Go Red! February 7th is National Wear Red Day

Posted by Kim Cordingly on February 5, 2014 under Accommodations, Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

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

The American Heart Association reports that heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. For more than 10 years, the American Heart Association has sponsored National Wear Red Day® to raise awareness of the fight against heart disease in women.

Some of us have an abundance of red in our wardrobes.  It is a great color.  It stands out and draws attention.  According to the American Heart Association, the color red can be a confidence booster and make us feel powerful.  That may just be the reason they chose the color red to declare the fight against heart disease.  It is also the color of our hearts.

2014 marks the 11th anniversary of the National Wear Red Day.  Numerous improvements have been made in women’s heart health in the intervening years.  They include:

  • 21 percent fewer women dying from heart disease
  • 23 percent more women aware that it’s their No. 1 health threat
  • Publishing of gender-specific results, established differences in symptoms and responses to medications, and women-specific guidelines for prevention and treatment
  • Legislation to help end gender disparities

For more information about heart disease and the National Wear Red Day, visit the American Heart Association Website.

Stay tuned for JAN’s next Blog on accommodation situations and solutions for individuals with heart conditions.

JAN staff wearing red for women's heart health awareness

For information about JAN and job accommodations, visit our Website at AskJAN.org.  For more specific information about accommodations for heart conditions and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), visit Accommodation Ideas for Heart Conditions.

Don’t Break the Bank in 2014 — Low Cost Accommodations Do Exist!

Posted by Kim Cordingly on January 24, 2014 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Elisabeth Simpson, Senior Consultant – Motor Team

What do tennis balls, a headlamp, and curtains all have in common? They can all be used as a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. But wait — how can that be? Aren’t all accommodations expensive and high tech? In actuality, many accommodation solutions can be considered “low tech,” and according to an ongoing study conducted by JAN since 2004, employers report that a 58 percent of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500.

A common misconception about accommodations is that products and equipment that have been developed to assist individuals with disabilities with various activities, including those that are work related, are expensive, high-end electronics and technology. It is not uncommon for employers to ask about a high cost device before considering low cost/low tech options or simple modifications that work just as well.

It is important to note that some types of assistive technology (AT) that are more expensive may be necessary. The type of equipment, product, or AT that an employee with a disability needs (or has requested) will always be a case-by-case determination. But one thing for employers to consider is that, in some cases, something as simple as putting curtains up to reduce glare on a computer monitor for an employee with migraine headaches is much less complicated than searching for the best anti-glare computer monitor on the market.

Here are a few real-life JAN examples of low cost accommodation solutions:

A clerical worker who stamped paperwork for several hours a day was limited in pinching and gripping due to carpal tunnel syndrome. The individual was accommodated with adapted stamp handles. Anti-vibration wrap was placed around the stamp handles. In addition, tennis balls were cut and placed over the wrapped handles to eliminate fine motor pinching and gripping.

A production worker with intellectual or cognitive impairment and cerebral palsy had difficulty grasping a plastic bottle to accurately apply an adhesive label. JAN suggested making a wooden jig to hold the bottle while the employee applies the label. Approximate accommodation cost was under $50.

A grocery stock person with autism could not remember to wear all parts of his uniform. JAN suggested taking a picture of the employee in full uniform, giving him the picture, and allowing him to use the picture as reference when preparing for work. Approximate accommodation cost is $5.

A custodian with low vision in a public school setting was having difficulty viewing the carpeted area he was vacuuming. A lighting system was mounted on the custodian’s industrial vacuum cleaner, and the custodian was provided a headlamp.

As these examples show, often accommodations are low cost, low tech, and can be implemented fairly easily. Workspace modifications can be made at little to no cost and there are all kinds of inexpensive devices on the market. Accommodations might also include a specially designed or modified product, but customization doesn’t always translate into high cost. Removing the legs of a computer desk can be a very low cost custom modification for an individual of short stature.

JAN consultants can provide individualized case-by-case assistance regarding various accommodation options; information on products; organizational referrals; and locating specific vendors of a wide variety of low cost and low tech accommodations.

For onsite assistance, rehabilitation professionals and assistive technology specialists can be great resources for employers. These individuals have been specifically trained to perform assessments that identify the individual’s needs; strengths and abilities; environmental consideration; tasks that are problematic; and the tools necessary for success.

So remember, before jumping to the conclusion that an accommodation will break the bank, low cost accommodations do exist! If you are wanting to learn more about the JAN study and the various findings related to the costs and benefits of providing accommodations in the workplace, you can review the JAN Accommodation and Compliance Series Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact.

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

Posted by Kim Cordingly on December 18, 2013 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Louis Orslene, JAN Co-Director

When I’m on the road presenting, I often get this question. Usually it is from a supervisor or hiring manager, but at times from a human resource (HR) specialist who is responsible for advising managers. Being a manager, I understand the dilemma. The manager’s role is to keep a team well informed on issues affecting the team with the ultimate goal of insuring team cohesiveness and productivity.

When asked about another employee’s accommodation, the manager can take the approach that this information is none of the business of co-workers or other employees. However, as many who have served in this role know, this may not be the most pragmatic approach. And, as David K. Fram, Esquire, Director of the ADA & EEO Services for the National Employment Law Institute (NELI) suggests “…employees – or unions – may insist on knowing why one employee gets to perform the job in a different manner.” Thus, this complicates the manager’s dilemma.

At times, when it comes to sharing information involving an employee accommodation, managers are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. As with much of managing, it is a balancing act. On one hand, the manager must protect the confidentiality of the accommodated employee which also serves to minimize risk for business. On the other hand, the manager needs to communicate changes in the team environment to insure team morale, motivation, and ultimately productivity.

For guidance on this issue, let’s look to two national authorities on the topic of disabilities in the workplace — the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who enforces the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA), and NELI.

The EEOC offers:

“If employees ask questions about a coworker who has a disability, the employer must not disclose any medical information in response.  An employer also may not tell employees whether it is providing a reasonable accommodation for a particular individual.”

Fram from NELI adds:

“Some disability advocates have argued that disclosing that someone is receiving an ADA reasonable accommodation essentially reveals that the individual has a disability.”

So as a manager, “What then can I say?” First, I would suggest for the manager or HR specialist to request assistance from their legal department. A response to this question may have already been developed and sanctioned by the legal staff. If not, the EEOC offers that a manager:

“…may explain that it is acting for legitimate business reasons or in compliance with federal law.”

Fram writes that in the proceedings for Williams v. Astrue, 2007 EEOPUB LEXIS 4206 (EEOC 2007), the EEOC offered employers additional language to be considered.

Thus, a manager might also say:

“…it has a policy of assisting any employee who encounters difficulties in the workplace,” and that “…many of the workplace issues encountered by employees are personal, and that, in these circumstances, it is the employer’s policy to respect employee privacy.”

However, one of the most concise and informative answers to this question was articulated in a recent Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) Webinar by speaker Susan W. Brecher, Esquire, of Cornell University. Susan suggests that managers say:

 “…we look and treat employees individually and make considerations based upon good business reasons which allows for privacy of each individual.”

Of the responses I’ve heard to date, I think this is the best. It provides just enough information without speaking directly to the specifics of the individual being accommodated.

References:

EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities, EEOC NOTICE, Number 915.002 , Date 3-25-97, page 18.

NELI’s The Human Resource Guide to Answering ADA Workplace Questions (8th Edition), 31st Edition 9/2011, Page III-41-42.

EARN Webinar, The Interplay between FMLA and ADAAA Human Capital Development, Cornell University, ILR School.  Thursday, September 27, 2012.

Service Dogs as a Workplace Accommodation for Employees with Diabetes

Posted by Kim Cordingly on December 5, 2013 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Trending Topics | Comments are off for this article

By: Teresa Goddard, Senior Consultant, Sensory Team

November was American Diabetes Month, so predictably JAN consultants received many inquiries about accommodations for employees with diabetes. JAN customers often ask about the most common type of accommodation for a particular condition. Anecdotally, I would say that a modified schedule, such as flexible start times and modified break schedules, is one of the most common types of accommodation we discuss during calls about diabetes. Other typical accommodation solutions include providing a space for the employee to store medication and food; policy modifications which allow an individual to eat at one’s desk; or procedural modifications related to travel reimbursement which may be needed to avoid passing extra costs related to food, and medication storage or other disability related travel expenses on to the employee. However, over the past few years, I’ve noticed the number of questions we receive about the use of service dogs by employees with diabetes seems to be increasing. I’ve also fielded numerous questions on this topic during presentations and trainings, as well as the day-to-day calls here at the office.

The number of calls we receive at JAN related to employees with diabetes who use service animals to assist with management of their condition continues to be relatively small in comparison to the total number of accommodation inquiries we receive about diabetes. However, we have seen a gradual increase since the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). Because of the ADAAA, individuals with diabetes are more easily able to show they are covered under the ADA.  One of the changes that occurred when the ADAAA went into effect is that major bodily functions now count as major life activities for purposes of determining whether or not someone meets the definition of disability under ADA.  In addition, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on the ADAAA specifically mentions functions of the endocrine system as an example of a major bodily function that counts as a major life activity.  This is important for individuals with diabetes because the pancreas, which produces insulin, is an important part of the endocrine system.  While there is still no list of conditions that are always covered under the ADA, it is likely that most people with a diagnosis of diabetes will be able to show that they are substantially limited in the functions of their endocrine system.

The increased interest in service dogs as an accommodation for diabetes may have to do with their ability to alert individuals to blood sugar problems. Service dogs for individuals with diabetes are sometimes referred to as hypoglycemia alert dogs. In order to be considered a service animal as opposed to an emotional support animal, the dog has to be trained to perform some type of task. Hypoglycemia alert dogs are trained to prompt an individual with diabetes or episodes of hypoglycemia that their blood sugar levels may be dropping. The mechanism by which a hypoglycemia alert dog can detect a change in blood sugar is not fully understood.  A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care (Dehlinger et al., 2013) did not support the idea that dogs use their sense of smell to detect changes in blood sugar. However, the sample size was small. The study also did not rule out the possibility of dogs using behavioral cues rather than scent to detect changes in blood sugar. Many more studies will be needed before we can fully understand how hypoglycemia alert dogs detect changes in blood sugar and the circumstances under which they can do so reliably. It is my understanding that not all dogs are able to do so.

Although hypoglycemia alert dog is a term that is typically used to refer to a service dog used by an individual with diabetes, some of our callers have reported that their dogs can also alert to hyperglycemia.  Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar whereas hyperglycemia means high blood sugar.  Different treatments are required for each of these conditions. Those who are prone to episodes of both may need to test their blood sugar level when alerted by the dog in order to know what to do next.

Dogs may alert individuals with diabetes to a change in blood sugar in different ways, but one common method is to nudge the individual who is experiencing an episode, or to vocalize in a manner similar to a whine or a whimper. To an outside observer, this may appear similar to a dog asking to go outside or for food, but the meaning is clear to the individual with diabetes. Some dogs may be trained to perform more complex tasks such as retrieving glucose tablets.

One issue that comes up frequently during calls about hypoglycemia alert dogs in the workplace is the fact that training methods tend to be different from those of other service animals. It is not unusual among users of hypoglycemic alert dogs for a pet that is already part of the family of the person with diabetes to undergo service animal training. This is different from the training of many service animals whereby the animal is trained through a specialized program (often with participation of the future owner) and then placed into service. Sometimes the individual may train the animal on their own with the support of a diabetes-related medical provider or support organization. This may complicate the process of providing medical documentation to an employer, particularly if the training is done by the individual with a family pet.

Over the years, service animals have taken on an increasingly important role as an accommodation option for people with disabilities to succeed in the workplace. For individuals with diabetes, hypoglycemia alert dogs can help mediate a potentially serious health condition so that the employee can continue to be a productive part of the workforce.

For additional information see:

Service Animals in the Workplace

Accommodation Ideas for Employees with Diabetes

Reference:

Dehlinger, K., Tarnowski, K., House, J. L., Los, E. L., Hanavan, K., Bustamante, B., Ahmann, A. J., & Ward, K. W. (2013). Can trained dogs detect a hypoglycemic scent in patients with type 1 diabetes? Diabetes Care, 36(7), e98-e99.

Scents and Sensitivity in the Workplace

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 26, 2013 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology, Uncategorized | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant

When we talk about making facilities accessible and useable as a type of accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most people don’t necessarily think about invisible barriers that may be in the air. They may think about more obvious physical barriers like stairs leading to an entrance, narrow doorways, or inaccessible restrooms. However, for some people, irritants like fragrances, deodorizers, scented candles, and other chemicals in the air can be as much an access barrier as a missing ramp or inoperative elevator. People with asthma, allergies, or other respiratory disorders may be more susceptible to the effects of these irritants at levels that are much lower than what might cause problems for those in the general population.

In particular, exposure to fragranced products can make it difficult for some employees to function effectively at work. JAN Consultants talk to employers who are trying to accommodate employees who report fragrance sensitivity. Fragrance sensitivity is either an irritation or an allergic reaction to some chemical or combination of chemicals in a product. Although perfumes and colognes are generally what come to mind, fragrance is commonly added to a variety of daily use items like toiletries, cosmetics, air fresheners, laundry soaps and softeners, and cleaning products. People with fragrance sensitivity often experience symptoms such as breathing difficulties: wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, or worsening of asthma symptoms; headaches; nausea; hives and other skin irritations; and limitations in memory and concentration.

Situations involving fragrance or scent sensitivity can be a little complicated because accommodations sometimes impact others in the work environment. For example, some employers have implemented workplace policies or made requests that all employees refrain from wearing and using scented products in the workplace. While a 100% fragrance-free environment may not be reasonable, an employer may still take measures to reduce exposure to such irritants. It becomes an issue of fragrance-use awareness. As with any accommodation situation, it is up to the employer to determine what is reasonable with regard to the type of accommodation(s) that can be implemented. JAN offers a number of accommodation solutions that may help:

  • Reduce exposure to scented products by asking employees to be conscious of their choice of products (opt for non-scented) and to refrain from wearing fragrances and colognes to the workplace
  • Move the employee’s workstation away from co-workers who use heavily scented products, fragrances, etc.
  • Do not situate the employee’s workstation near areas of heavy foot traffic or congregation (i.e., break room, restroom, elevator area)
  • Provide an enclosed workspace
  • Provide an air cleaner of the right size to effectively clean the space (i.e., select a model sufficient for gaseous filtration) and make sure the HVAC system is working properly
  • Provide a desk fan
  • Allow a flexible work schedule so the employee who is sensitive can work when fewer people are in the building
  • Allow the employee to wear a mask (e.g., http://www.icanbreathe.com/favorite.htm)
  • Allow breaks to take medication or get fresh air
  • Allow telework
  • Implement and enforce a fragrance-free policy

For additional information regarding accommodation ideas for people who are sensitive to fragrances, see JAN’s publication Employees with Fragrance Sensitivity or contact JAN to speak with a consultant.

Spotlight on National Epilepsy Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on under Accommodations, Consultants' Corner, Employers, Organizations, Webcasts | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, Senior Consultant, Cognitive/Neurological Team

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month focusing attention on the experiences of individuals with epilepsy and seizure disorders in many aspects of their daily lives, including employment. JAN is offering the following information as a way to highlight the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and accommodation issues pertinent to employees with epilepsy in the workplace.

Are you seeking information on workplace accommodations related to epilepsy and seizure disorders? If you are, you are not alone!  JAN has responded to over 330 inquiries so far this year concerning these type of medical conditions. We are your connection to a wealth of information available to assist you. These resources include a recent Webcast on Epilepsy Accommodations that has been archived for viewing; an Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Epilepsy; an EEOC Fact Sheet: Questions and Answers about Epilepsy in the Workplace and ADA; a Consultant’s Corner: Epilepsy, Driving, and Employment; as well as a brand-new Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) page on epilepsy. If you have a specific situation you would like to discuss, JAN consultants can provide one-on-one assistance. There are a variety of ways to access our services. We can be reached through our toll-free telephone line at (800) 526-7234 (Voice) or (877) 781-9403 (TTY); conduct a live online chat; send an E-mail through our JAN on Demand feature; or access us on a variety of social networks.  Don’t let your questions go unanswered – contact us here at JAN for personalized expert assistance.

Learn How the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) Can Help You!

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 8, 2013 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: MSKTC Staff

Do you have a spinal cord injury (SCI), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or burn injury? Or do you care for someone who does?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) is a free resource that can help you. The MSKTC develops easy-to-access resources such as factsheets, slideshows, and videos to support individuals living with SCI, TBI and burn injury. Best of all, these resources are research-based and developed in collaboration with leading SCI, TBI, and burn injury researchers from Model Systems funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Examples of resources include:

  • Factsheets, which give brief overviews of information on key topics relating to SCI, TBI, and burn injury
  • Slideshows, that translate research information in an easy-to-understand format
  • Videos, which show how Model Systems research benefits end users
  • Hot Topics Modules, that bundle factsheets, slideshows, and videos based on Model Systems research

Example resources that can help you seek and maintain employment, and help develop your employment skillset include:

SCI

TBI

Burn Injury

Participate in Research Studies

The MSKTC also recruits individuals 18 years and older with SCI, TBI, or burn injury and the people who care for them to participate in research studies and test consumer factsheets. To share your experiences to help others in the future, please call Mahlet Megra, (202) 403-5600 or email msktc@air.org

Additional Resources

For more information on the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), visit: http://www.msktc.org

Thoughts from JAN’s Co-Directors for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 30, 2013 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Entrepreneurship / Self Employment, General Information | Comments are off for this article

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and this year’s theme is “Because We Are EQUAL to the Task.” While this month is a great time to raise awareness of the many valuable contributions of America’s workers with disabilities, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the many changes over the years in how we think about disability and employment.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) co-directors Anne Hirsh and Lou Orslene have a collective 40+ years of experience providing leadership at JAN. As the JAN Blog editor, I thought this was an opportune time to ask them to share their views on some of the issues at the heart of increasing employment opportunities for individuals with all types of disabilities.

In my initial question, I asked Anne and Lou to talk about the biggest changes they’ve observed during their tenure at JAN for people with disabilities in the employment arena.

Anne’s immediate reply was the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She and I both began working at JAN prior to the passage of the ADA, so witnessed firsthand what a game changer this was. In those early days, some of the first questions regarding the employment provisions of the ADA were fielded by JAN consultants, with Anne coordinating our rapid increase in call volume. A related point she emphasized was the pathway created by the ADA for an individual to disclose one’s disability and subsequently request an accommodation. JAN’s work over the years has been at the forefront of facilitating this process.

On another front, Anne reflected on changes over the past 10-15 years when JAN received calls from parents asking about their children with disabilities transitioning from school to work. In recent years however, the tables have turned in that we’re now receiving an increasing number of calls from adult children contacting us about aging parents who acquire disabilities later in life and need to continue to work. Lou remarked this is a major shift in today’s workforce – many individuals are working longer while still being affected by the aging process. He suggested that employers should have proactive policies and training related to disability and employment because we are all likely in our lifetimes to be impacted by health issues in the context of work. Employers are starting to recognize the benefits of retaining aging employees who, despite an impairment, are capable of continuing to contribute to a business’ success.

Another change Anne remarked on was the increase in the number of students with disabilities in the higher education system. Lou added that particularly in his travel to conferences and training events, he encounters many more highly trained young adults with disabilities applying for positions or currently employed. This progress was fostered by the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He remarked that while there is still much room for much improvement in educational parity and hiring rates, notable progress has been made. Programs like the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP) and other internship programs are designed to enable talented and motivated college students and graduates to reach their goal of a productive career in their chosen field.

Likewise in the education arena, Lou pointed out that veterans with service-connected disabilities returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking advantage of the Post-911 GI Bill, which supports their educational goals and transition into civilian employment. This will mean more disabled veterans will be entering the workforce or choosing entrepreneurship, which will further diversify and strengthen our economy.

Lou noted a change as well in how we think about inclusion and diversity. It has become more commonplace for issues around disability to be incorporated into mainstream diversity programs and policies, whereas in the past, this was not the case. This shift means that expectations are changing as to what a diverse and inclusive workforce looks like. He added, “We can only expect this shift to increase in speed with the broadening of the coverage under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) along with the new Section 503 regulations.”

My second question for Anne and Lou involved what they saw as the greatest contributions JAN has made in advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities over the past 30 years.

For both Anne and Lou, two words exemplified what they saw as one of JAN’s most important contributions – confidence and competence. For individuals with disabilities, JAN consultants have educated customers on how to become better self-advocates. After thousands of calls to JAN — ultimately one conversation at a time — consultants have provided the information, resources, and guidance so that individuals can become more knowledgeable and empowered to move forward with their goals. Lou explained the same is true for the employers who have contacted JAN. Often HR professionals or managers encounter situations with applicants or employees where they are unsure what to do. They may have an ADA question, a particular accommodation situation, or both. JAN’s consulting services provide a free and confidential way for employers to discuss these situations and concerns. Employers therefore feel more confident and competent when hiring and accommodating qualified workers with disabilities; applicants and employees with disabilities feel more empowered to voice what they need to be successful on the job.

Anne highlighted a second unique JAN contribution — the role our consultants play in problem solving and sharing potential accommodations solutions with customers on a case by case basis. Lou pointed out this knowledge is then shared through JAN’s networking and training with other organizations – particularly service providers. He believes this outreach has expanded with JAN’s effective use of social networking tools and training platforms. Lou emphasized JAN’s strong commitment to support the work of other organizations thereby connecting people and organizations together in support of our collective goal of creating a more inclusive workforce.

My final question for Anne and Lou was on a more personal note – asking each to comment on what they feel is the best part of their jobs as co-directors at JAN.

Both Anne and Lou emphatically stated the best part of their job was making an impact on the lives of the customers JAN serves. As co-directors, both spend a great deal of time on the road and they each stated how blown away they are by the stories they are told about how someone’s life was affected by the guidance they received from JAN. These affirmations are received as well on an ongoing basis through emails, phone calls, and follow-up data. Anne attributes this success to the JAN staff, who she describes as “some of the most dedicated people she knows.” Both said they are constantly amazed at the day-to-day effort and passion the staff brings to their work.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Anne and Lou for sharing their thoughts for this Blog. The JAN staff appreciates their vision, dedication and leadership.

It’s Back to School Time – Accommodating Educators with Disabilities

Posted by Kim Cordingly on August 23, 2013 under Accommodations, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, M.A., Senior Consultant, Cognitive / Neurological Team

Unless you have been living with your head in the sand at your favorite beach, you know that the back-to-school season is upon us. If you have ventured into any retail store, the signs are hard to miss — paper, markers, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, and other back-to-school trappings are being marketed near the front of almost every retailer. Television commercials abound.  If you are one of those educators who cannot wait to get back into the classroom, you have no doubt seen the marketing blitz and have welcomed it. Starting a new school year can be very exciting!  But if you are an educator who is apprehensive because of difficulties in the classroom due to disabilities, you may not be quite as eager to get back into the daily grind. School supplies everywhere may cause a feeling of trepidation.

If accommodations are needed in the workplace because of a disability, the earlier you take care of requesting those accommodations, the better. Accommodations that are put into place before the school year actually begins will go a long way towards easing your mind and allowing you more confidence and success in the classroom.

Below are examples of actual accommodation situations and solutions fielded by JAN consultants that may lead to a more effective school year:

A preschool teacher with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) could not get to work early enough to take his turn in the early bus schedule, but had no problems staying after school for the late bus duty. He asked for the accommodation of exchanging his early duties with another teacher who just preferred not to do the after-school duty. The accommodation was approved allowing him to do two turns of the after-school duty in exchange for no early duty.

An elementary school principal was undergoing treatment for cancer that left him extremely fatigued. He asked for a rest period each day as an accommodation. The school district had no problem with the accommodation request, but they were uncomfortable with his idea of using a roll-away cot in his office. JAN suggested using a recliner in the corner of the office, so when not in use, it looked and functioned as an ordinary chair. This would provide the principal the ability to put his feet up and recline for rest. The district was very pleased with the recliner solution.

A secondary music teacher with major depression asked for the accommodation of moving his classroom to a quieter location. There was an empty classroom in the basement of the building where there would be no classes on either side. The accommodation was granted. A walkie talkie was provided so the teacher could call the office if he needed assistance because there were no call buttons in the basement.

An elementary teacher with bone cancer was accommodated with a designated parking space near the school entrance that was closest to her classroom. They also redistributed some of the duties to paraprofessionals in the building which allowed for assistance with escorting the children to the cafeteria, the art and music rooms, and the gymnasium.

A college professor who had incurred a traumatic brain injury (TBI) was accommodated by rescheduling departmental meetings and classes she taught to 11am  in the morning or later. She then used the uninterrupted morning hours to get her planning, reading, studying, and administrative duties done.

For more accommodation ideas, see Educators with Disabilities.

As you can see from the above examples, effective accommodations can be fairly simple, creative, and put smoothly into place. If you need accommodations to start out the new school year, consider contacting JAN. We can provide assistance with questions you may have concerning any step in the process.

Once you have the needed accommodations in place, you can relax and look forward with excitement to that first day of school, just like your students do!

JAN and Vocational Psychiatric Rehabilitation Programs Provide Complementary Employment Supports

Posted by Kim Cordingly on July 31, 2013 under Accommodations, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant

For applicants or employees who are in mental health recovery and struggling vocationally (including family members, friends or professionals who are assisting them), it may be helpful to consider looking into the availability of psychiatric rehabilitation programs in their area. According to Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, the mission of this approach is to assist individuals in mental health recovery to choose, obtain, and maintain their preferred living, learning, socializing, and working roles. Practitioners can assist individuals to set and achieve vocational goals on a continuum from an initial engagement around a person’s general interest in working, to a goal aimed at increasing skills and supports in order to become more successful and satisfied in their chosen job role. This is achieved in the most consumer-driven way possible, beginning from where the person is “at” vocationally.

An example of an experience that can be facilitated by this approach is known as the process of “choosing a valued role.” Historically, people with psychiatric disabilities have been “placed” into their various life roles (e.g., residential, vocational, etc.) often with little or no direct involvement. The opportunity, perhaps for the first time in that person’s life, to engage in a systematic process of actively choosing from among several well-researched alternative job roles – with the assistance of a skilled counselor — can in itself be a “recovery-launching” experience.

JAN’s services can complement this type of individualized and choice-driven employment process. Our consultants can respond to questions from individuals, vocational counselors, or employers regarding workplace accommodations, the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or entrepreneurship options. All services are free and confidential. JAN’s Website can be very helpful to job seekers with mental health impairments providing information and resources that address issues such as disclosure of a disability; finding the right job; examples of potential accommodations; ADA guidance; and a wide variety of other employment issues. The portal designated for “Job Seekers” under “For Individuals” on the JAN Home Page is a good starting point.

Regarding psychiatric rehabilitation programs, a variety of mental health provider organizations offer services based on this holistic approach. They are available in a variety of implementation types including individual practitioners, group programs, mobile programs, inpatient programs, clubhouse programs, and peer support services. Your local community mental health organization or case management/service coordination agency may be a good place to begin an inquiry into programs available in your local community.

Vocational psychiatric rehabilitation can be an essential complement to the array of treatment, enrichment, and other types of services available to assist people in their mental health recovery journeys. Success and satisfaction in a valued vocational role is often a major contributing factor to a person’s growth toward a full recovery. JAN can contribute to an individual’s success in the workplace by providing individualized accommodation suggestions and responding to questions about the ADA. Below are select resources available on JAN’s Website that may be especially helpful.

Resources: