Do-It-Yourself Accommodations

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

By: Matthew McCord, Consultant – Motor Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAN Goes West to CSUN

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

By: Lisa Mathess, Senior Consultant — Motor Team

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

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

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

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

A Summary of the Section 501 Final Rule on Affirmative Action

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 5, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant – ADA Specialist

JAN recently offered the first Federal Employer Winter Webcast Binge-a-thon — a three-hour Webcast for the federal workforce about job accommodation resources and solutions and compliance with Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, hosted by expert guest speakers from JAN and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Binge-a-thon kicked-off with an overview of the EEOC’s January 2017 final rule to amend the regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, presented by Aaron Konopasky, Senior Attorney Advisor in the ADA/GINA Policy Division at the EEOC. The Rule requires agencies of the federal government to adopt employment goals for individuals with disabilities, with sub-goals for individuals with targeted disabilities, to provide personal assistance services (PAS) to certain employees who need these services because of a disability, and to meet a number of other requirements designed to improve the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of individuals with disabilities in the federal workforce.

The final Rule clarifies the affirmative action requirements of Section 501. To comply with the requirements, federal agencies must develop affirmative action plans and take action to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities, and must also provide PAS to employees with targeted disabilities for work-related reasons. The final Rule gives agencies until January 3, 2018, to make changes to policy, staff, and other operations in order to meet the new requirements. Among the affirmative action and PAS requirements, the Rule also codifies various obligations placed on federal agencies by past management directives and Executive Orders, to bring all of the requirements together under one Rule.

JAN Consultants do provide information and guidance regarding the requirements of Section 501. Like many federal sector employers, our Consultants are learning as much as we can about these new regulations so that we can better assist our customers with their questions. For commonly asked questions about the Rule, see The EEOC’s Final Rule on Affirmative Action for People with Disabilities in Federal Employment. The following bullet points offer a high-level summary of some of the Rule’s requirements:

  • Affirmative Action: Federal agencies are required to adopt and implement an Affirmative Action Plan for recruiting, hiring, employing, and advancing individuals with disabilities at all levels of federal employment. The Plan is to be submitted annually to the EEOC. The Plan shall require a commitment to achieve the goal of employing 12% of individuals with disabilities at the GS-11 level and above; 12% at the GS-10 level and below; and 2% who have targeted disabilities, above and below these GS levels. Targeted disabilities are those that fall into a subset of those impairments that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of disability, and are designated on the Office of Personnel Management’s SF-256 Self-Identification Form. Affirmative Action Plans are to be posted on each agency’s public Website.
  • Record Keeping: The Rule imposes new record keeping requirements. Federal agencies must keep track of the number of applications received from individuals with disabilities (IWDs) and the number hired; the number of applications received from IWDs with targeted disabilities and the number hired; all job offer rescissions based on medical examinations or medical inquiries; the number of Schedule A appointees; and details regarding all requests for reasonable accommodation. This information must be made available to the EEOC upon request.
  • Personal Assistance Services (PAS) as Affirmative Action Requirement: Lack of PAS or fear of losing PAS have been identified as barriers to employment for individuals with some targeted disabilities. The Rule requires federal agencies, as an aspect of affirmative action, to provide PAS to employees who need these services due to a targeted disability, barring undue hardship. PAS are non-medical services that help individuals with disabilities perform activities of daily living, like eating, using the restroom, taking-off a coat, etc. PAS may be assigned during work hours and job-related travel. Agencies may hire an employee or independent contractor to provide PAS, and may provide one-to-one services or hire a pool of PAS providers to serve multiple employees with disabilities. When services are provided one-to-one to a single individual, agencies should give primary consideration to the preferences of the individual. Federal agencies are required to have a written process for employees to request PAS, or may include a PAS process in a formal reasonable accommodation procedure.
  • Notification about Reasonable Accommodation Policies and Procedures: The Rule makes clear that federal agencies must have written, easily available and understood reasonable accommodation procedures, available to applicants and employees in written and accessible formats. These procedures must be available on each agency’s public Website.
  • Interim Accommodations: When the facts and circumstances known to an agency make it reasonably likely that an employee requesting accommodation will be entitled to it, but the accommodation cannot be provided immediately, then the agency is expected to provide interim accommodations that will enable the performance of some or all of the essential functions of the employee’s job, barring undue hardship.
  • Reassignment as Accommodation: Federal agencies must consider reassignment to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation when no other accommodation will enable an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the current position.
  • Denial of Reasonable Accommodation: When accommodations are denied, federal agencies must provide the job applicant or employee with a written explanation that includes a reason for the denial, remedies for internal appeal or alternative dispute resolution, and instructions and the timeframe (45 days) for filing a complaint of discrimination with the agency’s EEO Counselor. This notice must be made available in accessible formats.

For more information about affirmative action and workplace discrimination laws, regulations, and Executive Orders that apply to federal agencies, see the EEOC website for the Federal Sector. For information about reasonable accommodation obligations, please contact JAN to speak with a Consultant, or go to 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

Who Let the Dogs…In?

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 18, 2016 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist, and Lou Orslene, Co-Director

The song is in your head now, isn’t it? You know the one. Now you have this vision of a pile of big and little, furry dogs, ears flopping up and down, running wildly, …through the halls of your organization. And suddenly, the music in your head has come to a screeching halt. Who let the dogs…at work? Service and emotional support dogs have become more prevalent as a form of reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities employed in private, public, and federal sector workplaces all over the country. Fortunately, the issue of whether or not a dog must be permitted as a reasonable accommodation at work is rarely debated now. Employers are more informed about service and emotional support animals as accommodations and understand that having a dog at work, for some people who require it due to their disability, promotes effective job performance.

While there is little debate over the need to consider access for service and emotional support dogs as an accommodation in the workplace, employers sometimes wonder about the best way to inform others in the workplace concerning Fido’s impending presence. We know that, under the ADA, employers are permitted to share limited information about the animal with those who are on a “need-to-know” basis. For example, a manager or supervisor might be informed about a service dog and how to interact appropriately. However, the employer is not permitted to share disability-related information with co-workers. As this at times can be confusing, let us offer a couple of best practices while teasing out the question of confidentiality and service and emotional support dogs as an accommodation in the workplace.

Let’s start with a couple of best employer practices in regard to service and emotional support dogs. A service or emotional support dog is an obvious accommodation that will immediately be known by others who encounter the dog at work. It’s also an accommodation that could impact other employees. In some ways, it’s like acknowledging the elephant in the room, but a much furrier, smaller elephant, that sometimes barks. Preparing employees for dogs in the workplace, like other accommodations, should begin before a dog arrives, or accommodations are needed. What I mean is, when employees are educated about the ADA and their ability to request workplace accommodations, there can be fewer questions or cause for concern when an accommodation is implemented because people just know – they understand why there is a change at work. So as a best practice, employers who promote an informed and inclusive workplace should offer disability etiquette training to all employees and educate people about interacting with service animals in general.

Another best employer practice in response to an employee accommodation request for the use of a service or emotional support dog is to ask the employee using the service animal how they would like to handle the situation of informing (or not informing) others about the presence of the dog and how to interact appropriately prior to bringing the dog to work. Dog lovers beware and resist the urge to go nose-to-nose with that furry animal! The dog has a job to do. As is often the case, the employee being accommodated may be the best source for input and information. Note that the employee who uses a service dog is free to independently (and voluntarily) share information about their animal and need for accommodation with others in the workplace.

However, if an employee is uncomfortable with the employer sharing information about the service or emotional support dog and the employee prefers not to share information, then it is the employer’s obligation to protect the confidentiality of the employee with a disability and their request of a service animal as an accommodation. But then you may ask yourself, doesn’t the supervisor, manager, or other personnel involved in the provision of the accommodation need to know some information about the accommodation? The answer is yes – but only those who are on a “need-to-know” basis should have this information. For example, a manager or supervisor who is responsible for implementing the use of a service animal in a particular job site. These “need-to-know” personnel will need to know how to effectively integrate the service animal into the workplace, including where the service animal will relieve itself or if the service animal will be included in meeting spaces. However, it could be a breach of confidentiality for employers to reveal why the service or emotional support dog is needed.

So what about the employee’s co-workers? What information can an employer share with them? We know that, under the ADA, employers are not permitted to share disability-related information with co-workers. This would be a breach of confidentiality. We also know that while employers have no particular obligation to inform others that a dog will be allowed on the premises, there are dynamics in the workplace where providing limited information is important. For instance, in the event a co-worker is afraid of dogs or has an animal allergy, or perhaps when questions arise about why a “no animals” policy is being modified.

How then does an employer communicate that a dog will be soon entering the workplace? As stated previously, revealing that an employee is being “accommodated” is a violation of confidentiality, so we suggest employers be cautious about using the terms “service” or “emotional support” dog when announcing that a dog will be allowed on the premises. Informal guidance JAN has received from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on this issue notes that verifying that a dog is a service animal and not a pet is revealing that the employer is allowing the animal onto its premises because of the services it performs as a reasonable accommodation. This, in turn, is revealing that the employee using the service animal has a disability, even if the disclosure is not revealing the nature of the disability.

In light of this EEOC guidance, we suggest employers who feel the need to share that a dog will be on the premises can share this information with limited individuals in the employee’s immediate work area. These co-workers, given their working proximity to the employee who requires the service animal, might be informed that a dog will be present, that its particular presence is approved by the employer, and who to contact if someone has an issue or concern regarding the matter. This approach is informative to the extent necessary, makes it clear that the employer is aware and approves the dog’s presence in the workplace, and provides information to co-workers about who to contact if, for instance, they have an allergy or a fear of dogs, so these issues can be resolved privately.

So our tips for communicating to employees about service animals:

  • Prepare your workforce for the inevitable presence of a service or emotional support dog with general disability etiquette training including specific information about service animals.
  • Discuss with the employee requesting access for a service or emotional support dog as an accommodation their expectations for how others should interact with the dog. Ask what information, if any at all, the employee would like shared with others about the dog’s presence.
  • Inform managers or supervisors on a need-to-know basis about service and emotional support dogs as accommodations. Managers or supervisors will need to know what their role is in effectively implementing the accommodation.
  • When necessary, let co-workers know in advance that a dog – not a “service” or “emotional support” dog – will be entering the workplace and who to contact if there are questions or concerns.

These resources may help:

Manners Unleashed: Etiquette Regarding Service Dogs

Disability Etiquette in the Workplace

The Manager’s Dilemma: “An employee is asking about a co-worker’s accommodation. As a manager, what do I say?”

Educating the Workforce about the ADA & Accommodations

For more information about service and emotional support dogs in the workplace, please contact JAN to speak with a consultant, or go to AskJAN.org and see the A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Service Animals.

 

 

The Everyday Dangers of Brain Injuries

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 17, 2016 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Kelsey Lewis, Former JAN Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

With football season in full swing, it isn’t uncommon to hear stories of sports-related head injuries for high school, college, and professional athletes alike. The risk of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), both mild and severe, is a very real threat for players and can occur during both practices and games. But with all of the negative publicity that football attracts regarding head injuries, many people aren’t aware that most TBIs are caused by everyday falls, something that can happen to almost anyone at any time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that falls made up approximately 40% of all TBIs between the years 2006-2010, with unintentional blunt trauma (being hit by an object) and vehicle crashes following behind (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).

As someone who does not identify as being athletic (although I was a great bench warmer during my soccer career), I never really experienced many injuries on or off the field. So it was much to my surprise when I took a recent spill at home resulting in a mild concussion. After the fall, I immediately felt dizzy, nauseated, and had a pounding headache. I could tell this was like no other injury I had experienced before; I just didn’t feel like myself. The days immediately following the accident, I reported to work as usual, discussed accommodations, and went on with my typical routine. However, I was utterly exhausted, felt oddly emotional, and still had a headache. Finally, on the third day of work after my fall, one of my trusted JAN colleagues intervened and convinced me to take care of myself. I took the next day off along with the weekend to rest, unplugged the electronics, went to the emergency department to make sure everything was fine (it was), and slowly started feeling better within a few weeks. The point of my self-disclosure? To illustrate just how easily and innocently a brain injury can occur, even if it is in the form of a mild concussion, in which one can recover and feel “normal” within a few weeks.

Regardless of whether TBI symptoms are temporary or long-term, accommodations can assist in the recovery and management process. Symptoms from a brain injury may affect:

  • Cognitive function (e.g. attention and memory)
  • Motor function (e.g. weakness and impaired balance/coordination)
  • Sensory function (e.g. hearing, vision, and impaired perception)
  • Emotional function (e.g. depression, anxiety, aggression, and impulse control)
  • A combination of any of these.

Possible workplace accommodations can include low cost options such as providing a tape recorder in order to remember the content of a meeting or procedural accommodations like providing leave or a modified schedule to recover from the initial injury or go to medical appointments. More involved accommodations to a workspace may include installing ramps and handrails for issues associated with mobility. JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Brain Injuries provides additional accommodation ideas. Our publication Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact provides information from our survey of employers who historically report no cost or low cost for accommodating employees with disabilities.

Regardless of how a TBI occurs or the severity of the injury, one of the most important things to remember is to “take it easy” after one occurs. Rest helps your brain heal and can speed up the recovery process (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Once returning to work, accommodations can help address the limitations resulting from the injury.

Resources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Injury Prevention & Control: Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion

Employees’ Practical Guide to Negotiating and Requesting Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Job Accommodation Network (Original 2005, Updated 2007, Updated 2009, Updated 2010, Updated 2011, Updated 2012, Updated 2013, Updated 2014, Updated 2015, Updated 2016). Workplace accommodations: Low cost, high impact. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://AskJAN.org/media/lowcosthighimpact.html

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

Disclosure Basics

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

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

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrated its 26th anniversary this past July. This legislation is purposed to improve the lives of people with disabilities by protecting their rights to have access to employment, public entities, transportation, public accommodations and commercial facilities, telecommunications and more. It helps people with disabilities compete equally for employment and receive the accommodations and protections they need to work.

Are you in need of reasonable accommodations in the workplace due to a disability? Do you know what steps to take in order to get the process started? Disclosure is the first and sometimes the most difficult step. Just thinking about this can often cause anxiety and stress. So what exactly is disclosure?

Disclosure is divulging or giving out personal information about a disability. It is important for the employee to provide information about the nature of the disability, the limitations involved, and how the disability affects the ability to learn and/or perform the job effectively. The employer has a right to know if a disability is involved when an employee asks for accommodations.  Ideally, employees will disclose a disability and request accommodations before performance problems arise, or at least before they become too serious.

Let’s look at three main reasons why someone with a disability may choose to disclose a disability to their employer:

1). To ask for job accommodations. As an example, a bus garage employee with a reading disability missed instructions and important announcements that were sent via e-mail. As an accommodation, he requested screen reading software that allows text to be converted into computer synthesized speech.

2). To receive benefits or privileges of employment. The ADA requires employers to provide accommodations so that employees with disabilities can enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by similarly-situated employees without disabilities. Benefits and privileges of employment include employer-sponsored training, access to cafeterias, lounges, gymnasiums, auditoriums, transportation, and parties or other social functions. For example, an employee with Down syndrome signed up for a nutrition class, but had trouble understanding the information that was presented. His employer asked the instructor to provide pictures of the types of food she was recommending employees eat. The employee was able to use these pictures when making food choices.

3). To explain an unusual circumstance.  For instance, someone with temperature sensitivities due to multiple sclerosis (MS) may need to explain to his employer why it would be helpful to work from home while the office air conditioner is being repaired.

Disclosure can be quite simple. You can tell your employer that you need to talk about an adjustment or change that is essential for a reason related to a medical condition. You may use plain English to request an accommodation. You do not have to mention the ADA nor use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” It can be as easy as saying to your supervisor, “I need to talk to you about the difficulty I encounter when I try to hand write notes due to a medical condition.”

Questions about disclosure? Contact JAN for more information or to discuss an accommodation situation with a consultant.

Resources:

JAN Topic — Disclosure

The ADA in 2016

JAN ADA Library

What’s in a Routine?

Posted by Kim Cordingly on August 19, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers | Comments are off for this article

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

With summer coming to a close and schools starting to resume, I become reminiscent of the time when my son was younger. I hear parents talking about being anxious for school to start so their kids will be back on a schedule and out of their hair. I was never one of those parents. Maybe that is because I was a teacher and spent so many days out of the year immersed in a strict routine and consistent schedule. Freewheeling through the summer, making plans as each day dictated – depending on the weather and our whims, tasted of pure freedom. But it is valuable for children to have a routine. It is good for them to know what to expect so they spend less time wondering what is about to happen, or feel less anxiety trying to figure out what to do next.

However, it is not just children who do well with a schedule. Essentially, all of us function more fully with a routine or schedule. A routine provides structure and familiarity; organization and direction; and order and dependability. A routine also increases efficiency, makes tasks more of a habit, and saves time by eliminating the need to consider what to do next. With a routine we master tasks by becoming better and quicker. And as we accomplish things, we move closer and closer to our goals.

For individuals with cognitive impairments, a routine may be crucial to enabling the completion of essential functions of their jobs.  Difficulties with memory, concentration, organization, multi-tasking, and time management make routines and schedules not only helpful, but necessary.

Here are a few tips for setting up a routine at work:

  • Recruit the help of a mentor or supervisor.
  • Keep a strict morning schedule, which can alleviate rushing around and being tardy for work.
  • Be aware of time-sensitive tasks. Make sure you know when tasks that have to be done at a certain time are due, then you can plug other tasks in around those.
  • Factor in how long the tasks should take. Pace yourself.
  • Cluster tasks that are similar, so you can complete them while you are in the “zone.”
  • Assess your day as to when you have the most mental energy and stamina to do the more difficult tasks.
  • Use a checklist. Who doesn’t? Various checklists with different functions can help you work much more effectively. A checklist of tasks to be done, or one that involves steps in a procedure, are just two examples. A list of what needs to be done tomorrow, made before you leave work today, can help limit the time you will spend in the morning trying to remember.
  • Make use of calendars and planners, whether paper or electronic.
  • Plan regular meetings with a mentor or supervisor to set goals and help stay on task.
  • Schedule five to ten minutes daily at the end of your shift to clean up your desk/work area. This can alleviate the need to spend more massive amounts of time later for a thorough clean-up. We all work more efficiently without the distractions of clutter.
  • Incorporate an evening routine at home to save you time in the mornings.

Below are accommodation examples of how routines and schedules can help employees be more successful in the workplace. (All the names are pseudonyms, but the examples are from actual JAN inquiries.)

Situation:
Liam, who has an intellectual disability, works as a mail clerk. He belonged to several coffee clubs in his workplace, so as he collected mail first thing in the morning, he would have a cup of coffee with each department of the building. He would get involved in conversations and forget what he was doing.  By the time he was finished with the first round of mail, it was lunch time. The same thing was occurring during his afternoon mail run.

Solution:
Liam’s employer decided to accompany and time him as he picked up the mail with no coffee stops so they would have an idea how long to allow for each mail run. His supervisor set up a schedule, gave Liam a timer, and showed him how to pace himself.  The schedule indicated where he should be at certain intervals on his route. By better management of his time, Liam was able to get several more daily tasks completed instead of just the two mail collections. Liam was also provided with a rotating coffee club schedule, allowing him one coffee break with one club each morning and each afternoon.

Situation:
Ronisha was tardy more mornings at work than she was on time. After a serious discussion with her manager, Ronisha disclosed she has ADHD and finds it nearly impossible to get herself out the door. She requested a flexible schedule stating the maintenance man could fill in for her when she was late. Her employer denied the request because Ronisha was the employee scheduled to open the museum gift shop, while the maintenance man had his own duties.

Solution:
Ronisha’s employer referred her to JAN, where a consultant helped her set up a home routine that would enable her to get to work on time. Because employers can have time and attendance standards for all employees, and because getting to work on time is the responsibility of the employee, Ronisha knew she had to make some changes to her morning routine. Here are some of the suggestions that worked for her:

  • Have a routine of putting and keeping things in their place (keys, phone, and glasses).
  • Prepare for the next day’s work the night before.
  • Create a checklist for yourself and others.
  • Place sticky notes on the door, dashboard, or wherever you will see them.
  • Turn off distractions – including cell phones and televisions.
  • Set a timer or a programmable watch to pace yourself.

Maintaining a routine as an accommodation can be most helpful for individuals who face difficulties in the following areas:

Organizing/Planning/Prioritizing

Memory Loss

Attentiveness/Concentration

Stress Intolerance

Managing Time

If the thoughts of a morning, daily, and evening routine are overwhelming to you right now, consider starting small and expanding. A routine for even part of your day can be highly beneficial. Once the benefits are recognized, the motivation to continue will come naturally. Happy scheduling!

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