JAN Guest Interview: Dinah Cohen, Director of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP), U.S. Department of Defense

Posted by Kim Cordingly on July 16, 2013 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology, Veterans Issues | Comments are off for this article

Dinah Cohen is the Director of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) at the U.S. Department of Defense. Ms. Cohen works closely with senior leadership throughout the Federal sector to ensure employees, beneficiaries, and members of the public with disabilities have equal access to Federal services and employment. Ms. Cohen also initiated a program to provide assistive technology and accommodation support to wounded service members to aid in their rehabilitation and recovery process.

Dr. Beth Loy, a Principal Consultant at JAN,  had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Cohen this month about the mission of the CAP program, the importance of making effective accommodations in the Federal sector, and their role in ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to Federal employment opportunities.

Can you talk about CAP, its mission, and how CAP’s mission has changed over the last few years?

The Department of Defense (DoD) established the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) to eliminate employment barriers for people with disabilities.  CAP’s mission, since its inception in 1990, is to provide assistive technology and accommodations to ensure people with disabilities and wounded Services members have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the DoD and throughout the Federal Government.

CAP has expanded beyond the DoD to partner with 68 federal agencies making it the largest provider of reasonable accommodations in the world.  The program’s vision is to increase employment of people with disabilities and disabled veterans by ensuring they have access to accommodations throughout the DoD and Federal Government.

Since 9/11, we are seeing more disabled veterans returning to the workplace as civilians with a range of disabling conditions. They are tech-savvy and are ready to work. The assistive technology options still lag behind the general technology changes. 

What do you feel is the most important change you have seen in the field of assistive technology since being the Director of CAP?

I have noticed there are more assistive technology solutions and successful integration of the technologies that can address the needs of individuals with multiple disabling conditions. Next, the cost of accommodations has gone down and I have noticed there are more embedded solutions in the operating systems and general applications and tools. Since the baby boomers are getting older, the market for enhancements and some accommodations are being required by a larger number of individuals.

 For individuals who are reluctant to ask for modifications on the job, what can CAP do to support them?

I believe if the individual is armed with the information of their assistive technology needs AND the FREE price tag, they would be more comfortable requesting the accommodation solution. Most individuals are hesitate to bring the accommodation conversation to managers IF they think it will add a cost factor to the decision for employment OR they are not sure what would work. The employee should be familiar with their accommodation solutions to help with this conversation

 What trends do you think will occur in the near future in the field of assistive technology?

The new mobile environment has provided flexibility and user-friendly solutions to many individuals with disabilities via lots of free apps and embedded technologies. There will always be a need for some assistive technology solutions to support an individual in the workplace. We need employers to consider the needs of their employees with disabilities as they move forward on their strategic plans for the company/agency’s information environment and enterprise solutions. More and more able-body and people with disabilities want to have a flexible work environment and telework. Unless we are looking on how to provide the right tools for EVERYBODY and have a secure and flexible information environment, we will miss the opportunity of being the employer of choice.

Can you give an example of a situation involving an individual who came to CAP, received assistive technologies, and was successful in implementing the technologies at work?

We have over 100,000 stories on how we have provided accommodations and how the individual has used it in the workplace. I encourage your readers to go to the CAP website and see the videos of the technologies and to YouTube to hear the testimonial of our customers and how they are using the technology in the work place at www.cap.mil.

Anything else…

I encourage your readers to visit our Website, download the CAP APP, be a CAP Fan and continue to work with CAP and JAN to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities and wounded Service members.

Cómo comunicar las discapacidades y las acomodaciones a los compañeros de trabajo

Posted by Kim Cordingly on June 12, 2013 under Accommodations, JAN en Espanol | Comments are off for this article

Cómo comunicar las discapacidades y las acomodaciones a los compañeros de trabajo.

El Acta para Americanos con Discapacidades prohíbe a los empleadores comunicar a los compañeros de trabajo cualquier información relacionada con la discapacidad de un empleado, incluyendo el hecho de que un empleado está recibiendo una acomodación. Sin embargo, en ciertos casos el empleado voluntariamente quiere informar a sus compañeros acerca de una discapacidad y de su acomodación, especialmente si ellos notarán la acomodación de todos modos. Por ejemplo, si un empleado con discapacidades utilizará un perro de servicio en el trabajo puede ser conveniente educar a los compañeros acerca de cómo tratar con animales de servicio. Otro ejemplo es cuando un empleado tiene alergias severas y necesita evitar la exposición involuntaria a los alérgenos durante las horas de trabajo.

Las siguientes son líneas generales para aquellos empleados con discapacidades que deseen informar a sus compañeros de trabajo acerca de su discapacidad y sus acomodaciones:

  • Mantenga la conversación relacionada a la jornada laboral.
  • Indíqueles a sus compañeros los motivos por los cuales usted comunica su discapacidad.
  • No suponga que sus compañeros saben de qué se trata su discapacidad; prepárese para dar información básica y general si fuera relevante.
  • Indíqueles a sus compañeros qué necesita de ellos y por qué.
  • Explíqueles a sus compañeros cuáles son las acomodaciones que necesitará y cómo le ayudarán a realizar su trabajo.
  • Sea positivo y abierto pero limite la información que comparta según se sienta cómodo.

Para obtener más información contacte a la Red de Acomodación en el Empleo JAN.

Acomodaciones en el empleo: desde el estilo casero al estilo gourmet

Posted by Kim Cordingly on June 6, 2013 under Accommodations, JAN en Espanol | Comments are off for this article

Acomodaciones en el empleo: desde el estilo casero al estilo gourmet

Existen acomodaciones en el empleo de todas las formas y todos los tamaños, las hay de naturaleza muy técnica o las hay muy simples. Veamos algunos ejemplos de cómo JAN ha asistido a la pequeña empresa con acomodaciones que fueron más caseras que gourmet.

Ejemplo: Un auxiliar administrativo con el síndrome de túnel carpiano tenía problemas al abrir y cerrar carpetas llenas de papeles. Dos opciones de acomodación gourmet habrían sido reemplazar todo el sistema de registro con un fichero automatizado o reemplazar las carpetas con modelos nuevos y fáciles de abrir.

La acomodación casera que sugirió JAN fue: ¿Qué tal si se abren los broches de los anillos de la carpeta con un destapador de botella clásico? De esta forma, el empleado era capaz de agarrar cómodamente el destapador, conectarlo al broche, y abrir/cerrar con eficacia una carpeta sin prensión excesiva.

Ejemplo: Un consultor con una lesión en el hombro tenía dificultades para usar el ratón del computador. Debido a su lesión, ajustó su teclado articulado y la bandeja del ratón en un ángulo tan pronunciado que el ratón se deslizaba fuera de la bandeja. Dos opciones de alojamiento gourmet habrían sido sustituir la bandeja del teclado o la compra de una estación de trabajo para posición supina.

La acomodación casera que sugirió JAN fue: ¿Qué tal si se crea una casa para el ratón? La acomodación se resolvió con unos trozos de madera. El empalme con velcro de un borde de madera a la bandeja del ratón evitó que éste se deslizara fuera de su casa.

Ejemplo: Una empleada que trabajaba como cajera tenía dificultades para saber cuándo se la necesitaba en la estación de trabajo central debido a su pérdida de audición, le resultaba imposible escuchar voces en un entorno transitado y ruidoso. Dos opciones de acomodaciones gourmet habrían sido la instalación de un nuevo sistema telefónico o la compra de un pager buscador de personal con vibrador.

La acomodación casera que sugirió JAN fue: ¿Qué tal si se instala un interruptor de luz y un tomacorriente? La empleada era notificada a través de una lámpara conectada a un tomacorriente que se activaba mediante un interruptor de luz en la estación de trabajo central.

Contacte a JAN para obtener asistencia técnica acerca de todo tipo de acomodaciones -incluidas las soluciones de bajo costo. Estilo casero o gourmet…

Trending Topics – Nursing Mothers and the ADA

Posted by Kim Cordingly on June 4, 2013 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Trending Topics | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie Saab, Lead Consultant

JAN Consultants handle a wide-range of employment inquiries from people all over the country.  Every week there are issues that trend for one reason or another. For example, this week we fielded several inquiries from employers about accommodating nursing mothers. Employers asked what obligation they have to provide accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for mothers who either need breaks or a private space to express milk or nurse. What requirement is there under the ADA to provide accommodations for nursing mothers?

Under the ADA, a qualified person with a disability is someone who has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the ADA, lactation is a pregnancy-related condition but uncomplicated pregnancy and lactation are not disabilities covered by the ADA. Thus, an employer would not be required to provide accommodations for mothers who are nursing as a requirement under that statute.

However, in March of 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require covered employers to provide accommodations to nursing mothers under that law. The amendment requires employers to provide such accommodations as breaks and a private place, not a restroom, to express milk during the workday. In addition to this federal mandate, there are many state laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Federal requirements do not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees and so employers should become familiar with any state requirements.

The National Council of State Legislatures offers information regarding state breastfeeding laws. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor offers information about the accommodation requirements imposed on employers by section 7 of the FLSA. The following resources are available:

JAN’s quarterly ENews offers information about accommodation ideas for nursing mothers.

Contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division, for FLSA technical assistance at 866-487-9243 or 877-889-5627 (TTY).

What Are the JAN Consultants Reading?

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 29, 2013 under Accommodations, Blogging with JAN, Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

In what we hope will become a regular Blog feature, we’d like to share with you some of what the JAN consultants are currently reading. In our lives, we’re all so inundated with information – articles, books, reports, policy documents, and so on. Sometimes it’s helpful to hear what others find useful. In the field of disability, accommodation, and employment, our consultants read a wide variety of materials. We hope this will inspire you to check out what they find informative and inspiring.

Linda – Principal Consultant

If you work and also care for a family member who has a disability, you may wonder whether your employer has to provide you with the accommodations you need so you can care for your family member. JAN provides information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. The ADA does not require employers to provide accommodations for employees who have family members with disabilities, but it does prohibit discrimination on the basis of such associations. This means, for example, if your employer grants schedule modifications to other employees for child care, then it would probably be discriminatory not to grant you a schedule modification so you can care for a family member with a disability. This is referred to as the “Association Provision” of the ADA.

I find the following document particularly helpful on this topic and refer JAN’s customers to it:

Also, there may be other laws that provide you with rights related to caring for a family member with a disability. As a starting point, see:

If you would like to share your experience with working and caring for a family member with a disability, feel free to do so here.

Daniel – Consultant on the Cognitive/Neurological Team

I recently read an article published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy entitled “Separating Hoarding from OCD.” I discovered this article as part of my research for a piece I’m writing for JAN about hoarding in the workplace. The article does a great job of explaining the current confusion over what excessive hoarding is exactly, and the reasons why it should not be lumped in with OCD. Here are some of the differences between hoarding and OCD identified in the article:

  • There are more than five times as many excessive hoarders as individuals with OCD.
  • Not everyone with OCD engages in excessive hoarding. It is estimated that between 11% and 33% of individuals with OCD are also excessive hoarders.
  • Individuals with OCD often have “insight” into their condition, recognizing that their behavior is irrational and problematic while excessive hoarders usually do not.
  • Excessive hoarding is unresponsive to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy and medications that are often effective in the treatment of OCD.

For more information about this article see:

Beth – Principal Consultant

I recently read Michael Hingson’s Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero.

This New York Times best-seller by Michael Hingson tells the true story of how he and his guide dog Roselle survived 9/11. Blind since birth, Michael is an inspirational speaker who lost Roselle in 2011, but shares his fond memories with readers. The book tells the engaging story of how Roselle saved the lives of Michael and many others who were in the World Trade Center on that fateful day.

Look here for more information on Michael Hingson and his book.

Teresa – Senior Consultant on the Sensory Team

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month so in preparation, I’m re-reading an old favorite by West Virginia University’s own Ken St. Louis entitled Living with Stuttering: Stories, Basics, Resources, and Hope. The book discusses, “the current explanations and treatments for stuttering while recognizing that the different ways in which stutterers are affected go deeper than their struggles with fluency; the effects are as diverse as the vast stuttering population itself.”

For more information see:

Anne – Co-Director

Maybe it’s because my youngest is graduating from high school this month and will be off to college soon, but I’ve been reading a good bit about the aging workforce. One very interesting piece was recently released by ODEP’s NTAR Leadership Center entitled The Aging Workforce: The Role of Medical Professionals in Helping Older Workers and Workers with Disabilities to Stay at Work or Return to Work and Remain Employed by Maria Heidkamp and Jennifer Christain, MD, MPH. The report was the outgrowth of a one-day roundtable event in 2012 — convened to explore the relationship among, “medical professionals, employers, and the public workforce and vocational rehabilitation systems in terms of their current and desired roles in preventing work disability, with ‘disability’ in this context defined as the absence from work due to a medical condition.”

JAN has a couple of documents on the Website that may be of interest to those interested in this topic as well.

Tracie – Lead Consultant

JAN receives many inquiries from employers and employees who have questions related to the ADA and performance and conduct standards. In some cases, an individual’s disability may contribute to performance or conduct issues. JAN offers information to help people understand how the ADA applies to these sometimes complicated employment situations. My go-to resource on the topic is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on this topic — The Americans with Disabilities Act: Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities.

Melanie – Senior Consultant on the Cognitive/Neurological Team

I’ve been working on gathering and assimilating information and accommodation ideas on executive functioning for an upcoming JAN Webcast. Executive functioning involves abilities such as planning, organizing, managing time, paying attention, and remembering details. One book I’ve been reading that has been particularly helpful is Dyslexia in the Workplace by Diana Bartlett and Sylvia Moody.

Kim – Lead Consultant on the Self-Employment Team

I receive a number of inquiries from individuals with disabilities wanting to start craft, art, or handmade product related businesses. These skillfully produced creative items can include quilts, pottery, stained glass, photography, collage, jewelry, wind chimes, woodworking, and so on. In my research, I came across a book by Kari Chapin called The Handmade Marketplace – How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online. JAN’s customers frequently have questions about how to successfully market their products and use social media effectively. This book includes very useful information on both of these topics – presenting it in a very informative and accessible way.

JAN in the News – Private Sector Report from Our Neighbors to the North

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 2, 2013 under Accommodations, JAN News | Comments are off for this article

Many of us are aware of the influence of JAN’s services in the United States, but our impact is at times international in scope. A recent Canadian Report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities entitled Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector: We All Have Abilities. Some Are More Apparent Than Others (2013) highlights data from JAN’s publication Low Cost, High Impact (2012). The panel, commissioned by the Government of Canada, shares evidence gathered from both private sector companies as well as current research. The panel writes:

By connecting directly with employers, our panel set out to discover what can be done about the unemployment and under-employment of qualified people with disabilities in Canada. We explored the barriers – some physical and many attitudinal – but chose to focus on the positive. Our goal is to shine the light on best practices and successes among Canadian employers who have welcomed people with disabilities into their ranks. These examples can help us learn and do better.

In the section of the report seeking to dispel myths, JAN’s cost data on accommodating a person with a disability is highlighted. The myth cited is that the cost of accommodation for employers is prohibitive. The panel writes, “In a widely accepted study conducted by the U.S. Job Accommodation Network (JAN), workplace accommodations are shown to be low cost, with 57 percent of participants spending nothing at all. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was $500.” They also discuss additional data from the JAN study on the direct and indirect benefits to employers of making an accommodation.

You can view the entire report here:

Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector: We All Have Abilities. Some Are More Apparent Than Others
Report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (2013)

JAN in the News – Telecommuting

Posted by Kim Cordingly on under JAN News | Comments are off for this article

The recent decision by Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer to end telecommuting work arrangements set off a prolific discussion regarding flexible work arrangements. From a variety of perspectives — HR professionals, women’s organizations, IT professionals, academics, telework advocates, corporate executives, and others have weighed in on this policy decision. But how does this type of policy shift potentially affect employees with disabilities? The article Telecommuting Cuts Across Gender, Generations by Kathy Gurchiek, currently on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Website, discusses this issue from a gender perspective, but also features JAN principal consultants Linda Batiste and Beth Loy talking specifically about the potential impact of policies like this on workers with disabilities.

You can access the article here:
Telecommuting Cuts Across Gender, Generations

JAN Blog: What Works for Me?

Posted by Kim Cordingly on under Accommodations, Blogging with JAN, What Works for Me | Comments are off for this article

What Works for Me?

The JAN Blog is an opportunity for you to share with others your workplace accommodation solutions. JAN receives over 45,000 contacts per year – conversations with all of you that help us better understand what’s working effectively in your workplaces. We have a great deal to learn from one another. We encourage you to share your experiences. Your accommodation success stories can benefit many others around the nation.

JAN Situations and Solutions

Last month, Melanie Whetzel, JAN’s senior consultant on the cognitive/neurological team, traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, to present at the state APSE conference. Her presentation to nearly 125 participants focused on using JAN’s services and the accommodation process. According to Melanie, one of the best parts of traveling for JAN is meeting new people in locations throughout the United States. She commented, “These are people who are on the front lines of the employment scene — helping to prepare individuals with disabilities for employment, working with employers in the hiring process, and determining accommodations that will assist the employees in effectively doing their jobs.”

Many of the conference participants were interested in real accommodation situations fielded by JAN consultants. Here’s a JAN situation and solution discussed by Melanie at the APSE conference:

Situation: A retail employee with an intellectual disability had difficulty remembering when to take his breaks and lunch, and when to return to the sales floor.

Solution: Using a programmable watch, his job coach helped him set the times for his lunch and breaks, and when it was time to return to work. The watch was set to vibrate so the employee knew exactly when it was time to leave for breaks and lunch and when to return to the sales floor.

Man pointing at watch

For information on APSE — Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst — see APSE’s Website