JAN Goes to the White House

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 15, 2016 under Events, General Information, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team

February 18, 2016, will be forever etched into my brain. This was the day when approximately 130 Jewish disability rights advocates convened in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss where we as a community have been, and where we need to go.

My work at JAN is greatly informed by my Jewish tradition, where we find the work of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14) who stated that “the highest level of tzedakah [righteous act, often mistranslated as charity] is helping one help themselves,” or “setting one up in business rather than providing for someone,” or more commonly, “teaching one to fish, rather than giving one a fish.”  It was important, and humbling as someone working in the field of work-related disability accommodations to see this be included in the wide array of topics seen as normal in Jewish Community.

As the day’s events unfolded, we received a great history lesson from featured speaker Judy Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. This was enhanced by comments later in the day from Chai Feldblum, Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who was present during the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is familiar with how the “religious exemption” (where under Title III of the ADA, religious entities are exempt from having to make their public access facilities accessible) came to be.

The main event of the day centered around four panelists discussing the future of our movement:

Dr. John Winer of the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities talked about making the experience of disability normalized in the community.  “People with intellectual disabilities have the right to housing, to an occupation, and to feeling like productive members of society. We need to do the right thing by being beneficent,” he said. “No individual wants to feel like they are a chesed project [charity case].”

Sheila Katz, vice president for social entrepreneurship at Hillel International stressed the need for organizations to be open and transparent about not knowing what they do not know. She shared the vision for Hillel going forward to actively engage Jewish students with a disability in an effort to ensure greater inclusion in campus life, including religious activities.

Aaron Kaufman senior legislative associate at the Jewish Federations of North America made a great point about the fact that some pieces of the inclusion puzzle do cost money, but if we prioritize inclusion, we will find a way to pay for it. This really resonated with me: building a mikveh [ritual bath] costs money, but if the community wants it to happen, we find a way to pay for it.  So too with inclusion Aaron pointed out.

Ruti Regan, co-founder of Anachnu, an organization that teaches the Torah from a disability perspective hit the nail on the head by visually demonstrating how an action has a very different connotation in different contexts that are learned behaviors in society. An example she used was that a person with a developmental disability may display a behavior of rocking back and forth – this being perceived as a “problem” or deviation from a norm. In a different context, a person in prayer might be rocking back and forth and this is perceived as devout behavior. Her point was that we need to become aware of how we prescribe meaning (good or bad) to the same behaviors based on the context.

Comments from Shane Feldman, Lauren Tuchman, and Liz Weintraub, amongst others highlighted improvements that have been made and concerns for issues that still need much attention.

All in all, it was an energizing day that I feel sure will just be a springboard for more good inclusion work to come. Many thanks to the White House staff who made this event happen:  Matt Nosanchuk and Maria Town – both from the Office of Public Engagement.

Spring Cleaning Your Workplace

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 7, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, General Information, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

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

After the long, dark, and cold winter, we yearn for spring. We look forward to warmth, flowers, birdsong, and spending time outdoors. We also look forward to the opportunity to spring clean our homes, workspaces, and classrooms. What better time to get rid of clutter and lighten up? It would be a much easier task if it were one we kept up with throughout the year, but most of us find that difficult to do.

While for some of us messiness may be a routine annoyance, for employees with organizational difficulties as a result of attention deficit disorder (ADD), cognitive issues and/or fatigue due to cancer treatments, fibromyalgia, brain injury, multiple sclerosis (MS), or other impairments, creating and maintaining order may be especially challenging.

For those of you who work from home, you may find it even more difficult to keep up with the clutter in your work space. Maybe the fact that you don’t have co-workers who can see your mess makes it easier to let it go and let it grow! There is also the chance at home that items not belonging in your office have an easier time migrating there.

Regardless of whether you work in a classroom, an office, a cubicle, or a home office, reducing the disarray in your workspace may very well increase your sense of professionalism and productivity. Look to the following tips for help in organizing your workspace and reducing your clutter to a more manageable level.

  • Don’t become overwhelmed when you look at the area about to be cleaned. Take heart! Be brave!
  • Start from one side of the room, area, or desk and move in a path to the opposite side.
  • Remove rarely used tools and gadgets from your desk top and drawers. Place them in a storage area that is convenient for when you do need them. Label areas for easy retrieval.
  • Do you have books that you rarely use? Remove those to storage as well. If you haven’t used a particular book within the last 60-90 days, it is probably not something you need to have at your fingertips.
  • If you are a collector of whatnots and trinkets, consider limiting the number you display on your desk at a time. Put the others into storage and plan to rotate them in and out for a fresh new look.
  • If you have extra furniture in your space that is not needed, consider removing it. It may create more surface area that allows you to collect even more clutter.
  • Think about hanging photos of your family, sports teams, etc., on the walls instead of having them take up desk space.
  • If you have a mountain of paperwork, go through it with only three categories in mind: things to act on, things to file, and things to toss.
  • Color-code files to help identify them with ease.
  • Invest in stackable bins or trays for papers. Label them.
  • Use a bulletin or magnetic board to keep often-used items, schedules, or policies / procedures within eyesight. If you are a person who likes to collect photos, cards, or whatever, consider having one board for work use and one for personal use.
  • Have a trash can handy while opening mail. Toss absolutely everything that does not need to be responded to or remembered.
  • If your office recycles paper, have a tray handy for that. Take to the larger recycling area at least weekly.
  • Arrange the items on your desk and in your office according to how you use them. Your desk and surrounding office / cubicle space may look different if you are left-handed, for example.
  • Having an efficient usable workspace isn’t about it looking good, it’s more about the space being functional for you and your needs in your particular job.
  • Try to reserve 10 minutes at the end of each day to put things away, clear off your workspace, and prepare for the next day.

You can take charge and control your clutter by not allowing it to accumulate. Then when spring rolls around, you may be able to spend more time enjoying the flowers, the birds, and the outdoors!

 

Whether You Are a Night Owl or Morning Bird, Make Sure You Are Catching Your Zzzs

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 4, 2016 under Accommodations, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

This year, The National Sleep Foundation will celebrate Sleep Awareness Week starting March 6th. The hope is to spread awareness of the importance of sleep to our health, safety, and productivity.

In theory, we know from our own firsthand experience how important sleep is to our well-being. But lately, I feel like I have been hitting the snooze button more and more. I found out recently that hitting the snooze button can actually make you feel more tired during the day. Dr. Yizhak Kupfer from the Maimonides Medical Center in New York talks about how relying on the snooze button can diminish the positive effects of a good night’s sleep.

When we first wake by the sound of the alarm, we are pulled out of REM sleep, the most restorative sleep stage. REM sleep helps us feel awake and focused for the day. When we try to catch those extra 10 minutes, our bodies start a new phase of REM sleep. Unfortunately, those extra 10 minutes don’t allow enough time to complete the cycle, and our brain can stay in it after we have finally forced ourselves to get up and out of bed. This can throw off our circadian rhythms (internal clock) and cause us to feel tired or sluggish the rest of the day. It’s time to stop hitting snooze. Easier said than done, right?

When we are young, we tend to need more sleep than we do as adults. Ever notice how upset and sometimes “cranky” little ones can get if they miss their nap? As we grow older, it is still important to make sure we get an appropriate amount of sleep for our bodies to function properly.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following for sleep duration based on age.

Newborns: 14 to 17 hours

Infants: 12 to 15 hours

Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours

Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours

School-aged Children: 9 to 11 hours

Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours

Adults: 7 to 9 hours

Not receiving a sufficient amount of sleep can affect us in a variety of ways. It can cause difficulty with concentration, memory, and stamina. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc not only in our personal lives but also in our work lives. Lack of sleep can cause our productivity during the day to significantly decrease. It can sometimes cause issues on the job, especially if performance suffers as a result. For more information on how sleep can affect us at work and accommodations that may help, see http://askjan.org/media/Sleep.html.

There are certain things that can help us try to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, which in turn will help us to function properly and be productive throughout the day. One of these tips is to develop a bedtime routine. It is easy to think that bedtime routines are only a thing for children, but they can also be important for adults. Having a routine can prepare us and ease us into a restful sleep.

In addition to having a bedtime routine, the environment in which we sleep also plays a key role. The National Sleep Foundation talks about using our senses to create a sleep environment that fits our needs. They base these ideas on the five senses: touch, see, hear, smell, and taste. The following are some examples.

Touch: Getting a good night’s sleep means being comfortable. Things to consider:

  • Adjusting the temperature of the room
  • Using the right type of mattress and pillows
  • Making your bed in the morning

See: Light can affect our body’s circadian rhythms (internal clock) and disrupt our sleep patterns. Things to consider:

  • Using curtains and closing them at bedtime
  • Turning off electronics before settling into bed

Hear: As we sleep, our brains still register and process sounds on a basic level. Noise can disrupt our sleep causing us to wake or move between stages of sleep. This can also cause us to experience changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Things to consider:

  • Turning off the TV while sleeping
  • Using white noise such as a fan or other device to reduce the difference between background noise and “peak” noise, helping you to sleep better

Smell: According to the National Sleep Foundation, some smells may have an effect on our sleep. Things to consider:

  • Periodically changing sheets to ensure freshness
  • Using relaxing scents in the room. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and put us into a relaxing state

Taste: What we eat and drink before bed can also affect our sleep. Things to consider:

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine leading up to bedtime
  • If hungry before bed, eating a light snack as opposed to a meal

You can find additional information on bedroom environment from the National Sleep Foundation here https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/.

Practicing healthy sleep habits can help our bodies continue to function properly, and help us stay alert and ready to tackle whatever the day throws our way. It is time to take our sleep seriously and listen to our bodies. What better time to start than National Sleep Awareness Week 2016?

References:

National Sleep Foundation

The Snooze Button- Friend or Foe Maimonides Medical Center

Why Hitting The Snooze Button Will Screw Up Your Entire Day The Huffington Post

 

 

JAN Goes to the ATIA Conference

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 2, 2016 under Accommodations, JAN News, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant — Sensory Team; Kelsey Lewis, Consultant — Cognitive/Neurological Team; Lisa Mathess, Senior Consultant — Motor Team

At the beginning of February, a few JAN consultants had the privilege to travel to sunny Orlando, Florida to attend the annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference. All week, JAN was well represented with a booth in the exhibit hall along with consultants giving three presentations on a range of topics.

As part of the educational sessions, JAN offered a presentation titled Apps at Work: Accommodating Employees Effectively with Mobile Technology! showcasing a variety of mobile apps that could be used as part of, or as, a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. JAN talked about apps for limitations stemming from sensory, motor, cognitive, and psychiatric impairments.

JAN also gave a presentation on real-life situations and solutions from inquiries handled by our consultants regarding employees with multiple impairments and therefore various limitations. The presentation Multiple Impairments, Multiple Limitations: Accommodating Employees with Complex Needs was well received, as accommodation needs can be very complex and ever changing.

Finally, on the last day of the conference, JAN collaborated with alliance partner AbleData and presented on assistive technology options and accommodation ideas for employees with autoimmune disorders — Workplace Accommodations & AT for Individuals with Autoimmune Disorders.

The exhibit booth was visited by people from a variety of backgrounds, including educational professionals, rehabilitation professionals, students, employees with disabilities, and product manufacturers. Consultants discussed the various services offered at JAN and handed out publications and goodies to over 300 attendees.

If you’re interested in viewing the presentation PowerPoints, they are available on the JAN Website for download.

One of the things that we as JAN consultants enjoy most about attending conferences is visiting the booths of other service providers and vendors. Conference exhibit halls are a practical and hands-on way for us to keep up with the latest information on assistive technologies and disability services so that we can share up-to-date information with our consumers. This year, the ATIA exhibit hall showcased a wide variety of vendors and organizations. As usual, vendors of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices and vision-related products were well represented. Due to the recent merger of Dynavox and Tobii, both of which are well known for their AAC devices and eye gaze systems, we were particularly interested to see how they would combine their product lines. We learned that the DynaWrite2.0, a speech-generating device particularly well suited to meet the needs of literate adults who need to be able to use a land line phone for work, had been discontinued. However, one of the Tobii DynaVox reps assured us that a similar product, the highly portable Lightwriter SL40 Connect, will continue to be available. The Lightwriter can be used to make mobile phone calls.

In addition to presenting for JAN, we were able to attend multiple educational sessions. One unique and entertaining session was called Music-Making = Differentiated Instruction and Unique Therapy Protocols, which featured a new [to us] product called Beamz. Beamz is a laser-based music device. It includes three prongs (shaped like a “W”) and laser beams running from each prong. Each laser acts as a different musical instrument that can be played with the stroke of a hand.

The Beamz device can link to IOS products, MAC, and PC, allowing users to view the corresponding instrument with a laser beam on the screen of their device. Users can choose among many genres, including country, hip hop, classical, and even nature sounds. In addition, users can choose to add their own musical twist to already-synced songs ranging from Beamz original compositions, to karaoke hits, and today’s latest radio jams.

Beamz is currently used in multiple settings including schools, geriatric and long-term care facilities, at home, and as a therapy/ rehabilitation tool. It is thought to improve cognition, socialization, and motivation through memory recall, improved communication, and “brain fitness.” Beamz also claims to help with fine and gross motor skills along with improving range of motion.

 

 

 

“If People With Disabilities Can Own Their Own Businesses, So Can I!”

Posted by Kim Cordingly on February 3, 2016 under Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team

February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. What I find fascinating is the story of the woman behind this initiative — Shelly Thomas Christensen. I spoke with Shelly recently to discuss her experience as a parent, advocate and business woman.

Shelly identifies as a mom of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome who was not diagnosed until he was in high school. She reports feeling frustrated and angry as she advocated for him to receive services in his public school, seeing firsthand how little the professionals at his school were invested in him achieving academic success.

“I just detest people blocking others’ success,” she reflected inspiring her to turn her energy towards making a difference in this arena. Convinced she could change the way things were, she became a trained parent advocate, gaining knowledge and strength. Although her son’s experience in his synagogue school was positive because he was treated like any other student, Shelly learned this was not the case for many people in the Jewish community. This motivated her to turn her attention to a new initiative at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis supporting people with disabilities in Jewish community life.

“We are not just someone’s mitzvah project,” she says. “All people deserve the respect to grow to be who they can be, including holding a job. That was the beginning,” she reflects.

While surrounded by successful business owners with disabilities, Shelly experienced her “aha” moment: “If people with disabilities can own their own businesses, so can I!” Learning from those whom she initially helped realize their potential, Shelly launched her consulting company — Inclusion Innovations. What she quickly noticed was that she was one of a handful of people representing faith communities in important disability rights spaces and decided to spread this novel idea throughout the Jewish community. She describes her business as designing, “individualized strategies and programs for faith communities ready to explore ways to shift to a more inclusive environment.” Through this work, she could help individuals with disabilities get more of what they want out of life as valued members of the Jewish community. For Shelly, helping someone get what they want and need out of their faith community naturally leads to these same individuals being seen by their fellow congregants as multifaceted individuals — employees, spouses, parents, athletes, and so much more. She emphasizes, “When we value people, anything is possible.”

 

Disability Inclusion as a Function of Managing

Posted by Kim Cordingly on January 12, 2016 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Beth Loy, Principal Consultant

If you take a management class or two, you get a lot of theory. You might read about the Hawthorne Effect, which tells us that employees work harder when they get attention. You may subscribe to the Peter Principle. If you do, you promote employees based on their performance in their current role, not their qualifications for the intended role. You could believe in systems management, where employees are just pieces of a greater machine. But, being a good manager means understanding your workers, and this takes skill and practice.

A good manager has several qualities, including empathy, experience, and knowledge. Listening, leading, and delegating help a manager focus on making good decisions in a global environment. Being transparent, finding ways to motivate and inspire, supporting innovation, and encouraging effective communication are pivotal skills to engaging a productive workforce. But, what about disability? How do we manage disability issues? Let’s look at Ernest.

Ernest has been a manager for 10 years. Recently, his company took on an initiative to hire employees with disabilities. This is new to him, but he’s been known for leading employees effectively while making firm decisions. Ernest can look back at what it takes to be a good manager and push forward with including disability as a function of his management.

For example, Ernest tends to be very empathetic with his decision-making. Whether it’s related to scheduling around soccer games or helping employees navigate their insurance, he tries to find an answer. It’s now up to Ernest to understand that disability is just another area of focus for him. To support this, Ernest can concentrate on:

  • Applicants: Recruiting employees with disabilities is an important step in encouraging a disability-friendly environment. Working with service providers and specific job banks enables employers to actively seek talented people with disabilities who are looking for work.
  • Interns: Working with a local school or the Workforce Recruitment Program to bring on youths with disabilities will give the organization a chance to work with highly motivated students with disabilities.
  • Employees: It’s important to train all employees on disability etiquette and their rights to accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Frontline Supervisors: All frontline supervisors should be aware of the ADA. Knowing how to recognize an accommodation request and begin the interactive process is crucial.
  • Motivational Events: Having guest speakers, celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month, creating an employee resource group, or working with a nonprofit will make employees aware of the contributions of workers with disabilities.

It seems Ernest has all of the skills he needs to be successful with his new disability inclusion initiative; now he just needs to take those skills and put them to work. Facilitating the integration of people with disabilities is no different than managing people without disabilities, but you have to drive those changes at your workplace. The Job Accommodation Network can help you do that through training, technical assistance, consultation, and information. And, it’s all for free!

Understand that disability is the one minority group that you can join at any time. Also be aware that if you lack that understanding, the ADA does have teeth, and the enforcing agency for the ADA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is just a phone call away at (800)669-4000 or (800)669-6820 (TTY).

As the Old Saying Goes…

Posted by Kim Cordingly on January 4, 2016 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Linda Carter Batiste, Principal Consultant

Remember the old saying, “He knows just enough to be dangerous”? I find this saying popping into my head over and over when I talk with employers about reassignment as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For what seems like such a straightforward concept, reassignment sure ends up being one of those things employers have trouble getting right. Let me share several of the most frequent things I hear.

First, and I’d say foremost, I hear employers saying, “We’re not allowed to reassign an employee with a disability unless we can’t accommodate in the current job.” Well, this is true unless the employee and the employer agree that reassignment is the best option. I’ve talked to many employers who insist on trying to keep an employee in his current job even when the employee asks to be reassigned because the employer thinks that’s how it must be done. As with many things under the ADA, this is one where there’s an exception to the general rule that reassignment is the accommodation of last resort.

Next, I frequently hear from employers who are in the process of reassigning an employee with a disability and they have found the perfect vacant job. However, the job is a promotion and, the employer says, “We’re not allowed to promote an employee as an accommodation under the ADA.” Okay, that’s half right. The ADA doesn’t require employers to promote an employee as an accommodation, but at the same time it doesn’t prohibit it; employers are not prohibited from going beyond what’s required by the ADA as long as it benefits the employee with a disability.

Another thing I hear from employers is that when reassigning as an accommodation, it is okay to make an employee do his own job search and apply for whatever job openings he finds. My question for these employers is, “How is this an accommodation? Isn’t this what all employees do when they want another job?” The response I often get is, “Well, yes, but we think this is the fair way to do reassignment, we give the employee an equal chance to compete for jobs.” Okay, the problem here is that the other employees don’t have disabilities and they can do their current jobs so you’re really not giving employees with disabilities an equal chance by making them do the same job search as others. When reassigning as an accommodation, you should actively help find an appropriate vacant job and then place the employee in the job without making him compete. Otherwise, you’re not really making an accommodation.

And the final thing I want to mention that comes up a lot in my conversations with employers is related to seniority systems. I get calls from employers who implement seniority systems, but then have all kinds of exceptions to them for all kinds of reasons except disability-related reasons. They cite the Supreme Court holding that said it is “unreasonable” to reassign an employee with a disability if doing so would violate the rules of a seniority system. That does not mean that you write a discriminatory rule into your seniority system and then you get a free pass! It means that if you have a consistent, uniformly applied system in which jobs are assigned by seniority, you don’t have to bypass that system when reassigning under the ADA. But if you grant exceptions, then you might have to grant an exception for an employee with a disability who needs to be reassigned.

So next time you’re faced with reassignment as an accommodation, I hope you’ll remember a saying my dad taught me: “Always lift up the hood and check the batteries.” Applying this to the ADA, you can’t just rely on the general rules you hear; you always need to check for the exceptions!

And for more information about reassignment and other ADA issues, visit the Matrix Radar Blog.

Baby It’s Cold…Inside

Posted by Kim Cordingly on December 21, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist

Lately, I’ve had that holiday tune, Baby It’s Cold Outside, melodically playing in my mind (imagine the Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet rendition). The song makes me smile and, ironically, warms my soul. Of course, it’s the holiday season and that means the song is playing everywhere we go. But, this isn’t the only reason I’ve had this catchy tune on my mind; JAN customers have me thinking of it as well. Now that winter has arrived, we’ve been hearing from employers who have questions about accommodating employees who are sensitive to cold temperatures. Interestingly though, the questions have been about the impact of exposure to cold indoor temperatures.

Thermostat wars are a common ongoing battle in the office. You’ve experienced it, right? Co-workers stealthily sneaking around the corner, adjusting the heat up or down to their comfort level when no one else is watching. It’s probably fair to say that there is no particular temperature that is comfortable for everyone. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not regulate indoor workplace temperature but does recommend that temperatures be maintained in the range of 68-76° F. This range may be comfortable for many workers, but not all. Although this indoor temperature range is suggested, some workplaces maintain indoor temperatures (in cool and warm months) that fall well below 68° (I’ve heard as low as 61°), making it a frigid environment, particularly for those who are medically sensitive to cold temperatures.

Sensitivity to cold temperatures is a limitation associated with a number of impairments, including anemia, asthma, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and thyroid disorders. Some individuals with these types of impairments experience joint pain, stiffness, or numbness in their extremities (i.e., hands, fingers, toes) in response to cold temperatures, while others experience difficulty breathing. Exposure to cold temperatures at work can cause these symptoms to flare-up, making it difficult for an affected employee to perform job duties. This can lead to a request for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

One solution for dealing with the effects of the cold indoors is a small space heater to be used at an employee’s workstation. JAN Consultants are frequently asked if an employer has any obligation to provide a space heater as an accommodation for an employee who requests one due to a medical impairment. This isn’t about providing a space heater simply to improve personal comfort, but rather, to enable an employee to manage the impact of the cold on their impairment, and in-turn, performance. Some employers provide space heaters to employees for non-disability related reasons, or allow employees to bring their own heaters to work. But, is there a duty to provide a space heater as an accommodation under the ADA? Or, is a space heater a personal need item?

In situations where the temperature is extreme, it could possibly be argued that if the employer is creating a workplace barrier by maintaining an indoor temperature that 1) falls below the minimum suggested standard, and 2) has an adverse effect on an employee’s medical impairment and ability to perform job duties, then the employer may have some responsibility to provide a reasonable accommodation to eliminate that barrier – this could include providing a space heater. If a healthcare provider can confirm the existence of an impairment and that the extreme temperature of the work environment causes limitations that affect performance, then there will be medical justification for the accommodation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that, in some situations, items that might otherwise be considered personal may be required as reasonable accommodations where they are required to meet job-related rather than personal needs (EEOC, 2002). While a space heater may seem like a personal need item, when it is needed to help an employee perform job duties effectively, it may be a reasonable accommodation. It often makes sense to err on the side of caution, do a risk analysis, and use common sense when considering accommodations. At a cost of about $30.00 for a small space heater, it may be difficult to demonstrate that this low-cost solution is not reasonable. And, it’s certainly a lot less expensive to provide the accommodation than to deal with a disability discrimination complaint alleging failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.

In addition to a space heater, there are other accommodations that might be considered to manage the cold indoors. Some ideas can be found on JAN’s AskJAN.org website under A-Z, by limitation, temperature sensitivity, but consider the following:

  • Adjust work-site temperature
  • Redirect or cover air vents using air deflectors or vent covers
  • Do not situate workstation under air vents, near cold windows, or near opening exterior doors
  • Move workstation to warmer area of building
  • Use window insulation, rubber weather sealing, heavy curtains, or shades on windows to reduce draft
  • Provide an enclosed workspace with separate temperature control
  • Allow use of heated blanket, heating pad, hand warmers, etc.
  • Modify dress code to allow wearing of layers, gloves, outerwear, etc.
  • Provide speech recognition software to limit keyboarding
  • Allow flexible scheduling
  • Allow flexible use of leave
  • Allow work from home or an alternate (warmer) location

Accommodation needs and situations vary. If you have a specific situation or question you’d like to discuss with a JAN consultant, we’ll be happy to assist you. Contact us directly or visit AskJAN.org.

Reference:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2002). Enforcement guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html

A Scent Filled Season — Allergy Reminder for the End of Year

Posted by Kim Cordingly on December 10, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Mobility Team

It’s that time again! With all the holiday festivities at the end of the year, we may be tempted to bring in those leftovers, or wear that new perfume, but what may seem like a nice gesture or harmless fun can turn deadly if someone in the workplace is allergic.

If your business has a fragrance-free policy in place, this may be a good time to remind folks about it.

If your business does not currently have a policy, this may be a good time to develop one.

JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series:
Employees with Fragrance Sensitivity
provides sample policy language to help with this process.

The additional following general policies may be good starting places:

Ensure that all employer controlled spaces are fragrance-free:

  • Remove air fresheners from bathrooms
  • Use only fragrance-free soaps in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Provide hand lotion and hand sanitizer for employee use, ensuring only fragrance-free types are used
  • Ensure frequent and appropriate cleaning of workspaces with fragrance-free/chemical-free cleaners

Ensure that all employer controlled maintenance, repair, and remodeling are fragrance/chemical-free:

  • Use fragrance/chemical-free insecticide/pesticides
  • Use fragrance/chemical-free industrial cleaning agents
  • Use fragrance/chemical-free glues, sealants, waxes, and paints/stains

Ensure that all employer controlled spaces limit or prohibit known food allergens and/or provide appropriate accommodations:

  • Implement a policy restricting certain foods from the workplace
  • Permit extra time during lunch so the employee may go home to eat
  • Permit flexible scheduling so the employee with a food allergy may work when less people are present in the workplace to decrease possible exposure
  • Relocate employee’s workspace to reduce possibility of exposure to offending foods
  • Provide designated, well-ventilated area for all food to be stored, prepared, and eaten

More information regarding accommodating people with fragrance/chemical sensitivities can be found at Accommodation Ideas for Respiratory Disorders.

More information regarding accommodating people with food allergies can be found at Job Accommodations for People with Food Allergies.

Here’s to wishing you all a safe and happy rest of 2015 — from the JAN family!

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — More than Gray Skies in Winter

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 23, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

As I was driving on the interstate this past week, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the trees had lost their leaves. The beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges have slowly become bare branches. This, along with the slowly declining temperatures means one thing…winter is coming. Winter has its own excitement with the holidays and many traditions; however, at times it tends to bring with it feelings of dread. Winter means snow, ice, and for those of us in daylight savings time, shorter days. It’s easy to feel not ready and sad as the warm days leave us. But for some people, these feelings can be more intense than others.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that comes and goes with the change in seasons. SAD is most common in the winter months starting in the beginning of fall and peaking in December, January, and February (Mental Health America).

Common symptoms include:

  • Irritability and stress intolerance
  • Decreased energy
  • Oversleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Decreased interest in daily activities, sex, and social interactions
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

While the cause of SAD is unknown, it is believed that the reduced level of sunlight during the winter months disrupts the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), as well as the body’s levels of serotonin and melatonin (Mayo Clinic). This can impact sleep patterns as well as mood.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are certain factors that increase an individual’s risk for SAD. These risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Age – onset typically between the ages of 18 and 30
  • Family history of SAD
  • Having depression or bipolar disorder
  • Living far north or south of the equator- it is said to be rare in those who live within 30 degrees of the equator

Treatment for SAD can include prescription medications that fall within the same family of drugs that help treat depression. These types of drugs are typically non-sedative selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs.

Another type of treatment is phototherapy. This type of therapy includes exposure to high intensity bright lights such as sun lamps or sun boxes. These forms of light are often portable and can easily be placed on a desk or table in a work area. They also can be used at home to simulate natural light and help reduce fatigue and feelings of depression.

Additional information regarding SAD as well as a variety of light products can be found at this Consultants’ Corner.

JAN also offers information on accommodating individuals with various types of depression in the workplace — Accommodation Ideas for Depression.

While the winter months can bog us down with gray skies and cold weather, make sure to find time these next few months for things you enjoy. Whether it’s spending time with family and friends, planning a ski trip, or curling up on the couch with a good book and some hot chocolate, don’t forget to take time for yourself. Spring will be here before we know it!

Resources:

Mayo Clinic – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Mental Health America – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)