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ENews: Volume 12, Issue 3, Third Quarter, 2014

The JAN E-News is a quarterly online newsletter. Its purpose is to keep subscribers informed about low-cost and innovative accommodation approaches; the latest trends in assistive technologies; announcements of upcoming JAN presentations, media events, trainings, and Webcasts; and legislative and policy updates promoting the employment success of people with disabilities.

An e-mail announcement is sent to an opt-in list when a new issue is available. Please use the links at the end of this document to subscribe or unsubscribe.


  1. Recruiting Resources for Federal Contractors
  2. Online Application Systems: Sample Language for Accommodation Statements
  3. ADA Leave Beyond FMLA
  4. Executive Function Deficits
  5. BYOD! (Bring Your Own Device)
  6. Accommodating Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
  7. JAN Blog Growing
  8. JAN Releases New Resources
  9. E-vents
  10. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  11. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

1 - Recruiting Resources for Federal Contractors

The recent changes to Section 503 regulations require federal contractors to document outreach and recruitment activities and retain these records for three years. The purpose of this requirement is to enable contractors and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts in identifying and recruiting qualified individuals with disabilities.

However, the regulations didn’t really change a federal contractor’s duty to recruit applicants with disabilities; they just changed recordkeeping requirements as stated above. Just like prior regulations, the new regulations require contractors to undertake "appropriate outreach and positive recruitment activities." The regulations list a number of recruiting resources, but contactors are free to choose their own resources if they prefer.

There are many resources that can help contractors in their efforts to recruit applicants with disabilities. One example is The Sierra Group’s RecruitDisability.Org, a full-service recruiting job board. We recently spoke with one of The Sierra Group’s founders, Janet Fiori, about RecruitingDisability.Org. She indicated that RecruitDisability.Org was launched in October 2012 in response to the demand from federal contractors anticipating the new Section 503 regulations.

RecruitDisability.Org is part of The Sierra Group’s overall mission to increase the employment of people with disabilities and to give something back to the community. RecruitDisability.Org is free of charge to job seekers with disabilities and to public and private vocational rehabilitation placement professionals.

In addition to helping federal contractors find qualified applicants with disabilities, RecruitDisability.Org can help contractors meet their recordkeeping requirements by providing reports based on their use of the job board.

If you’d like more information, the best way to contact RecruitDisability.Org is: info@recruitdisability.org.

For other recruiting resources, see: Resources for Finding Qualified Applicants with Disabilities. And if you know of another recruiting resource not currently on our resource list, tweet us at @JANatJAN or contact us at jan@askjan.org.

Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant, and Anne E. Hirsh, M.S., Co-Director

2 - Online Application Systems: Sample Language for Accommodation Statements

Many employers are using online applications systems these days and many try to make sure that these systems are accessible to applicants with disabilities. However, even with built-in accessibility features, there will be times when an applicant with a disability will not be able to use the system and will need an accommodation from the employer. When this happens, the applicant needs to know how to, and who to, ask for an accommodation.

What’s the best way to make sure applicants get the information they need regarding accommodation requests? One of the best ways is to include a statement within the application system explaining to applicants how to request an accommodation. The statement should be on a primary page, such as the first page of the system, and within 2 clicks of any other pages off the primary page. In other words, put the statement on the first page and on lots of other pages so it’s easy to find. The statement should be accessible before any job descriptions can be accessed.

And what should the statement include? It should include a general statement about reasonable accommodation, a contact person or department’s name, and multiple ways of contacting that person or department.

Here are some sample statements as a starting point:

Request Assistance

If you are a qualified individual with a disability or a disabled veteran, you may request a reasonable accommodation if you are unable or limited in your ability to access job openings or apply for a job on this site as a result of your disability. You can request reasonable accommodations by contacting _________ (person or department) at _________ (phone, tty, fax, email, etc.).

Reasonable Accommodation:

Applicants with disabilities may contact (company or agency name) coordinators via telephone, fax, e-mail, and other means to request and arrange for accommodations. If you need assistance to accommodate a disability, you may request an accommodation at any time. Please contact the (company or agency name) at (contact information).

What should applicants do if they can’t find an accommodation statement on an employer’s online application system or the employer doesn’t include information about how to request an accommodation? One thing applicants can do is contact the company directly and talk to someone in human resources. They should explain that they are trying to apply for a job, but cannot access the online system because of a disability. If they have a preferred method for submitting an application (e.g., getting a paper copy, having someone read the online application and fill in the answers, etc.), they should let the human resource representative know what they prefer.

Online application systems are probably going to be around for a while, at least until some new technology replaces them. Employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). and/or Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act have a duty to make sure applicants with disabilities have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs. Making the online system accessible and then prominently displaying an accommodation statement is a good way to start meeting that duty.

For more information, see:

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

3 - ADA Leave Beyond FMLA

Employers frequently ask if they must consider extending an employee’s medical leave of absence beyond the protected time permitted under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. When employees exhaust twelve weeks of FMLA leave and still cannot return to work due to their own medical impairment, the employer may have an obligation under the ADA to grant additional unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, in some situations. An interactive process is necessary to determine – on a case-by-case basis – if it is an ADA qualifying situation, and if it is possible to extend the leave period without it posing an undue hardship on the business.

Unlike the FMLA, under the ADA there is no specific amount of leave time that is required as an accommodation. Thus, it is up to an employer's discretion to determine if and how much leave is reasonable. For example, in many situations, an extension of two weeks beyond the customary twelve weeks under FMLA may not have a grave impact on business operations. However, three, six, or twelve months may. Of course, this depends on the individual employment situation because one type of job may be able to tolerate a longer leave than another (e.g., sales representative vs. store manager). Employers who review and document how an employee’s leave of absence impacts business operations will be better equipped to decide when extended leave poses an undue hardship. If an ADA leave extension poses a hardship, the employer should be prepared to demonstrate why.

When ADA leave is granted, an employer is expected to hold the employee's position for the duration of leave, unless doing so will pose an undue hardship on operations. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when leave is no longer feasible in a particular position, reassignment to an alternative vacant position should be considered for the duration of leave. The employee would then return to that position when the leave period is completed. When there is no vacant position available, it is up to the employer to decide whether to let the employee go, or to place him or her in an unprotected, inactive leave status and search for a vacant position upon the employee's ability to return. For more information about leave as an accommodation under the ADA, see the EEOC guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA.

There is no apparent obligation under the FMLA for an employer to notify employees when their leave is about to expire, or to proactively ask if a reasonable accommodation is needed under the ADA. However, a best practice is to notify employees in advance, in writing, of the date of leave expiration and then request information regarding the ability to return to work, including an anticipated date of return. As part of this process, an employer may also inform employees of the option to engage in a discussion about accommodations under the ADA to assist them in returning to work, or to request additional leave because they are unable to return to work upon the expiration of the FMLA leave. If extended leave is needed under the ADA, the employer may request medical documentation to substantiate the existence of an ADA qualifying disability and also the need for the accommodation. Not all employees who qualify for an FMLA leave of absence due to a serious health condition will qualify for an ADA accommodation, although many employees with medical impairments will. To learn more about disability and the ADA, see JAN’s How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Recently, more employers have been asking for sample language to include in a letter informing employees of their FMLA leave expiration and opportunity to request an ADA accommodation. JAN offers the following text as a guide for drafting a notification letter. This language may be modified and included in the body of a letter and is not intended as legal advice.

If you have questions related to leave as an accommodation under the ADA, contact JAN to speak with a Consultant. For additional information related to this topic, see the following articles:

- Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist

4 - Executive Function Deficits

JAN gets a lot of calls from employers about accommodating employees who have executive function deficits. Some of these employers are initially confused about how to help employees overcome these deficits, but in our experience once they understand the basics, figuring out what accommodations might work becomes a lot easier. It is helpful to start by looking at what executive functions are. Let’s look at a fairly common employment situation as an example:

You arrive at work and as your supervisor greets you, he states that he would like to meet with you today at 1:00 about a specific account. On your way to your office where you will make note of the appointment and the account in your planner, you greet several co-workers and join in a conversation about the weather. After several minutes of conversation, you take off your coat, hang it on the coat tree, and get yourself a cup of coffee. Executive functioning, particularly working memory, enables you to retain the information about the meeting and the particular account throughout these unrelated tasks

As the name suggests, executive functions are high-level abilities that influence and direct more basic abilities like attention and memory. The term executive function describes a set of cognitive abilities that include the ability to plan, organize and strategize, pay attention to and remember details, start and stop actions, form concepts, and think abstractly.

Executive functions also help us behave in appropriate ways. People with poor executive functions have difficulty monitoring and regulating their behaviors. Situations that require us to analyze and change our behavior, plan future behavior when faced with new tasks and situations, anticipate outcomes, and adapt to changing situations may be problematic for individuals with executive function deficits. They may also experience difficulties interacting with others and fitting in socially.

Difficulties with executive functioning can be found in individuals with mental health impairments including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia, as well as individuals with attention deficit disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, intellectual and learning disabilities, autism, and brain injuries.

For more information on low cost solutions, check out the following JAN publication: Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Executive Function Deficits. Or contact us at JAN if you would like to discuss an accommodation issue with a consultant.

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

5 - BYOD! (Bring Your Own Device)

There is much discussion in the workplace about “Bring Your Own Device to Work” or “BYOD,” as it is now more commonly known. Employers increasingly find themselves under pressure to allow employees to bring their own assistive devices to work. Employers typically refer to cell phones and tablets in their discussion of BYOD. However, an informal poll of JAN Consultants suggests BYOD has much broader application in the workplace than just cell phones and tablets.

Cell phones and tablets often provide the best solution for receiving and conveying information for today’s mobile workforce. With the proliferation of apps, particularly those used to accommodate workers, employers have become perplexed about developing and administering BYOD policies.

Primary to employer’s concerns is safeguarding corporate data. A recent article in Workforce.com suggests that developing a policy on how employees are allowed to access corporate information “is an important initial step to keeping an organization’s data safe" (June 23, 2014). This dilemma is of course not a new one. Many employers have firewalls that prevent employees from viewing third party webcast training, using video phones, or making specific assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) operate with legacy information systems. While the corporate data safety concern and the tactics to protect that data are not new, the use of mobile devices and the proliferation of assistive technologies in the workplace is more recent.

Security was also of concern to JAN Consultants following a quick, unscientific poll regarding BYOD. A JAN Consultant reported:

“Sometimes employers do not feel able to allow employees to bring devices from home. For example, employees in classified settings and other security sensitive settings may be restricted in the types of devices that they can use at work, leading the employer to purchase a different type of device for use at work.  Devices with wireless functionality may be restricted, or magnifiers with freeze frame or image storage capabilities may be restricted.”

JAN Consultants serving on the Motor, Sensory, Mental Health, Cognitive, and ADA Team conduct more than 42,000 consultations per year. In the ad hoc poll, the Sensory and Motor Teams reported receiving BYOD inquiries “fairly often.” This is no doubt because many of the accommodations suggested by the teams are product-based solutions. Below is a list of assistive technologies most often discussed with JAN employer customers. Note that many of the devices employees have asked to bring into and use in the workplace are not necessarily assistive technology in the strictest sense.

A list of technologies reported by JAN Consultants include:

Excerpts from the Consultant feedback received during this poll was instructive. These excerpts included information about how the assistive technology was provided to the employee:

"Through insurance, private pay, or vocational rehabilitation rather than requested as accommodations. Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices are almost always brought from home in work settings. Sometimes the individual has had the device customized to meet physical access or other needs or they may have difficulty adjusting to a different type of device. "

JAN Consultants reported that some Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors think it is better for devices to be acquired through VR to simplify the accommodation process or to ensure access to the application process. For example, in Virginia there is a pilot program to purchase iPods and apps for individuals to use at work and home with apps customized to their particular challenges.  Ownership is transferred to the individual users and they are responsible for replacements and upgrades if needed.  Typical uses include time manage/organization, stress management, and customized video modeling of workplace tasks and appropriate social interactions.

JAN Consultants also report employers have asked employees to bring in their own devices. For instance, an employer requested that an employee bring in his personal portable digital magnifier rather than the employer providing one. Or an employer requested an employee who uses a Bluetooth hearing aid bring in her own Bluetooth streamers needed to access a phone communication at work.  Interestingly enough, one Consultant reported a situation where one employer attempted to restrict employees with Bluetooth hearing aids from wearing them at work. However, the employer revoked this restriction when the possibility of having to purchase alternate hearing aids was raised.

The staff of CIO.com write, “BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) promises many benefits such as greater innovation, better work-life balance and improved productivity, but it also increases pressure on IT to manage and secure devices and data.” In the new mobile workplace where a multitude of overlapping technologies are being used, one can only expect that BYOD challenges will continue to increase. This is particularly true in light of the use of tablets and apps to accommodate employees with disabilities. Thus, it behooves employers to begin to develop clear policies and practices governing assistive technologies including cell phones and tablets.

- Louis E. Orslene, MPIA, MSW, Co-Director

6 - Accommodating Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

On the psychological/cognitive team here at JAN we receive a number of calls concerning anxiety disorders, many having to do specifically with being around and interacting with others. In such cases, the individual may have social anxiety disorder or social phobia. According to the DSM-V, the essential feature of social phobia is “a marked, or intense, fear or anxiety of social situations in which the individual may be scrutinized by others” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Social phobia is relatively common, effecting about 6.8 percent of Americans in a given year (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, and Walters, 2005). If an employee discloses having a social phobia and the need for reasonable accommodations, the first step for the employer would be to determine whether the employee has an ADA qualifying disability - a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If an individual has been diagnosed with social phobia, it is likely he is at least limited in his ability to communicate with others. It’s also possible that other major life activities such as sleeping and concentration would be affected as well. If an employer needs clarification, the employer can request medical documentation confirming the employee has a condition that meets the definition of disability under ADA.

Now, how could an employer accommodate an employee with social phobia? As always, this must be determined on a case-by-case basis. If an employee is seeking treatment for the condition, the employer may need to consider providing leave and/or a schedule modification so the employee can make it to appointments. Other accommodations would generally be aimed at reducing and/or removing triggers, such as situations that could exacerbate the employee’s symptoms. This could include moving an employee to a different location within an office where she feels more comfortable, modifying methods of communication from face-to-face to e-mail or phone when possible, providing a schedule modification that allows the employee to work when her symptoms tend to be less severe, and providing additional breaks for the employee to call a support person and use stress-relieving techniques. The following are some of examples of employment situations involving employees with social anxiety disorder and ways employers may handle such situations:

As these examples illustrate, many accommodations for social anxiety disorder are simple and cost nothing. If you have questions about a particularly situation, please feel free to contact a consultant at JAN. For more accommodation ideas for individuals with social phobia, please see JAN’s publication on accommodating individuals with anxiety disorders here http://askjan.org/media/anxi.htm.


7 - JAN Blog Growing

The Ask JAN Blog provides an opportunity for you to share with others your workplace accommodation solutions. JAN receives over 40,000 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 and interact with the JAN staff. Your accommodation success stories can benefit many others around the Nation. Enjoy the new postings and additional Spanish selections:

Become a part of the new JAN blogging community!

8 - JAN Releases New Resources

9 - E-vents

10 - JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule

Events of particular interest: Get the most up-to-date and comprehensive training on employing people with disabilities. To view the complete JAN travel schedule go to JAN-on-the-Road.

11 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

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This document was developed by the Job Accommodation Network, funded by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (DOL079RP20426). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. Nor does mention of tradenames, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor.


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