Accommodating Truck Drivers with Motor Impairments

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

By: Lisa Mathess, Lead Consultant – Motor Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resource:

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

 

 

 

An Interview with Sandy Maynard- ADD/ADHD Coach and Owner of Catalytic Coaching

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 21, 2018 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

Facilitated by: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD, otherwise known as the CHADD Conference. A colleague and I headed down to Atlanta, GA, to attend sessions and talk about workplace accommodations for employees with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We learned a lot while attending the Conference and one of the sessions that stuck out to me was led by Sandy Maynard on the topic of impulsivity.

Recently, I had the honor of reaching out to Sandy to seek further information about what she does as an ADD/ADHD coach. Below are some questions and highlights from our conversation.

1. Do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got started as an ADD/ADHD coach?

Becoming a life coach was actually my second career. During my first career I was a chemist and worked in a lab at a hospital. I started doing life coaching and there happened to be another life coach who was also located in Massachusetts who would occasionally refer clients to me. It turned out that the first client that she sent to me was someone with ADHD. At that point, I knew very little about ADD/ADHD and asked the client what I might read to try and best help her. She referred me to the book Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, so I read it. I realized from reading that book that I was able to help her and work well with her because I had ADD myself. It turned out that I already had some good coping skills in place. That’s when I began to expand my knowledge base and learn as much about ADD as I could to really specialize in coaching individuals with ADD/ADHD. I became one of the pioneers in the field. There were about six of us at the time who knew that when working with individuals with ADD/ADHD we needed to use our coaching skills differently. We ended up developing the ADHD coaching specialty. I started out with a coaching program to help train other coaches as a way to help expand the specialty area. With so few of us in the beginning, there was a time when I would have clients from all over the world. As long as they could speak English, I had the ability to Skype with them and provide coaching services that way. Some of the work was even before Skype. We would use an Outlook based program with a camera or even just talk over the phone. When you look now there are thousands or at least hundreds of ADHD coaches around the world.

2. I saw that you operate Catalytic Coaching. Can you tell us a little about that? What goes into the process of helping other ADHD coaches establish their own business?

Sure, I chose Catalytic Coaching as the name because of the word catalyst and my experience as a chemist. A catalyst is a substance that helps change other substances or molecules. The catalyst doesn’t change itself, it just promotes change in other organic or inorganic substances. I feel like I am the facilitator of other people’s behavioral change. I’m not the one who changes, I’m the one who helps the person change. I have helped other people start their businesses only because I knew this was something that I wanted to do. I’m not a business woman; I knew what I wanted to do and that was helping other people with ADHD and the coaching process. I’ve learned by trial and error and I can definitely tell you what will or will not help your practice simply because I have made those errors or had those successes along the way. When I started out it was a lot of snail mail. There are plenty of coaches out there who are business people and when I first started there wasn’t the ability to build or promote your business online with blogs, Twitter, etc., so I can’t help much with that. But I can help them with knowledge of how to work with a client in a way that is going to help produce positive results.

3. Do you currently continue to take on clients yourself or primarily work to help other coaches at this point?

I primarily work with clients. I do very little training — most of the techniques and procedures for the coaching process have remained the same over the years. There are a few new aspects and one of the most powerful suggestions that has come down the road since I started training other coaches has been Kathleen Nadeau’s suggestion that everyone with ADHD should have a personal policy for the use of technology. Kathleen and Judith Kolberg are the authors of ADD- Friendly Ways To Organize Your Life and the second addition contains a section about using technology. This is something that wasn’t as much of an issue before. Now it is something that I use with my clients all the time. We work to make sure they have a personal policy for technology. That might mean only checking their email three times a day or turning off their phone while at the dinner table. It varies among clients, but it is about setting limits and finding balance with the use of technology. For myself, when searching online for flight information I give myself no longer than an hour to search for the times and dates that I want. I no longer allow myself to spend days doing that. Sometimes it can be useful to find certain tools to help, for example, I use Orbitz when searching. The search engine may be different for others, but I have found that Orbitz works for me. Before that it would take me hours. It’s about finding what works best for you.

4. Tell us a little about the process of being connected with an ADHD coach. In your experience does it seem to be that individuals reach out on their own or more so that they get referred to a coaching service?

It’s both. I prefer to get my clients through referrals from therapists. If a therapist knows about coaching they can make the determination as to if the person is ready for coaching. Nancy Ratey, who I like to think of as the mother of ADHD coaching, talks about the idea of being ready, willing, and able to be successful with coaching. Sometimes there may be things that individuals need to work out emotionally or receive treatment for before they are ready for coaching. You want the person to be ready, willing, and able to really benefit from it. Most therapists are glad to find me because taking the time to sit down and look at an app or go through organization strategies isn’t typically a part of what they do. I am very wary and feel that all coaches should be wary when someone finds you on the internet. Sometimes clients are not ready, willing, and able to be coached. They think it is what they need, but they may need something else first. I do sometimes have people reach out to me because they have seen a writing piece that I have written for ADDitude Magazine. They are just looking for a few tips and we may talk a couple times, but generally, I like to receive clients from local resources.

5. When an ADHD coach works with a client is there typically a main focus such as school, work, etc. or is it more of a holistic approach looking at all aspects of life? Does the client seem to come in with certain things they hope to work on?

It varies by the client. Sometimes I have a client that comes in and says “Sandy, if I don’t start getting to work on time I’m going to lose my job” and so we know where to start. Other times individuals may be dissatisfied with performance on the job, but they are pretty good about home and social life so we would focus more on work than around the house. I usually get a mixture of both. A client may have personal and professional goals. Often times whatever they are working on affects both. Whether it is organization, concentration, or time management it can affect both their home and work lives. Occasionally I will have a client where we really focus on work, home, or school. They may have something specific, but more often it is a mixture of things.

6. Is there a typical length of time that a coach works with a client? A certain amount of sessions or anything like that?

I suggest that clients commit to at least 3 months. There is a lot of research on behavioral change and it shows that it takes 3 months of concerted effort to make a behavioral change that doesn’t recidivate. Now, that is with the general population. I think that with individuals with ADD/ADHD it takes a little more than 3 months. I feel that my clients who have been the most successful have worked with me over the course of a year. That doesn’t always mean that we have a weekly appointment for the whole year. Towards the end we may have a 15 minute check in here and there to make sure they are staying on track with the behaviors they have changed or are doing differently. There is talk out there about doing something for 21 days consistently to make it habitual, but the real research that I have found seems to come from a university in England. They say to create a new habit that doesn’t recidivate it can take 6-8 months. This is because you may slide back and then start again and so on. Consistency is something that can be so challenging for those with ADD/ADHD so I would say 8-12 months for them. It may not be as intense after the first 3-6 months, but I would always ask that a client commit to at a minimum 3 months of coaching. Typically, we will meet weekly, commit to goals, review goals, assess what is working and what is not, make changes and then meet again the next week. I try to be very flexible with my clients. Sometimes it is a weekly meeting. Other times it may be a 15-minute daily call. The frequency and length that we meet decreases as time goes on.

7. This past November I had the opportunity to sit in on your session Impulsivity: Understanding the Causes & Reducing the Consequences in Atlanta at the 2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD. Is impulsivity something that you frequently encounter with clients?

Absolutely. It’s called attention deficit disorder, but the impulsivity of that can cause some of the more severe issues in terms of consequences. Impulsivity can be problematic because we often make impulsive decisions and usually impulsive decisions can be very bad decisions. We haven’t played the movie forward to think about any consequence of the decision, good or bad. Restraint of pen and tongue. Think about how many individuals with ADD/ADHD have been fired because they responded inappropriately to their boss. Impulsivity can be very problematic in terms of jobs and relationships. The attention piece is also important because it determines how well we can be productive at home and work.

8. I know in that session you talked about some of the factors contributing to impulsivity. Can you tell us a little about some of the main factors that you see driving impulsivity?

Stress is the biggest factor in impulsivity. It can be good stress such as getting married or graduating, or it can be bad stress like a parking ticket, losing a job, or divorce. Empirically, I’m not sure how many studies have been done in this area because there are so many types of stress that it is hard to quantify, but I feel like stress exacerbates the ADD/ADHD symptomology. In general, I can say that I do see it with my clients when they are stressed out. They are more easily distracted and they are more impulsive. That’s why I have a holistic approach when I work with someone. We talk about what time they go to bed, what time they get up in the morning, their nutrition, if they are open to any sort of spiritual approach to try and help such as meditation, prayer, or quiet time. Doing the self-care creates a firm foundation for working on any personal or professional goals.

9. Do you have any practical tips you might share for anyone who may be struggling with impulsivity in the workplace?

Take a deep breath and try to recognize triggers. Is there a particular person or task at work that causes you to be in an emotional state? Try to recognize those triggers that might cause you to be impulsive and say something you can’t take back. Also, prepare yourself. Take a deep breath, check your body for tension, and learn where you physically store that stress. If you know you have a meeting that is going to make you feel stressed, go in, have a seat, and relax your shoulders. Work to relax the tension in your body and take deeps breaths to help settle in to a relaxing state. The physical part can be important, that is where the adrenaline is happening. Identify tools to help you mentally as well. Something to help you go into the meeting on a positive note. Develop a mantra or phrase to tell yourself going in to try and help yourself stay calm and avoid impulsivity. I often refer to the golden rule: “do unto others as you want them to do to you.” Practice patience and kindness. You don’t have to like the person or situation, but you want to be kind and respectful. Again, watching restraint of pen and tongue. If you are quick to react, learn to have some phrases you can use such as “let me think about that some more and get back to you.”

10. Would an ADHD coach go into the workplace with a client to evaluate or is it more about providing strategies for the client to incorporate on their own or pursuing accommodations with their employer?

On occasion, I do interact with supervisors or go into the workplace to help. I take on the role of a professional organizer for some of my clients. Professional organizers can come in and help someone get organized, but then they leave; their job is done. They don’t help the person work on the behaviors that come with being disorganized and that’s what I mostly do with my clients. Sometimes I do go into the office. I’m delighted when an employer calls me about an excellent employee who is wonderful, but they are frustrated with the constant tardiness, not filling out time sheets, disorganization, etc. I know in those cases that the employer is going to respond and be helpful if we do identify a reasonable accommodation. That doesn’t happen a lot because most people want to be very confidential about the hidden disability. Professionals tend to push not disclosing until it is absolutely needed. When I am working with an individual who is having problems at work, how it is set up or the way things are done, I help them identify what they may need to perform the job better. We talk about not using the phrase accommodation at first, but simply going to have a conversation with their boss about how they work best and what they need. Most employers, if the request is reasonable, will not turn you down if it means things are going to be more productive.

11. What might you tell someone with ADHD who may be struggling in areas of their life, but are afraid/nervous about reaching out for help?

I would say a very safe place to reach out for help would be a local CHADD group. Usually local CHADD groups put together a list of resources that they personally have used or would recommend that are ADD/ADHD friendly. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend solely going to the internet because you’re not always going to know exactly what you are finding. You want someone who is going to be an expert with what it is you are dealing with. ADDitude Magazine can be a good place to find resources. Usually the people who write for the magazine attend the CHADD Conference every year. They keep up with the field and are always wanting to learn more. I think ADDitude Magazine is probably the best resource for looking up people who specialize in ADHD and are user friendly so to speak.

12. Do you have any favorite moments or experiences from working with clients or other coaches?

I’ve attended a couple graduation ceremonies of clients and it always warms my heart to see the smile on their face when they have graduated after struggling with school and having worked so hard. To have that diploma in their hand and to be really ready to move on to the next stage is just heartwarming.

I can think of another client who I worked with who did well at work. Her job was very structured and routine. She was having difficulty more so with her home life. What do we have for dinner? When I am going to do the laundry? This and that need fixed and I need to take my child to ballet lessons. She was really having a hard time. We met on a weekly basis, but every night she would call me and report what she did at home that day. It could be that she folded the laundry, planned meals for the next week, anything. Calling me was sort of like patting herself on the back for what she had accomplished that day and most of the time she would just leave a message. One night she called me and said “Sandy, you are never going to believe what I did, I got the stain out of my living room rug!” Now, that stain had been there for months. She paused and told me that her mother’s response would be that “it’s about time,” but that she knew I would be jumping up and down for her. That was a very heartwarming moment as well. Normally the hardest things for us to do are simple things for most people. For that reason, when we do accomplish the thing we have been struggling with, we seem to minimize it. It feels like no big deal because everyone else does it. I am here to say do not minimize it — it is a big deal. You did it. For years, you have been struggling and you did it. You pat yourself on the back and acknowledge it.

13. Lastly, what do you find most rewarding about your career as a coach?

Being the client’s cheerleader. Reminding them that they did it. I was there to help and facilitate it, but they did it. They did the hard work.

Sandy told me that while she resided in D.C. for quite some time she has recently moved to the greater Boston area. If you live in the area or know of someone who may be ready, willing, and able you might look into Catalytic Coaching. Sandy can be reached at (202) 486- 8901 or by email at sandy@sandymaynard.com. She also has a Website at http://www.sandymaynard.com/.

Additional Resources:

JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with ADHD
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Executive Functioning Deficits
2018 International Conference on ADHD
 

Breaking the Mold with Workplace Accommodations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources:

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

Accommodation and Compliance Series: Respiratory Impairment

Searchable Online Accommodation Resource: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

 

 

Observations from the 2017 Harkin Summit

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 30, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Lou Orslene – JAN Co-Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

October is ADHD Awareness Month

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

Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

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

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

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

Here are a few sample situations and solutions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources:

National Institute of Mental Health – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder Association – ADHD: The Facts

All Disabilities Matter in an Inclusive Workplace

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 10, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Benjamin Levi, Employment Specialist

I have recently started working in the disability field assisting individuals with diverse limitations who are trying to acquire workplace accommodations. In the few short months I’ve been working in this field, I have come to realize that people often make assumptions about a person’s disability — some minimizing the effects and some overestimating the severity. Either way, making assumptions about someone’s disability can have a negative impact in the workplace. It can make an employee feel like he or she is not part of the team or not respected as an individual. It can also interfere with providing effective accommodations because these are based on an employee’s actual limitations, not assumptions. Why does this happen? It may be a lack of knowledge, experience, or that an employer is worried about the bottom line despite low cost of accommodation data. Instead of providing the minimum accommodation needed, if an employer focuses on the tools an employee actually needs to be successful, this leads to better productivity outcomes for both the employer and employee.

How can employers overcome this tendency to make assumptions about employees with disabilities? Listen to the individual. Provide disability awareness training for both employees and supervisors in some capacity so that everyone will be more aware of the range of conditions employees may experience in the workplace. Every employee with a disability is unique and should be treated that way. JAN provides resources on disability awareness that can be used for training purposes, or you can contact us directly for more specific resources.

Employees should feel a sense of relief, not anxiety, when engaging with their employer in an interactive process to determine effective and reasonable accommodations. The JAN publication The Interactive Process – JAN’s Effective Accommodation Practices Series provides step-by-step guidance so that employers and employees together can identify accommodations that will be successful and contribute to an inclusive workplace community.

All employees and supervisors share the responsibility in creating an inclusive work environment. Whether it is the employee’s first day on the job, or an extended tenure, there is always a way to become more aware. The JAN Workplace Accommodation Toolkit provides many resources to assist in developing a disability-inclusive and compliant workplace.

Inclusion can provide a healthy workplace environment for all employees and contribute to the success of any organization. More awareness and fewer assumptions can make a huge difference. If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, please feel free to reach out to us!

 

 

Maximum Leave Policies and the ADA

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 6, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant – ADA Specialist

Leave-related accommodation issues are among the most complex and challenging under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA leave can be administered in various ways, and in conjunction with employer leave policies and benefit programs, and federal and state leave laws. Deciphering and administering the requirements of federal and state leave laws can perplex even the most astute leave management specialist. Employers should be aware of the interplay between their own policies and state and federal leave laws when exploring leave as an accommodation under the ADA.

While the murkiness of applying leave benefits and entitlements can leave one clambering for clarity, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made one point quite clear in the ADA-land of leave as an accommodation; when reasonable, employers can be expected to make an exception to a maximum leave policy to grant extended leave as an accommodation under the ADA. What is a maximum leave policy? This is a workplace policy that limits the amount of leave employees can take, regardless of the reason for the need for leave, culminating in termination when employees cannot return to work before the leave period ends.

Maximum leave policies often cap the number of weeks allowed at 12, consistent with the amount of time permitted under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or can require caps that are either lower or much higher than 12 weeks (e.g., even one year or more). While these policies are permissible in general, the ADA requires employers to consider extending leave beyond the maximum leave allowed by policy when additional leave is needed due to a disability-related reason. When employers do not engage in the interactive process and make exceptions to policies (when reasonable), they are sometimes met with a discrimination claim from EEOC. Multiple employers have been forced to defend their maximum or inflexible leave policies, including Blood Bank of Hawaii, UPS, Dillard’s Dept. Stores, Interstate Distributor Co., and Sears Roebuck. One of the most notable settlements was with Lowes in 2016.

I know what you’re thinking — how does not being at work for six months enable an employee to do their job? This doesn’t make sense. The objective in providing leave as a reasonable accommodation is to allow a qualified employee with a disability the job-protected time that is needed to manage their medical impairment in order to return to the workforce, whether that be within three weeks, six months, or twelve. Sometimes, more leave is required than initially anticipated (e.g., usually due to unforeseen complications) and this can lead to a request to extend leave beyond the maximum leave period allowed by employer policy. When the need for extended leave becomes apparent, an interactive process is necessary under the ADA to determine – on a case-by-case basis – if it is possible to make an exception to the policy and extend leave.

There is no pre-determined duration of leave time that is required to be granted as an accommodation under the ADA. Nothing within the ADA or EEOC enforcement guidance dictates how much additional leave is required to be granted. However, employers must be clear in knowing they cannot simply rest on the requirements of their maximum leave policy to robotically deny leave when the ADA applies. Employers do have the discretion to decide how much leave is reasonable and should assess this by applying an undue hardship analysis.

How can undue hardship be established in leave-related situations? JAN cannot indicate when undue hardship is apparent, but we can offer a practical tip: accurately and objectively document the impact of the employee’s absence on business operations and leave emotions and feelings out of the analysis. It’s one thing to say that employee morale is low because Kenny hasn’t been to work in 12 weeks, but employee morale doesn’t factor in when assessing undue hardship. On the other hand, if Eric, Kyle, and Maria each have to repeatedly work ten hours or more of overtime each week that Kenny is absent in order to meet the production demands of the business, then this is a fact that will result in a multifaceted impact that can be taken into consideration. Document the facts, not the feelings. The objective is to adequately capture factual information to objectively analyze undue hardship, not to use the information to penalize the employee who is using leave.

Detailed information about maximum leave policies, leave as an ADA accommodation, and assessing undue hardship can be found in the EEOC publication, Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC has also issued a number of other documents that discuss how the ADA addresses various leave and attendance issues, including their enforcement guidance documents on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA and Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities.

 

An Interview with Barbara Bissonnette of Forward Motion Coaching

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 30, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

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

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 Barbara Bissonnette, certified coach and the Principal of Forward Motion Coaching. She specializes in career development coaching and workplace advocacy for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). She also offers training for professionals and consultations for parents.

Barbara is the author of the award-winning books: The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome; the Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide: A Neurotypical’s Secrets for Success; and Helping Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome Get & Stay Hired: Career Coaching Strategies for Professionals and Parents of Adults on the Autism Spectrum. She also publishes the Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter which is available at no charge.

JAN consultants use and value the information available in Barbara’s books and newsletters, and had the opportunity last summer to attend her in-person training in Buffalo, New York. Read what Barbara has to say about herself and the services she offers that assist in employment situations.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and how you got started in coaching.

Before coaching I had a business career, primarily in marketing. After 20 years, I wanted to give back my experience to people who could really benefit from it. I decided on coaching, expecting to work with small business owners.

I was midway through a graduate certificate program in executive coaching when I happened upon a workshop about coaching people with Asperger’s Syndrome. I attended for my own interest, and was fascinated by what I heard. I began networking with professionals, all of whom thought there was a need for employment coaching. That was in 2006, and I have specialized my practice since then.

Could you briefly explain your consultative services? What you do for the people who contact you? 

I offer several services. One is coaching for individuals, either locally in Massachusetts or long distance via telephone or Skype. My practice is split between individuals who are seeking employment, and those who are facing challenges on the job.

I also consult with parents to help them figure out the type of occupation that will be manageable for their son or daughter. Some want to better understand the impact of Asperger’s or NLD.

Additionally, I consult with employers who know or suspect that they have an employee who is on the autism spectrum. Typically they want to learn more about how Asperger’s impacts an adult in the workplace, and what they can do to address performance problems. An employer sponsors me to coach an employee.

You mainly serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders, nonverbal learning disabilities, and those with other communication challenges, but are there other co-existing conditions or disabilities that are challenging as well?

The majority of my clients have Asperger’s Syndrome (and similar autism spectrum profiles) or NLD. I have also worked with people who have Turner Syndrome, agenesis of the corpus callosum (which can look very much like Asperger’s), hydrocephalus, and AD/HD.

How do you determine if coaching is the right thing for the people who contact you? Is that normally accomplished through the free 30 minutes?

The free, 30-minute session is for prospective coaching clients. They tell me about their situation, and why they are thinking about working with a coach. Then I explain how coaching works and answer their questions.

Coaching is an interactive process. To be effective, a client must be willing to learn or develop skills. He or she must also be willing to follow through on action steps in between the sessions. New clients commit to three sessions, so they can test whether it is right for them.

What would the average (if there is such a thing) schedule for coaching look like?

People usually have a session once per week, at least in the beginning. I don’t do coaching less frequently than every-other-week, because when too much time goes by in between sessions, people lose their focus and don’t make progress. Clients typically work with me for two to nine months. The length of time depends on the individual and what he or she is trying to accomplish.

What are some of the most common issues and difficulties the individuals you work with experience?

I’ll begin with job seekers. Many are intimidated and confused by the interview process. I help them understand the purpose of various questions, and how to clearly communicate their abilities. We may also work on body language. Recently, a client explained that she found it difficult to both listen and look at people. During interviews, she focused her gaze on objects. She was not aware that she was sending a nonverbal message that she was not interested in the job.

Often clients need assistance with resumes. A man with strong qualifications sent over 200 resumes, without being invited to a single interview. I saw one problem immediately: the font size was tiny! I explained that the resume was nearly impossible to read. This client was using a template that automatically adjusted the font size to fit on one page. He followed my suggestion to discard the template, and created an easy-to-read resume. Within one month he had several interviews.

Clients who are employed often have problems with interpersonal communication and/or organizational skills.

Communication is a broad area. The person may misunderstand employer expectations, or miss signals that there is a performance problem. He may ask too many questions, or disrupt co-workers with unusual behavior – as one man who said hello to everyone who walked past his cubicle. An employee may continually challenge others, wanting to perform a task her way, or tell colleagues that their ideas are silly.

Other clients experience executive function difficulties, and struggle to complete tasks efficiently. They need tools and strategies to organize assignments, manage time and identify priorities. Some must learn to control their emotions, especially anger and frustration.

What do you find most rewarding?

Watching the progress people make when a concept is explained in a way that they can understand, or when they learn a strategy that solves a problem.

How can individuals contact you for assistance?

I suggest visiting my Web site www.ForwardMotion.info. There, a person can learn more about my services, download free guides, and sign up for a free subscription to my monthly newsletter, the Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter. To arrange the free session for prospective coaching clients, individuals can email me at Barbara@Forwardmotion.info.

 

Accommodation Ideas for Individuals on Dialysis

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 24, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Elisabeth Simpson, Lead Consultant — Motor Team

We recently received an inquiry regarding accommodation options for individuals who are receiving dialysis and are taking time off work to seek the treatment. Employers who are evaluating these types of requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may be unsure of the options that can be presented to the employee to lessen the impact on both the individual and the business when a good amount of time is taken away from work. Some individuals receiving dialysis may be able to continue to work with accommodations, in lieu of taking time off work or a leave of absence, depending on their individual needs.

Dialysis is needed when the body alone can no longer remove enough waste products to sustain life. Individuals who are experiencing chronic kidney disease may need dialysis before having a kidney transplant. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. For more specific information on the two types of dialysis, visit JAN’s page on Accommodation Ideas for Renal/Kidney Disease. Accommodations for individuals who require dialysis differ dramatically from one person to another.

Accommodation ideas can include:

  • performing peritoneal dialysis in the office, which would likely require access to storage materials, flexible scheduling, a private and clean area with a cot, and proper biohazard disposal (there are no needles),
  • flexible use of leave time,
  • modified attendance policies,
  • working from home,
  • providing a laptop, tablet device, or wearable technology, possibly with a data plan, that would allow the individual to perform some work from a dialysis center,
  • adjusting break times to allow an individual to rest if experiencing fatigue,
  • reassignment to a position that is less physically demanding and/or allows for flexible leave, telework, etc.,
  • reassignment to a part time position,
  • transferring the individual to a position that is closer to home or a dialysis facility.

Some individuals may not be able to perform aspects of their job remotely; consequently, an adjusted or modified schedule or leave as an accommodation may be the focus of the interactive process. JAN offers information on leave as an accommodation that an employer may want to review. For many occupations, some work can be performed away from the worksite including receiving and responding to emails, writing and editing documents, or developing presentations. With appropriate IT applications and cloud computing, working remotely has become much more feasible. This option will, of course, depend on the nature of the job and the information that the individual may need to access. The types of accommodations available will vary greatly. Generally, an employer would want to consider how much time away from the workplace is needed; whether a schedule can be modified to allow the employee to make up time (i.e., adjusting arrival/departure times); whether work can be performed remotely; and any barriers that might exist that would prevent the employee from performing essential functions of the job in a different way. JAN consultants are happy to offer support to employers and individuals making requests for accommodations related to dialysis.

 

 

Service Animal Access vs. Wheelchair Access – Why the Difference?

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 19, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Linda Carter Batiste, Principal Consultant

We’ve been getting more and more questions about service animals in the workplace, both from employers and people with disabilities who use service animals. One of the questions we frequently get is whether employers must automatically allow an employee to bring a service animal to work or whether it’s an accommodation that the employee must request. Most employers believe it’s an accommodation that must be requested, while conversely, some employees believe they should just be able to show up with the service animal, like they do in public places such as stores, restaurants, and movie theaters. When we explain that employment rules differ from public access rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and that bringing a service animal to work, in most cases, is an accommodation and therefore must be requested, we often get the following question:

I choose to use a service animal to overcome my disability-related limitations, just like someone else with a disability might choose to use a mobility aid or a hearing aid.  Why do I have to ask permission to bring my service animal to work, but my coworkers who use, for example, wheelchairs don’t have to ask permission to bring their wheelchairs to work?

The answer is that most employers have no-animals-in-the-workplace policies, but very few have no-wheelchairs-in-the-workplace policies. Therefore, employees with service animals must ask the employer to consider modifying the no-animals policy as an accommodation instead of just violating the policy without permission. Of course, if an employer does not have a no-animals policy and lets other employees bring in animals, then an employee with a disability should be able to just show up with a service animal without getting permission.

In case you’re wondering, I have seen employers with no-wheelchairs-in-the-workplace policies, for example in some manufacturing plants or laboratory settings with cleanrooms. In laboratory settings, the problem is typically about the difficulty of sterilizing the wheelchair; cleanrooms must be free from contaminants. In some manufacturing plants, the problem is that the wheelchair can create a spark that could cause an explosion. In these situations, employees who use wheelchairs cannot just show up with the wheelchair; they must let the employer know that they use a wheelchair and ask that the employer consider accommodations that would enable them to work safely.

So it’s not that employers are treating you differently because you choose to use a service animal; the difference has to do with standard, workplace policies.