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.

It’s Tax Time! Resources for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

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

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

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

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

Social Security Benefits Planning

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

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

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

Tax Resources

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

Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center

Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center

Small Business Forms and Publications

Business Taxes

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

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

Find a Location for Free Tax Help

Earned Income Tax Credit

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

More Information for People with Disabilities

Tax Benefits for Businesses Who Have Employees with Disabilities

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

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

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

Filing and Paying Taxes

Determine Your State Tax Obligations

3. USA.gov
Tax Issues for Businesses

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

Tax Incentives

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

 

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.