneurs out of every single individual with developmental disabilities. Instead, our main focus is to provide information, tools, and awareness so that self-employment is offered as a viable first option, instead of the last option. All persons with disabilities simply deserve choices like all of us. It is not only their civic right, it is their basic human right.

With that said, here are some very specific items we find to be barriers to self-employment:

Education: Professional and parental/caregiver education is a substantial barrier. Most individuals, whether they are caregivers or individuals providing employment services have never been self-employed themselves. Additionally, agencies and organizations (such as vocational rehabilitation) do not make self-employment training a priority for their counselors, supervisors, etc. It’s pretty simple. It’s hard to expect people to support something they don’t fully understand or don’t feel prepared to take on. That is where our curriculum hopes to address that barrier directly.

Perception: I once had a disability community leader say in front of an audience during one of our presentations, that we (Picasso Einstein) were “overselling self-employment. And then he began to establish his argument by asking, “What about those individuals who don’t even know to run out of the house because the fire alarm is blaring?” Mind you, he described my son in that question, and yet my son is successfully pursuing self-employment. Here is the problem. When someone’s perception of the disability population is overwhelmingly based on the focus of one’s limitations, then quite often, things will seem unachievable. We (Picasso Einstein) live by the words, “Always assume competence.” Why? Because when someone assumes incompetence, like the aforementioned disability community leader, not only does he miss the abilities altogether, but far more tragic, he unknowingly removes countless opportunities for a person to try something new, different, and maybe even challenging. Not only does the person lose out, but so does the entire community depending on such a person to be progressive.

Awareness: Knowing you are not alone in the journey is important. We are hoping by way of providing exposure to stories of other families from around the world whom have chosen self-employment as their way forward to meaningful employment, that perhaps more parents, advocates, professionals will also feel comfortable exploring it a little further.

6. If you were asked to describe the 3 most important points or “best practices” you believe are most essential to creating successful and sustainable self-employment options for individuals with disabilities, what would they be and why?

Think Sustainability – Ask yourself — How will the employment plans survive long after the parents/caregivers have passed away?
Step one must be gathering a team — one that consists of a balanced group of individuals such as peers, friends, family members, local college students, other entrepreneurs to help come up with better business concepts, have larger discussions as it pertains to community supports, as well as personal supports for the individual. If all of the intricacies of the business live on the shoulders of the parents, then that business goes out of business on the day of their death. Not only is that not sustainable, it’s not fair to the person.

Think simple – Persons who tend to think in terms of job descriptions really struggle with coming up with self-employment business concepts.
This minimalistic approach to entrepreneurship is far more traditional than most know. Most businesses are founded by identifying a simple niche. What can the business do to address a particular problem? In our approach, the focus is on what the person CAN do that is meaningful to that person and can also generate income.

Community Integration – No business survives and much less thrives without having a pulse in the community.
Many individuals believe that self-employment is about locking yourself up in a garage for a year, living on rock-n-roll and pizza until you come up with the final product. We have seen that movie too. But that is not our perspective at all! On the contrary, if you build specific business activities that require community integration into the very business concept, it now becomes the vehicle for community integration. So imagine this — instead of the person integrating into the community simply because we say it’s important, they do so now because they have something to say, to offer to that community. Having a product or service to sell creates intrinsic motivation and desire to integrate into the community. This creates an environment of community integration that is not forced upon the person, but instead is desired by the person, because they now desire it, for a profit.

At the end of the day, we simply desire that individuals with disabilities have the means and platform that creates and injects meaning and purpose into everything they do, including their community engagement.

Guest Blog – Website Addresses Addiction and Mental Health Impairments

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 10, 2016 under Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

Occasionally at JAN, we are contacted by a new organization or individual who wants to share with us their information and the work they do through a guest Blog. We were contacted by Adam Cook who has started the Website Addictionhub.org that focuses on resources to support individuals with a coexistence of a mental health impairment and drug/alcohol addiction. He had read our Blog and asked to write an article about his work and a topic he feels is often insufficiently addressed, including in the employment arena.

We chose to do the Blog in a Q&A format. We thank Adam for contacting us about this topic and wanting to share this information with our customers as he develops both his site and its potential outreach.

1.  Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and what inspired you to start the Website Addictionhub.org?

I am a pretty average guy with an above-average passion in regards to helping people find the resources they need to fight addiction. I became dedicated to this cause a few years ago when I lost a good friend of mine to suicide. He had been dealing not only with alcoholism, but also had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I believe that it was harder for him to fight his addiction battle because of the state of his mental health, and his addiction exacerbated his mental illness. He finally went into treatment, but afterwards he resisted finding a long-term program. Eventually he gave up hope, and I lost him.

I don’t want anyone else to feel the sorrow I have experienced after losing a life-long friend, nor do I want anyone to have to go through what he did. He wasn’t alone, but he felt like he was. I wish I had known more about the resources that were out there when he was alive. It is my goal to spread the word about addiction and places where individuals and families can get help. I want to encourage people to not try to do it on their own.

2. Can you talk a bit about the process you underwent for starting the Website and what your short, medium, and long term vision is for the site? You’ve included a crowdsourcing component. Can you talk about why you built-in this feature?

Initially, I had hoped to simply create a place where I could list organizations and other resources that could help people who are fighting addictions. As I began doing research, I realized even if I could compile a large amount of information, I needed to do what I have encouraged others to do in their own journey: ask for help.

Since the launch of the site, I have had people contact me with information that has been extremely helpful. I value first-hand feedback in regards to how addiction assistance has made a difference. My goal now is to continue building on the searchable database with input from others. In the long term, I would like to have more involvement from not only people who have gone through programs, but also from the treatment providers.

3. You state the mission for your Website is “…to help individuals, families, and health workers find support with issues relating to addiction. We locate and catalog addiction resources from around the Web.” Can you expand on this mission?

I take the resources that are shared through the site very seriously. I take the time to research any organization or Website that is submitted to make sure that the information is useful and the programs are legitimate. I think it is important for individuals who need help to be able to find a program that they can relate to and that they will stick with.

4. You emphasize on your Website the connections between mental health impairments and addiction. Can you talk more about this connection from your perspective and why you believe this is an important point to make?

I experienced first-hand someone battling with alcoholism as well as bipolar disorder. From the perspective of an uninformed outsider, it was often hard for me to distinguish what symptoms were from which condition. I believe that my friend started drinking to deal with his mental health impairment, and that he faced even more challenges than most in finding a treatment plan that worked for him. Overall, mental health and addiction are two things that are very misunderstood by most. These challenges go beyond willpower and strength of character. They are serious medical conditions that often go hand-in-hand.

5. JAN addresses mental health impairments and addiction in the context of employment and accommodation situations. From your experience, can you talk about the specific impacts you feel these issues have for individuals in the workplace?

I believe one of the hardest things to overcome is the stigma put on recovering addicts and individuals with mental health impairments. These not only hold people back from seeking out treatment, but also can cause misunderstanding and mistrust from employers. If someone had a serious physical ailment such as cancer or an injury, it is acceptable for them to take time off to receive medical treatment or heal as needed. In the case of mental health or addiction, there are less accommodations given by employers, even though the conditions can be just as, or even more, serious.

When loss of employment does occur, it can trigger dangerous reactions. I have seen someone caught in a vicious cycle of despair where work stress contributes to symptoms and behaviors, and then those cause more issues at work.

In my research, I have determined that more employers are recognizing the importance of nurturing their employees’ mental health, but there are still a lot of hurdles.

For more information on mental health impairments and addiction in an employment context, see these resources on the JAN Website:

Accommodation Ideas for Alcoholism
Accommodation Ideas for Drug Addiction
Accommodation Ideas for Mental Health Impairments
Accommodation Ideas for Bipolar Disorder
Accommodation Ideas for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — Only In the Winter? Not Always the Case

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 31, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

This past November, JAN posted a Blog discussing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is often characterized as “winter blues;” it is a type of depression that is associated with the change in seasons. Individuals with SAD may notice their symptoms of depression begin and end around the same time each year. It is thought that SAD occurs due to changes in our circadian rhythms (biological clock), which are often affected by seasonal changes.

While SAD is most commonly associated with the cold winter months, around 10% of individuals who experience SAD see their symptoms occur during the summer. This phenomenon is often referred to as reverse SAD or summer depression.

SAD in the winter is thought to be a result of shorter days and lack of sunlight. Summer SAD is thought to be the opposite — longer days and too much sunlight. Symptoms of reverse SAD may include loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, and feelings of anxiety.

While some individuals with SAD experience their symptoms during the summer months, there are also other factors that may lead to feelings of depression or sadness. During the summer, there can be a lot of disruptions to our normal routines. With summer comes cookouts, vacations, yard work, and many other things that may cause us to feel busier than usual. All of a sudden we are tied down with planning and scheduling to try and fit everything in. This could lead to feelings of burnout.

Summer also means swimming and time at the beach for some. For those with body image issues, this can be a time of increased anxiety. There is suddenly pressure to feel in a good mood – “hey, the weather’s great – go and enjoy the outdoors.” This “pressure” to feel happy and be active when you’re actually feeling depressed or anxious can for some make matters even worse.

Whether you experience summer depression or not, the warm weather and busy schedules can make it hard to concentrate during the work day, especially for those of us with office jobs. We fight the urge of wanting to go outside instead of being cooped up all day. We may start to find ourselves daydreaming about the evening cookout we are going to attend instead of working on the project due by the end of the week.

If you find yourself experiencing exhaustion, lack of motivation, or difficulty with concentration during the next few months, there may be some techniques you can implement into your day to try to help stay on track. As an example, some of our JAN staff members will take a walk around the nearby neighborhood during their lunch break. This can be a great way to get some fresh air and refocus for the afternoon.

Other ideas that can sometimes help with concentration are getting a cold drink of water to sip on, listening to some background music, downloading an app to help you with time management, or prioritizing tasks. These are just some ideas — there may be a variety of others that could help as well. It’s important to be creative — you know you best.

If you do experience SAD that is triggered in the summer and feel this is affecting your performance at work, you may be able to request some accommodations to help. It’s important to note that impairments related to SAD can be serious for those affected in both private life and in the workplace. JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Mental Health Impairments offers practical accommodation ideas and examples. You can also speak directly with JAN staff for more individualized assistance.

While the summer months can be enjoyable, they can also be hard for some. Whether you experience summer depression or not, make sure you are taking time for self-care. Even though the days are longer, make sure you are still getting an adequate amount of sleep. If too much sun affects you, there are still plenty of activities that can be done indoors or in the shade. If you feel overwhelmed by your schedule, make a priority list to work in some down time for you and your family. Whatever your preference is during the next few months, make wellness and self-care a priority!

Resources:

Tips for Summer Depression
School’s out. It’s hot. And you’re not having any fun

By: R. Morgan Griffin

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD in the Summer
While many get seasonal affective disorder in the winter, 1/10th do over summer

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
By: Mayo Clinic Staff
 

 

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.

 

Fonts for Readers with Dyslexia

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 15, 2016 under Accommodations, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

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

While some of you may be familiar with the two dyslexia fonts highlighted below, many may not be aware of the specifics of how they can assist as reading improvement tools. Several of our JAN staff learned more about these fonts while attending the 2016 CSUN Conference — 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference held at California State University Northridge in San Diego a couple of weeks ago.

Both of the following fonts have been shown to be highly effective in improving reading skills for many people with dyslexia by helping to better differentiate between letters, aiding in the reading process.

Here’s a brief look at how they work:

Dyslexie uses a heavier, bolder line thickness that emphasizes the bottom of most letters. This anchors the letters and helps prevent substituting, rotating, and flipping of letters. The Dyslexie font is designed so that every letter has its own unique form. Some differences between the Dyslexie font and others are slanted lines, weighted bottoms, larger openings in the letters, such as a, e, and c. The ascending stems of letters like f and h have been made taller, as well as the descending tails of letters such as p, q, and y. The spacing between letters and words is increased to prevent crowding. The capital letters and punctuation marks are bolder so that it is easier to identify the beginning and ending of sentences.

OpenDyslexic is a font also created to increase readability for individuals with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. OpenDyslexic is created to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Letters have heavily weighted bottoms to indicate direction. Readers are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down, aiding in letter recognition, and helping keep the brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping. OpenDyslexic is being continually updated and improved based on input from users with dyslexia.

If you or someone you know has dyslexia, be sure to check out both Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic to see how effective they might be!

For information on Accommodation Ideas for Learning Disabilities, visit our JAN Website.

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.