Latest Ask JAN (Job Accommodation Network) Blog Series
Ask JAN (Job Accommodation Network) Blog Series:
As the Lead Consultant on JAN’s self-employment team, I’m often fielding questions from individuals with disabilities interested in starting a business in agriculture. These types of businesses include a diverse range such as organic vegetable farms, egg producers, herb and flower growers, livestock/ranch businesses, fish production, fruit farms, Christmas tree growers, equine therapy, and sheep/wool producers. We have even received questions about farm tourism where guests vacation at a family farm to experience life there. Often, accommodation issues come into play in the planning of these businesses.
We are fortunate at JAN to have an individual who has years of experience as a JAN consultant and manager, an academic and researcher, and mostly importantly, a farmer. We are not sure how she does it all, but felt it was about time to have her share her vast expertise with JAN’s agricultural entrepreneurs.
Can you describe a bit about your academic background and your role at JAN?
I’ve worked for JAN since 1996. In this capacity, I am a Principal Consultant. I have a Ph.D. in resource economics from West Virginia University. I have master’s degrees in industrial relations, safety management, and resource economics. I am a member of RESNA and the HTML Writers Guild and hold certificates in Grantsmanship, Web Technologies, and Web Graphics/Multimedia. I am a member of JAN’s management team and travel nationally to speak about disability issues.
You own and manage a family farm in Hampshire County, WV. Can you tell us about the history of the farm, your family’s role in its development, and how it’s grown and changed over the years?
Loy’s Farm was established in 1852 in Hampshire, VA. Following the Civil War it became Hampshire County, WV. The original tract was 180 acres, and now it’s expanded to a compound that covers a total of 225 acres. It contains three cabins, two houses, four barns, and a shop. Over the years, it has housed chickens, cattle, hogs, and goats. Apples, eggs, vegetables, grains, and hay were readily produced on the farm.
Currently, the farm focuses on raising Angus cattle and Savanna goats while producing hay. It isn’t a factory farm, but it has benefited from some of the same tools. Modernizations of the farm continue to be implemented with the help of tablets, software, tractors, security systems, and smartphones. For example, programming reminders for vaccinations, planting seasons, and breeding improve preciseness and time management.
At JAN, we have individuals with disabilities who contact us interested in starting, managing, or expanding an agricultural business. While there are many different types of farming (e.g., organic vegetables, livestock, or trees), what are the five most important tips you would pass on to anyone considering a farm business?
#1. Develop a business plan with advice from farmers in similar businesses and a financial planner from your funding institution. Be sure to do your research.
#2. Cater to your demographics. Know the wants of your region and build your business locally first.
#3. Understand the role of social media, especially having a domain name, Twitter account, and Facebook page, in expanding your business and selling your goods within and outside of your traditional farming markets.
#4. Invest in infrastructure and equipment that will assist you with farming in all types of weather.
#5. Prioritize your relationships with other, more seasoned farmers so that you can learn from their successes and mistakes.
You have extensive experience providing accommodation information to JAN customers with diverse disabilities in a variety of work settings, as well as to having hands-on experience managing and operating a family farm. While each individual accommodation is unique to that person and the job task, can you describe some examples of accommodations that you’re likely to encounter in a farming environment?
When it comes to farming, there are a variety of tasks that are very dangerous. Anytime people are working around animals and machinery, accidents can happen in very tight quarters. And, it’s often true that farmers tend to be older and have various abilities because of the type of work they’ve done for their entire lives.
On the farm, I built a livestock handling system designed from the works of Temple Grandin. The pen is used to gather livestock. It is designed with curves instead of corners. It takes advantage of the natural circling tendencies of livestock that travels in herds. It limits the stress on animals and improves the safety of handlers. But, it was also designed to accommodate me.
Livestock Handling System
About a year and six months ago I began the process of having my feet reconstructed. I was born with extra bones in my feet that started giving me significant problems in my forties. As the bones grew, my tendons became weak and had to be replaced or repaired and the bones had to be removed. It will take two years of rehabilitation and recovery for each foot to recover.
In order to work the livestock and accommodate me, the handling system was designed to keep animals weighing up to 2,000 pounds away from my feet and to help them remain calm. So, I used the ideas of Temple Grandin and my accommodation knowledge to design a corral that individuals with all abilities can safely use. It has multiple safety mechanisms using gates and safety latches, a solid chute, a waist height working area, two uniform colors, automatic catch head gate, a working alley that reaches to the ground, and a sweeping system that separates the handlers from the livestock.
Other farming-related accommodations that I’ve seen or used are: all-terrain vehicles, smart hitches, winches, platform and chair lifts, added steps, grab bars, long-handled tools, powered tools, tool balancers, creepers, ergonomic tools, equipment with both foot and hand controls, backup cameras, and lifting devices. We’ve even designed a few devices to access water, feed, and bottle-feeding more easily.
Assistive technologies (AT) are often characterized as low tech versus high tech. Can you share an example of a low tech and a high tech accommodation in a farm setting?
Low Tech Accommodation
When we have baby goats on the farm, we often put them with their moms in a 4’ X 4’ pen. We then feed and water them separately from the herd to help built their strength. We call this the maternity ward, and we have to carry them water when they are in the ward. We use a stainless steel can on the end of a 1” X 2” slat to dip water out of the water troughs used by goats in the field. You see, this water is heated in the winter so we don’t have to worry about the water freezing.
Anyone, regardless of mobility, can access the water troughs used by the goats without being in their larger pen. We place the slat over the fence and we can dip the water right out of the trough and empty it into a bucket without touching a goat or the water. The total cost of the accommodation was $0. We found a bolt, tap, and washer that wasn’t being used. The slat was left over from another project, and the large stainless steel can came from a local restaurant. The can is food-grade and can be sanitized.
High Tech Accommodation
One high tech accommodation that we implemented is a 3-point hydraulic bale unroller. This device grasps a 2,000 pound round hay bale in the center of both sides. Then, the user drops the bale to the ground using a hydraulic cylinder control from inside a tractor. The friction between the bale and the ground unrolls the hay. No lifting, pushing, pulling, or pitchfork is required, and the device cuts down on waste. The cost of an unroller ranges, but the one on the farm was around $1,000.
When we think about accommodations in farming, we’re more likely to think of modifications related to mobility impairments (e.g., back injuries) as opposed to cognitive/neurological impairments (e.g., depression). Yet, one of the areas where farming has expanded are projects in agriculture targeting veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Can you talk about why you think the connection between veterans with PTSD and agricultural careers has been an important one?
Veterans are usually very natural farmers. They are often hands-on learners who enjoy physical work and have excellent mechanical skills. Farming engages every part of the human body because of the physical and mental connection a farmer must have to the livestock or the crops produced. Farming is a way for veterans to be a part something where they are an integral part of a team and a community where others depend on them.
Surprisingly enough, farmers and veterans already have a lot in common. They both want meaningful employment, enjoy working outdoors, believe in restoration, and want to provide others a service. It is a career that will last a lifetime.
Finally, more women than ever have taken on primary roles in agricultural businesses. What changes have you seen over your lifetime from growing up on a multi-generational family farm to being the woman in charge of the operation?
Well, when it comes to being taken seriously, farming still isn’t an easy prospect for women. But, once you prove yourself, it’s like any other career. Your work speaks for itself. I’ve had a lot of farmers ask about the livestock handling device, as they are interested in accommodating themselves now that they are aging. When something comes natural to you, you have to believe in yourself and your decisions. There are no mistakes, there are just teachable moments.
1. Learn more about Dr. Loy and her farm
Loy’s Farm, LLC.
Farm Credit of the Virginias
Feature – Women in Agriculture
Back to the Farm
Back in Business
2. National AgrAbility Project
Breaking New Ground Resource Center
ABE Bldg., 225 South University Street
West Lafayette IN 47907-2093
Veterans & Beginning Farmers
“The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities, so that they, their families, and their communities continue to succeed in rural America. For this target audience, ‘success’ may be defined by many parameters, including: gainful employment in production agriculture or a related occupation; access to appropriate assistive technology needed for work and daily living activities; evidence-based information related to the treatment and rehabilitation of disabling conditions; and targeted support for family caregivers of AgrAbility customers. AgrAbility addresses a wide variety of disabling conditions in agriculture, including, but not limited to: arthritis, spinal cord injuries/paralysis, back impairments, amputations, brain injury, visual impairments, hearing impairments, disabling diseases, cerebral palsy, respiratory impairments, and head injury.”
3. Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Dr. Temple Grandin’s Livestock Website
Thinking in Pictures – (My Life with Autism)
4. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Veterans – USDA Supports America’s Heroes
Women in Agriculture
5. PBS – Independent Lens
Facilitated by: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD, otherwise known as the CHADD Conference. A colleague and I headed down to Atlanta, GA, to attend sessions and talk about workplace accommodations for employees with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We learned a lot while attending the Conference and one of the sessions that stuck out to me was led by Sandy Maynard on the topic of impulsivity.
Recently, I had the honor of reaching out to Sandy to seek further information about what she does as an ADD/ADHD coach. Below are some questions and highlights from our conversation.
1. Do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got started as an ADD/ADHD coach?
Becoming a life coach was actually my second career. During my first career I was a chemist and worked in a lab at a hospital. I started doing life coaching and there happened to be another life coach who was also located in Massachusetts who would occasionally refer clients to me. It turned out that the first client that she sent to me was someone with ADHD. At that point, I knew very little about ADD/ADHD and asked the client what I might read to try and best help her. She referred me to the book Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, so I read it. I realized from reading that book that I was able to help her and work well with her because I had ADD myself. It turned out that I already had some good coping skills in place. That’s when I began to expand my knowledge base and learn as much about ADD as I could to really specialize in coaching individuals with ADD/ADHD. I became one of the pioneers in the field. There were about six of us at the time who knew that when working with individuals with ADD/ADHD we needed to use our coaching skills differently. We ended up developing the ADHD coaching specialty. I started out with a coaching program to help train other coaches as a way to help expand the specialty area. With so few of us in the beginning, there was a time when I would have clients from all over the world. As long as they could speak English, I had the ability to Skype with them and provide coaching services that way. Some of the work was even before Skype. We would use an Outlook based program with a camera or even just talk over the phone. When you look now there are thousands or at least hundreds of ADHD coaches around the world.
2. I saw that you operate Catalytic Coaching. Can you tell us a little about that? What goes into the process of helping other ADHD coaches establish their own business?
Sure, I chose Catalytic Coaching as the name because of the word catalyst and my experience as a chemist. A catalyst is a substance that helps change other substances or molecules. The catalyst doesn’t change itself, it just promotes change in other organic or inorganic substances. I feel like I am the facilitator of other people’s behavioral change. I’m not the one who changes, I’m the one who helps the person change. I have helped other people start their businesses only because I knew this was something that I wanted to do. I’m not a business woman; I knew what I wanted to do and that was helping other people with ADHD and the coaching process. I’ve learned by trial and error and I can definitely tell you what will or will not help your practice simply because I have made those errors or had those successes along the way. When I started out it was a lot of snail mail. There are plenty of coaches out there who are business people and when I first started there wasn’t the ability to build or promote your business online with blogs, Twitter, etc., so I can’t help much with that. But I can help them with knowledge of how to work with a client in a way that is going to help produce positive results.
3. Do you currently continue to take on clients yourself or primarily work to help other coaches at this point?
I primarily work with clients. I do very little training — most of the techniques and procedures for the coaching process have remained the same over the years. There are a few new aspects and one of the most powerful suggestions that has come down the road since I started training other coaches has been Kathleen Nadeau’s suggestion that everyone with ADHD should have a personal policy for the use of technology. Kathleen and Judith Kolberg are the authors of ADD- Friendly Ways To Organize Your Life and the second addition contains a section about using technology. This is something that wasn’t as much of an issue before. Now it is something that I use with my clients all the time. We work to make sure they have a personal policy for technology. That might mean only checking their email three times a day or turning off their phone while at the dinner table. It varies among clients, but it is about setting limits and finding balance with the use of technology. For myself, when searching online for flight information I give myself no longer than an hour to search for the times and dates that I want. I no longer allow myself to spend days doing that. Sometimes it can be useful to find certain tools to help, for example, I use Orbitz when searching. The search engine may be different for others, but I have found that Orbitz works for me. Before that it would take me hours. It’s about finding what works best for you.
4. Tell us a little about the process of being connected with an ADHD coach. In your experience does it seem to be that individuals reach out on their own or more so that they get referred to a coaching service?
It’s both. I prefer to get my clients through referrals from therapists. If a therapist knows about coaching they can make the determination as to if the person is ready for coaching. Nancy Ratey, who I like to think of as the mother of ADHD coaching, talks about the idea of being ready, willing, and able to be successful with coaching. Sometimes there may be things that individuals need to work out emotionally or receive treatment for before they are ready for coaching. You want the person to be ready, willing, and able to really benefit from it. Most therapists are glad to find me because taking the time to sit down and look at an app or go through organization strategies isn’t typically a part of what they do. I am very wary and feel that all coaches should be wary when someone finds you on the internet. Sometimes clients are not ready, willing, and able to be coached. They think it is what they need, but they may need something else first. I do sometimes have people reach out to me because they have seen a writing piece that I have written for ADDitude Magazine. They are just looking for a few tips and we may talk a couple times, but generally, I like to receive clients from local resources.
5. When an ADHD coach works with a client is there typically a main focus such as school, work, etc. or is it more of a holistic approach looking at all aspects of life? Does the client seem to come in with certain things they hope to work on?
It varies by the client. Sometimes I have a client that comes in and says “Sandy, if I don’t start getting to work on time I’m going to lose my job” and so we know where to start. Other times individuals may be dissatisfied with performance on the job, but they are pretty good about home and social life so we would focus more on work than around the house. I usually get a mixture of both. A client may have personal and professional goals. Often times whatever they are working on affects both. Whether it is organization, concentration, or time management it can affect both their home and work lives. Occasionally I will have a client where we really focus on work, home, or school. They may have something specific, but more often it is a mixture of things.
6. Is there a typical length of time that a coach works with a client? A certain amount of sessions or anything like that?
I suggest that clients commit to at least 3 months. There is a lot of research on behavioral change and it shows that it takes 3 months of concerted effort to make a behavioral change that doesn’t recidivate. Now, that is with the general population. I think that with individuals with ADD/ADHD it takes a little more than 3 months. I feel that my clients who have been the most successful have worked with me over the course of a year. That doesn’t always mean that we have a weekly appointment for the whole year. Towards the end we may have a 15 minute check in here and there to make sure they are staying on track with the behaviors they have changed or are doing differently. There is talk out there about doing something for 21 days consistently to make it habitual, but the real research that I have found seems to come from a university in England. They say to create a new habit that doesn’t recidivate it can take 6-8 months. This is because you may slide back and then start again and so on. Consistency is something that can be so challenging for those with ADD/ADHD so I would say 8-12 months for them. It may not be as intense after the first 3-6 months, but I would always ask that a client commit to at a minimum 3 months of coaching. Typically, we will meet weekly, commit to goals, review goals, assess what is working and what is not, make changes and then meet again the next week. I try to be very flexible with my clients. Sometimes it is a weekly meeting. Other times it may be a 15-minute daily call. The frequency and length that we meet decreases as time goes on.
7. This past November I had the opportunity to sit in on your session Impulsivity: Understanding the Causes & Reducing the Consequences in Atlanta at the 2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD. Is impulsivity something that you frequently encounter with clients?
Absolutely. It’s called attention deficit disorder, but the impulsivity of that can cause some of the more severe issues in terms of consequences. Impulsivity can be problematic because we often make impulsive decisions and usually impulsive decisions can be very bad decisions. We haven’t played the movie forward to think about any consequence of the decision, good or bad. Restraint of pen and tongue. Think about how many individuals with ADD/ADHD have been fired because they responded inappropriately to their boss. Impulsivity can be very problematic in terms of jobs and relationships. The attention piece is also important because it determines how well we can be productive at home and work.
8. I know in that session you talked about some of the factors contributing to impulsivity. Can you tell us a little about some of the main factors that you see driving impulsivity?
Stress is the biggest factor in impulsivity. It can be good stress such as getting married or graduating, or it can be bad stress like a parking ticket, losing a job, or divorce. Empirically, I’m not sure how many studies have been done in this area because there are so many types of stress that it is hard to quantify, but I feel like stress exacerbates the ADD/ADHD symptomology. In general, I can say that I do see it with my clients when they are stressed out. They are more easily distracted and they are more impulsive. That’s why I have a holistic approach when I work with someone. We talk about what time they go to bed, what time they get up in the morning, their nutrition, if they are open to any sort of spiritual approach to try and help such as meditation, prayer, or quiet time. Doing the self-care creates a firm foundation for working on any personal or professional goals.
9. Do you have any practical tips you might share for anyone who may be struggling with impulsivity in the workplace?
Take a deep breath and try to recognize triggers. Is there a particular person or task at work that causes you to be in an emotional state? Try to recognize those triggers that might cause you to be impulsive and say something you can’t take back. Also, prepare yourself. Take a deep breath, check your body for tension, and learn where you physically store that stress. If you know you have a meeting that is going to make you feel stressed, go in, have a seat, and relax your shoulders. Work to relax the tension in your body and take deeps breaths to help settle in to a relaxing state. The physical part can be important, that is where the adrenaline is happening. Identify tools to help you mentally as well. Something to help you go into the meeting on a positive note. Develop a mantra or phrase to tell yourself going in to try and help yourself stay calm and avoid impulsivity. I often refer to the golden rule: “do unto others as you want them to do to you.” Practice patience and kindness. You don’t have to like the person or situation, but you want to be kind and respectful. Again, watching restraint of pen and tongue. If you are quick to react, learn to have some phrases you can use such as “let me think about that some more and get back to you.”
10. Would an ADHD coach go into the workplace with a client to evaluate or is it more about providing strategies for the client to incorporate on their own or pursuing accommodations with their employer?
On occasion, I do interact with supervisors or go into the workplace to help. I take on the role of a professional organizer for some of my clients. Professional organizers can come in and help someone get organized, but then they leave; their job is done. They don’t help the person work on the behaviors that come with being disorganized and that’s what I mostly do with my clients. Sometimes I do go into the office. I’m delighted when an employer calls me about an excellent employee who is wonderful, but they are frustrated with the constant tardiness, not filling out time sheets, disorganization, etc. I know in those cases that the employer is going to respond and be helpful if we do identify a reasonable accommodation. That doesn’t happen a lot because most people want to be very confidential about the hidden disability. Professionals tend to push not disclosing until it is absolutely needed. When I am working with an individual who is having problems at work, how it is set up or the way things are done, I help them identify what they may need to perform the job better. We talk about not using the phrase accommodation at first, but simply going to have a conversation with their boss about how they work best and what they need. Most employers, if the request is reasonable, will not turn you down if it means things are going to be more productive.
11. What might you tell someone with ADHD who may be struggling in areas of their life, but are afraid/nervous about reaching out for help?
I would say a very safe place to reach out for help would be a local CHADD group. Usually local CHADD groups put together a list of resources that they personally have used or would recommend that are ADD/ADHD friendly. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend solely going to the internet because you’re not always going to know exactly what you are finding. You want someone who is going to be an expert with what it is you are dealing with. ADDitude Magazine can be a good place to find resources. Usually the people who write for the magazine attend the CHADD Conference every year. They keep up with the field and are always wanting to learn more. I think ADDitude Magazine is probably the best resource for looking up people who specialize in ADHD and are user friendly so to speak.
12. Do you have any favorite moments or experiences from working with clients or other coaches?
I’ve attended a couple graduation ceremonies of clients and it always warms my heart to see the smile on their face when they have graduated after struggling with school and having worked so hard. To have that diploma in their hand and to be really ready to move on to the next stage is just heartwarming.
I can think of another client who I worked with who did well at work. Her job was very structured and routine. She was having difficulty more so with her home life. What do we have for dinner? When I am going to do the laundry? This and that need fixed and I need to take my child to ballet lessons. She was really having a hard time. We met on a weekly basis, but every night she would call me and report what she did at home that day. It could be that she folded the laundry, planned meals for the next week, anything. Calling me was sort of like patting herself on the back for what she had accomplished that day and most of the time she would just leave a message. One night she called me and said “Sandy, you are never going to believe what I did, I got the stain out of my living room rug!” Now, that stain had been there for months. She paused and told me that her mother’s response would be that “it’s about time,” but that she knew I would be jumping up and down for her. That was a very heartwarming moment as well. Normally the hardest things for us to do are simple things for most people. For that reason, when we do accomplish the thing we have been struggling with, we seem to minimize it. It feels like no big deal because everyone else does it. I am here to say do not minimize it — it is a big deal. You did it. For years, you have been struggling and you did it. You pat yourself on the back and acknowledge it.
13. Lastly, what do you find most rewarding about your career as a coach?
Being the client’s cheerleader. Reminding them that they did it. I was there to help and facilitate it, but they did it. They did the hard work.
Sandy told me that while she resided in D.C. for quite some time she has recently moved to the greater Boston area. If you live in the area or know of someone who may be ready, willing, and able you might look into Catalytic Coaching. Sandy can be reached at (202) 486- 8901 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a Website at http://www.sandymaynard.com/.
JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with ADHD
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Executive Functioning Deficits
2018 International Conference on ADHD
By Brittany Lambert, Consultant – Sensory and Cognitive/Neurological Teams
February is Low Vision Awareness Month. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 253 million people are living with vision impairments with 36 million individuals who are blind and 217 million having moderate to severe vision loss. When you hear the phrase “low vision,” what types of accommodations come to mind? As a consultant on JAN’s sensory team, I often handle questions regarding devices and technology designed for people with low vision. Some of the accommodation ideas frequently discussed include magnifiers, text to speech technology, and Braille materials. Let’s take a closer look at these popular accommodations.
Magnifying devices allow the user to view an enlarged version of an object or document. Magnifiers can be handheld or stationary. The portability of handheld magnifiers can make them a practical choice for many situations, but they are generally not ideal for prolonged use. Stand magnifiers may be more appropriate for tasks that require extended periods of usage, like reading long passages of printed text. Head-mounted magnifiers can be useful for hands-on activities such as threading a needle.
Digital magnifying devices are also popular among people with low vision. Video magnifiers, such as closed-circut televisions (CCTVs) and portable video magnifiers, feature cameras used to project an enlarged image onto a display screen. These devices also allow users to modify the appearance of the magnified image by adjusting contrast, brightness, and color settings. This can help to enhance readability.
Computer usage has become practically essential in today’s work world, and screen magnification software can help to ensure that the information on-screen is accessible to people with vision impairments. Most of these programs allow the user to choose the level of magnification, as well as the portion of the screen that will be enlarged. Some users may prefer full-screen magnification, while others may work best with only a small window of magnification.
Screen magnification software is helpful for many, but will not benefit individuals with little to no usable vision. Screen reading software helps to fill this gap. This software provides access to on-screen information by converting text into synthesized speech. While the use of voice output is common, it’s also possible to access this information by connecting a refreshable Braille display to the computer. Unlike the text-to-speech option, the use of a Braille display allows users an opportunity to read the materials.
Text-to-speech technology can make printed materials accessible as well. Devices with optical character recognition (OCR) features allow the user to scan printed text, then hear the information relayed in a synthetic voice or save it to a computer. Traditionally, OCR systems were only able to read printed text; anything handwritten could not be converted to synthesized speech. This standard has been changed by Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which now includes a handwriting recognition feature.
According to a report by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB), Braille literacy has been on the decline in the United States. Despite this trend, Braille can still play an important role in the workplace. Providing materials in Braille can be greatly beneficial to employees who are proficient with this reading system. It can also be used in conjunction with other tools, such as text-to-speech software, as appropriate. Employers can work with companies providing transcription services to obtain Braille versions of necessary documents. It may also be possible to create alternative versions in-house with the use of Braille translation software and a Braille printer or embosser. In addition, Braille notetakers can be used for word processing, document storage, and web browsing. Many newer Braille displays have note-taking capabilities, but it is possible to purchase a notetaker as a standalone device if desired.
Adding Braille signage throughout the workplace may also be a beneficial accommodation. A Braille labeler can be used to help the employee organize and identify frequently used items in the workspace. It’s possible to purchase office products, like telephones, that feature Braille characters.
Of course, this is only a small sample of the accommodation ideas that may be useful for employees with low vision. The specific accommodation needs of an employee with a vision impairment should be assessed individually, and the employer should strive to find a solution that is most effective for that person. If you have questions about a particular workplace situation, feel free to contact JAN for an individualized consultation!
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Vision Impairments
JAN Product Listing for Vision Impairments
By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant – ADA Specialist
The flu epidemic is sweeping the U.S. this winter season. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), influenza-like illness is reported as widespread across all ten regions of the U.S., with the proportion of outpatient visits to healthcare providers reaching 7.1%, which is above the national baseline of 2.2% (CDC). Region 6 – Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, and region 2 – New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have been most impacted this season. Understanding that the flu often results in symptoms that make it difficult for employees to go to work, this epidemic not only has health implications, but can also affect business operations as a result of employee absenteeism and lost productivity.
The onset of the flu is typically abrupt and can be followed by symptoms like fever, severe body aches, chills, fatigue and weakness, sore throat, cough, headaches, and chest discomfort, among others. The illness rarely allows time for one to prepare to be unable to work for several days, but on-the-job is not the place to be with active flu symptoms. Symptoms improve for most people within in a few days, but it can take up to two weeks to recover for those who are more severely ill. According to the CDC, complications of the flu can also be life-threatening and result in death.
We all do it, right? We go to work when we’re not feeling our best because we have piles of work to complete, deadlines to meet, clients to serve, or because we just don’t want to disappoint management or colleagues by being out. Sometimes we believe the pros of presence and being semi-productive outweigh the cons of falling behind or sharing with others whatever ailment has us down. However, when that fever spikes, we begin to recognize that the decision to go to work was maybe not well made. Employees who work while they are sick, particularly with influenza-like illness, can exacerbate the flu epidemic by spreading the illness throughout the workplace.
The modern workplace tends to take the shape of what we all know as “cube farms,” or open areas where employees work closely seated, without walls, often sharing common workstation equipment. Also, creative spaces are available where ideas incubate over employer-provided snacks and team building games. It’s likely that with all of this shared space and equipment, it’s not just ideas that are incubating in these spaces — cold and flu viruses thrive there too.
In an effort to reduce the spread of illness and improve employee attendance and productivity, employers may benefit from implementing pro-active solutions, accommodations if you will, to help keep the flu virus at bay. Consider some of these practical tips:
- Disinfect regularly. We’re not just talking about coordinated cleaning of restrooms by the cleaning staff. Germs lurk in the most unsuspecting places. During cold and flu season, everyone can do their part to wipe down communal work surfaces, keyboards, mice, telephones, touch screens, chair arms, elevator buttons, breakroom appliances and food prep areas, copiers, printers, faucets, door handles, and so on. Consider implementing a policy or practice of having employees wipe-down their shared workstation after use. A supply of these germ fighting wipes can be made available for all employees to use.
- Encourage sanitary behavior. Post signs in restrooms and food preparation areas encouraging employees to fight the flu and cold season with their own hands, literally, by washing their hands and using antibacterial hand sanitizer. The restrooms and food preparation areas can be stocked with antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. Also, remind employees to cover their cough, provide tissues, and encourage good hygiene. Employees who wish to could be permitted to wear a mask or gloves to avoid exposure to cold and flu viruses.
- Make it OK to stay home when the flu strikes. Create a workplace culture that discourages employees from attending work when sick and allows the opportunity to use an appropriate amount of leave to get well, without repercussions. Limiting the number of employees with cold and flu viruses in the workplace should decrease the likelihood of widespread illness. CDC recommends that people stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- Don’t hold hands. Levy a campaign for employees to avoid shaking hands during cold and flu season, in favor of a friendly fist-bump or wave hello. In all seriousness, employees might be encouraged to reduce the spread of germs by keeping their distance and using other appropriate greetings.
- Don’t meet for the sake of meeting. Sometimes group meetings are unnecessary and the work that must be accomplished can be done so in an alternative way. Cold and flu season is an opportune time to prevent the spread of illness by limiting the number of meetings held, holding meetings of shorter duration and limited attendance, or meeting via conference call or an online video meeting service.
- Be flexible. Some employees (with improved symptoms) may be able to complete job-related tasks at home, or in an alternate location (e.g., private work area), for a temporary period. Be flexible and consider modifying a policy concerning where work is performed to allow telework, or a workstation change, when reasonable.
- Be a partner in good health. Provide information to employees about flu vaccination. Implement flexible leave policies that allow employees time away from work to be vaccinated in the community. Or, host a flu vaccination clinic in the workplace. CDC recommends flu vaccination as the first step against fighting the flu.
These pro-active solutions may help improve attendance and productivity during cold and flu season, and may make the workplace a little safer for everyone. Taking part in the effort to fight the flu benefits workplaces and our communities. For more information about these types of workplace accommodations, contact JAN for assistance.
By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant – Sensory Team
As the Lead Consultant on the JAN Sensory Team, I receive many questions about hearing aids and telephone headsets. One common issue with these type of questions is that there are many different types of hearing aids, as well as numerous models of headsets. Some hearing aids can work with specialized types of headsets, but in many cases, it is necessary to think outside the box and find a solution when there isn’t easy compatibility.
When seeking a hearing aid compatible headset, it may be necessary to clarify the features of the hearing aid that will be used, in relation to the type of headset features that provide the greatest compatibility. The assistance of an audiologist may be helpful in determining whether a specific type of equipment configuration will meet an individual’s needs.
For those with Bluetooth enabled hearing devices — whether hearing aids or cochlear implants — a typical approach is not to seek a Bluetooth headset, but instead connect to the phone in such a way that the sound from the phone is sent wirelessly into the hearing aid or cochlear implant to be amplified according to the treating audiologist’s chosen settings. This approach requires a Bluetooth streaming device that connects to the hearing aid or implant (via Bluetooth), and a telephone accessory or adaptor to connect the streaming device to the phone. The streaming device usually has a built-in microphone so that it can pick up the sound of the user’s voice and send it to the phone via an accessory or adaptor. It also receives sound and sends it wirelessly to the user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. An example of such a product from Oticon is the ConnectLine.
An audiologist, otolaryngologist, or hearing device vendor may be helpful in determining the best type of streaming device to use, since not all streamers are compatible with all Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. Due to recent changes in regulations, it is now possible to purchase some types of hearing aids over the counter. This means that more hearing aid users may be limited in their access to an audiologist. However, it may be possible to get input from a hearing services professional via a telephone helpline or manufacturer’s website. These same professionals may be helpful in determining the best means of phone access for a particular individual, which in some cases may involve other technology instead of, or in addition to, technology to access the Bluetooth features of a hearing device. In some cases, a smartphone with a mobile app may substitute for the streaming device.
As an alternative accommodation example, a non-Bluetooth enabled phone can be adapted using a Bluetooth streamer such as the Plantronics MDA200 with a SSP-2714-01 Bluetooth Dongle to connect the streamer to a desk phone. Some users may also prefer to use a handset lifter, such as the Plantronics HL10 Handset Lifter in order to answer the phone from a distance. These Plantronics products are but some of many examples of assistive technologies that may be beneficial in accommodating sensory impairments. JAN does not endorse or recommend products or vendors, but offers options that may facilitate an effective accommodation.
Not all hearing aids have Bluetooth capability; some use a different technology. One such alternative technology is the telecoil or t-coil, which also receives sound signals wirelessly. Some headsets designated as “hearing aid compatible” by manufacturers and vendors are compatible with hearing aids that have a telecoil, but are not compatible with Bluetooth enabled hearing aids, or those that have neither telecoils nor Bluetooth chips.
Some individuals may have been instructed by an audiologist to use their hearing aids in microphone mode (as opposed to t-coil or Bluetooth) with a headset. This may be because of the specific type of hearing aid they are using. When this is necessary, some individuals find it helpful to use a speakerphone or a high-quality headset with large ear cups and lots of padding, and perhaps other features designed to block ambient sound.
For more detailed assistance with these types of workplace accommodation questions, contact JAN for one-on-one support.
Noise Cancelling Headsets
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Hearing Loss
Hearing Impairments – Frequently Requested Products
By: Brittany Lambert, Consultant – Sensory and Cognitive/Neurological Teams
The consultants on JAN’s sensory team frequently field questions regarding allergies and respiratory impairments. One common trigger for allergic reactions and respiratory distress is exposure to mold. Many employers are unsure of the appropriate steps to take upon learning that an employee has a sensitivity to mold. Is this an ADA issue? What accommodation options should be considered? These are just a couple of the questions employers may have while navigating the interactive process with an employee who is sensitive to mold.
What exactly is mold? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several thousand species of fungi that are classified as molds. Some of the most common species of molds include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, and Aspergillus. Mold spores are present virtually everywhere, but mold growth is particularly plentiful in warm places with lots of moisture and humidity. Buildings that have been subjected to water damage are especially prone to mold growth.
Many employers who contact JAN are unsure whether mold sensitivity is considered a disability under the ADA. The ADA does not include a list of medical conditions that are considered disabilities. Rather, it contains a general definition of disability. Under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
In order to fall under the ADA’s protection, an individual must meet this definition. JAN provides additional guidance that may assist employers in making this determination.
The health consequences of mold exposure will vary from person to person. This means some individuals with mold sensitivity will meet the ADA’s definition of disability, and some will not. For those with relatively healthy immune systems, symptoms of exposure may be mild. The CDC states that the most common symptoms include nasal stuffiness, wheezing, coughing, and irritation to the eyes or skin. People who have respiratory impairments, mold allergies, or compromised immune systems may experience more severe symptoms. Individuals with asthma may be at increased risk for an asthma attack when exposed to mold. According to the Mayo Clinic, those with compromised immune systems may develop an allergic reaction or infection in the lungs after contact with Aspergillus spores. This disease, known as aspergillosis, can become very serious if the infection enters the blood vessels.
How can employers accommodate employees with mold sensitivity? Exposure to mold should be eliminated or reduced whenever possible. Mold remediation can be a good place to start. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance on this process in its 2008 publication entitled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. If the employer chooses to continue operations during the cleanup, it may be appropriate to move the employee to another location, or allow the employee to telework until the mold has been removed. Temporary job restructuring, as well as leave time, may also be effective.
After remediation has occurred, the employer should take appropriate steps to prevent future mold growth. It is critical to identify and address sources of moisture within the workplace. Installing a dehumidifier can help to eliminate excess moisture in the air. An air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter may reduce the spread of allergens by trapping airborne mold spores. It can also be beneficial to consult with a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist to ensure optimum air quality within the building. You can find an industrial hygienist in your area by using the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s Consultants Listing resource.
Masks can sometimes be an effective solution, but employers should consider this option carefully. While masks may work well for some employees, they pose significant concerns for others. Depending on the individual and the medical condition involved, masks may be contraindicated. We generally advise employees to consult with a medical provider to determine what options may be safe to use. Not all masks are created equal, and it’s important to choose an option that is designed to filter the irritant in question. Some employees may be uncomfortable with wearing a mask because it will be visible to others in the workplace. To avoid coercing employees into disclosing that they are receiving an accommodation, employers should not insist that employees use a mask unless an employee wishes to do so voluntarily. Employers should consider these factors when examining the effectiveness of this accommodation option.
It may be necessary to provide accommodations that allow the employee to manage symptoms if exposure does occur. The employee may benefit from additional breaks to use medication or get fresh air. A flexible schedule, including intermittent leave as needed, may also be effective.
Dealing with workplace mold can be challenging, but appropriate accommodations may help to ensure the safety, well-being, and productivity of employees. If you have further questions, feel free to contact JAN for an individualized consultation.
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Environmental Illness (EI)
Accommodation and Compliance Series: Respiratory Impairment
Searchable Online Accommodation Resource: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
By: Lou Orslene – JAN Co-Director
On November 2nd and 3rd, hundreds of people from around the world gathered at the Second Harkin Summit on Global Disability Employment to listen, network, and discuss the continuing employment challenges faced by people with disabilities, as well as to share the many inclusionary promising policies and practices initiated by policy makers, employers, and organizations supporting the aspirations of people with disabilities. We should all be very grateful to retired Senator Tom Harkin for continuing his passion to ensure the independence of people with disabilities through employment. This event enabled various constituencies who are passionate about this topic to convene and set a goal of substantially increasing the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities worldwide over the next ten years. While the challenges and models being developed internationally are important to us all, I have chosen to speak primarily to our domestic issues.
On the demand side, many private and public sector employers (EY, Merck, MicroSoft, J.P Morgan Chase, Scotiabank, Comcast, Walmart, New York City’s Office of the Mayor) known for their inclusive workplaces and for hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities discussed their internal and external challenges. Examples of some of the challenges faced by these employers included: educating risk aversive lawyers about inclusion; understanding the value of various service providers for people with disabilities; circumventing the limitations of a placement-focused employment model; creating a process and culture where applicants and candidates with disabilities are comfortable disclosing; and the perennial question of where to source highly qualified candidates for specialized jobs. One thing I heard clearly is that employer needs are quite varied. The company’s size, culture, leadership, and hiring needs are determinates in moving the enterprise forward along the inclusion continuum. This also has implications for replicating successful practices – what may work for one employer may not easily be adapted for another employer.
On the supply side, an increased number of young people with disabilities are earning advanced degrees and graduating with the skills and knowledge needed for employment. However, transitioning from school to work is particularly challenging for many young people with disabilities who may not have the soft skills expected by employers. Others may have such low expectations of themselves that work seems unachievable. While these barriers are significant for young people transitioning to work from college or university, transitioning young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities also face difficulties. The transition from sheltered workshops to competitive employment has been and continues to be a challenge. More choices need to be available for people with intellectual disabilities. New models need to be developed and programs known for their promising results need to be expanded.
Demand side solutions proposed at the Summit included educating and partnering with company lawyers thereby creating greater confidence in the disclosure and self-identification process. Across departments and sectors, ensuring everyone in the company understands the value proposition of hiring and retaining people with disabilities should be prioritized. There was much talk too about how technology will continue to level the playing field. Accessibility builds inclusion was the mantra. One consistent message permeated the Summit – government is important for creating solutions. Strengthening of the ADA and requiring Federal contractors to hire and retain people with disabilities have been and are expected to continue to be important to increasing the employment of people with disabilities. We also heard from state and local public sector employers exploring special hiring authorities such as the Federal government’s Schedule A program. This as well as other Federal initiatives are resulting in increasing the number of people in Federal service. And, from the conversations at the Summit, it may be time for expansion of successful existing employer-driven models such as Project Search and the Going for the Gold Program or even the creation of a new disability employment model evolving out of the talent needs of employers. Finally, there were conversations about developing a workgroup to analyze incentives for employing people – while these have had limited success in the past, it seemed important for participants to continue exploring the relevance of specific incentives.
On the supply side, I was heartened to hear of the World Institute on Disability’s (WID) Employment and Economic Empowerment E3 online resource, which addresses “often overlooked roadblocks to full inclusion and equity,” including the low expectations young people have of themselves. Empowerment was a central theme of the discussions about preparing young people for the workplace. This came through loudly during a panel featuring stories by a number of young people. The approach they suggested was to empower youth to ensure they know they fit in. These young leaders shared with other young people that they will face challenges, but it is essential to be resilient, creative, and innovative. Important to this approach also is educating those in the rehabilitation system, as well as employers, about the value young people with disabilities bring to the workplace. These presenters suggested that employers should be guided by respect for diversity and strive to create a sense of belonging for employees. In addition to WID E3, leaders from Specialisterne discussed their knowledge of matching individuals with autism spectrum disorders with employment opportunities.
The Summit also included a number of foundations committed to moving the field of disability and employment forward. The Kessler Foundation’s 2017 National Employment & Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives; the Poses Family Foundation’s The Workforce Initiative, and the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Inclusion Summit participated in the Summit. The Ford Foundation, pushing fast and furious into this area with the help of Senior Fellow Judy Heumann, was represented by the Foundation’s President, Darren Walker.
The Summit ended with Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group. One thing came through loud and clear during Dr. Kim’s discussion with Senator Harkin – while we need to overcome the historic challenges we all have recognized for decades, we also need to be cognizant of the future threat of automation and the impact this will have on employment. It is expected as rate of automation increases low skill and entry level positions will disappear. Dr. Kim suggested that we stay tuned to the World Bank’s soon to be released environmental and social framework strongly correlating government spending on health and education with economic growth. World Bank research suggests that improving health is now known to be the biggest determinant of economic growth. Preliminary data on this is overwhelming. The message is invest in people first, make sure it is an inclusive process, and then this will create growth.
A big thanks goes out to Joseph Jones, Executive Director, The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement; Andy Imparato, Executive Director, Association of University Centers on Disabilities; and their teams for organizing this event. A special thanks also to all of the other leaders who moderated sessions.
We look forward to supporting and playing a part in the Harkin Summit goal of doubling the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities in the United States in the next 10 years through our work at JAN.
Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
ADHD Awareness Month is celebrated annually to help improve the lives of those living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The theme for 2017, Knowing Better: ADHD Across the Life Span, highlights how individuals are affected at all stages of their lives. Focusing on the life span means being aware of the effects of ADHD at different times of life. It’s better for parents to know that ADHD might be part of the picture so they can seek out the help their child might need. It’s better for young adults to know so they might arrange for appropriate accommodations in school or the workplace. Lastly, it’s better for adults at any stage to recognize their ADHD so they can take proactive steps in their life and won’t be faced with underachievement and frustration.
ADHD is defined as, “a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting both children and adults. It is described as a ‘persistent’ or on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development. Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function (or the brain’s ability to begin an activity, organize itself and manage tasks) and working memory.”
Over 17 million Americans are affected by ADHD. At JAN, we consult daily with numerous people in a variety of situations to help employees with ADHD become more successful and productive in the workplace. We can help answer questions and guide individuals through the accommodation process that often begins with the application and interview stages, and may continue throughout the employment cycle.
Here are a few sample situations and solutions:
Situation: Stephen is a job applicant with questions about accommodations that might be needed while taking an employment test.
Solution: We spoke to him about what is required in a disclosure when requesting accommodations. Stephen wanted to request a private room in which to take a test instead of with multiple other applicants in a larger, more distracting room.
Situation: Tony is an attorney who contacted JAN for assistance with accommodations that could be put into place to help him with organization, prioritization, and task completion. He wasn’t sure what to ask for, or how.
Solution: As we walked Tony through the accommodation process, we got more details about the tasks he had the most difficulty with. Between Tony and the consultant, many practical accommodation ideas were formulated. Obtaining a mentor to help with prioritizing; color-coding daily, weekly, and monthly calendars; and working on more difficult tasks when he has the most mental acuity were just a few of the ideas he felt could work for him.
Situation: Hector is an employee who just disclosed his disability to his supervisor after a written warning, and is asking how best to show his supervisor that ADHD is real.
Solution: A JAN employment specialist explained the need for medical documentation not only to verify his medical condition, but also to substantiate the need for the accommodations he would be requesting.
Situation: Suzette is a reporter with the skills to do a phenomenal job, but struggles with distractions in the midst of a crowded, busy, and noisy newsroom. Her employer contacted JAN with concerns after Suzette asked to work from home when faced with strict deadlines.
Solution: Suzette’s employer was concerned about her isolation from her co-workers as well as from the downtown area where most of the news occurred. A trial accommodation of telework was discussed. The employer felt it was worth trying, contingent upon Suzette’s ability to get to the scene of breaking news quickly.
See JAN publications on ADHD and Executive Functioning for further accommodation ideas. Contact us directly for one-on-one assistance.
National Institute of Mental Health – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder Association – ADHD: The Facts
By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist – Survivor
It’s October again. For many people, October is a time for pumpkin spice everything, watching football, feeling the warmth of a cozy sweatshirt, and enjoying the colors of fall as the leaves change to red, orange, and yellow. These are the traditional colors of fall, but pink is another color we see a lot of this time of year – because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This time each year, my thoughts lead to personal reflection because five years ago, in October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. As you might expect, the news was not anticipated. I was immediately faced with making decisions about surgery and treatment, and also, understanding what, if any, impact the diagnosis might have on my future.
One worry I did not have at that time, was how my employer would react to the news of my diagnosis. Being part of the JAN family, there is comfort in knowing that my employer values what I bring to the table and is willing to support me to be successful at work, and in life. Unfortunately, many people who face a breast cancer diagnosis are not so fortunate – their thoughts quickly turn to wondering if they will be able to continue working, if they can take time off for treatment, and if their employer will look for a way to let them go simply because they have cancer. Amidst the worry of survival, one should not also have to worry about livelihood, but this is a reality for many.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States; this includes people still being treated and those who have completed treatment. Many survivors find that continuing to work through cancer treatment aids in their recovery. Based on my personal experience, I agree with this notion. Ability to work during treatment can be influenced by the type of treatment received (e.g., chemo, radiation, etc.), the stage of cancer, the individual’s overall wellbeing, and the kind of work the individual does. The availability and effectiveness of workplace supports, also known as job accommodations, can also significantly impact a survivor’s ability to continue working. Being supported in the workplace makes it easier to remember who you are, apart from the cancer. It allows you to continue contributing at work and get on with living.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that are needed because of limitations caused by cancer, the side effects of medication or treatment for cancer, or both. The objective in providing accommodations is to make adjustments that enable an employee to perform essential job duties, or access benefits and privileges of employment. Accommodations that are commonly requested by employees with breast cancer, such as a modified/flexible schedule, ergonomic equipment, and telework, are also workplace supports that many employers make available to all employees, for reasons that are unrelated to disability – often to achieve a healthy balance between managing life and work. These adjustments not only benefit employees with cancer, but benefit employers as well, by increasing employee presence and leading to less worry about when and how work will be completed.
In my own experience, I took a couple days of leave for surgery and was able to schedule all cancer treatments to occur before my work day started, but my employer allowed me the flexibility to modify my schedule, if needed. Remember though, each individual’s accommodation needs will be different and will sometimes depend on access to treatment and the effects of treatment. I had access to medical care where I lived and worked, which made it easier for me to seek treatment outside of my work schedule. Not everyone is this fortunate. Some employees may need to flex their arrival/departure time to receive treatment, make-up time missed, schedule longer days to work a shortened work week, telework while recovering, or use accrued or unpaid leave in order to travel to receive treatment. These and other types of adjustments can positively impact health outcomes by freeing individuals from the worry of choosing when and how to obtain treatment in order to stay employed.
Local and systemic breast cancer treatments can cause short and long-term side effects that can impact performance of job duties, for some people, but not all. These effects can include: nausea and vomiting; fatigue and weakness; loss of appetite; skin irritations; loss of hair; lymphedema; pain and numbness; temperature sensitivity; diarrhea; and difficulty with memory and concentration (e.g., “chemo brain”). Many of these limitations can easily be accommodated in the workplace. Accommodations for employees with breast cancer range widely, but some examples include:
- Working a flexible/modified schedule or making-up time missed for treatment, appointments, etc.
- Working a reduced/part-time schedule or changing a shift
- Using accrued paid leave, or unpaid leave under the ADA and/or federal and state leave laws, and modifying an attendance policy to allow disability-related absences
- Parking closer to the work-site
- Working from home, as-needed, or on a regular basis
- Modifying a dress code to allow wearing a scarf, hat, unrestrictive clothing
- Reducing visual and auditory distractions
- Taking breaks for mental and physical fatigue
- Restructuring a job so the most difficult tasks are performed at the time of day the employee has the most mental and/or physical energy or stamina
- Designating uninterrupted time for tasks that require significant concentration
- Using ergonomic equipment to accommodate tightness or pain in the upper region of the body
- Modifying work-site temperature
Researchers continue to search for ways to prevent, treat, and cure breast cancer. We’re reminded every October of the ongoing race to save lives. With employer support, open communication about performance expectations and accommodations, and good planning, employees with breast cancer can be better equipped for survival and success at work and in life. JAN can support employers and survivors in this effort by offering ADA technical assistance and accommodation guidance. For general information about cancer, accommodations, and the ADA, see JAN’s website for Accommodation Ideas for Cancer, or contact us for individualized consultation.
American Cancer Society – Breast Cancer
National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health – Breast Cancer
By: Benjamin Levi, Employment Specialist
I have recently started working in the disability field assisting individuals with diverse limitations who are trying to acquire workplace accommodations. In the few short months I’ve been working in this field, I have come to realize that people often make assumptions about a person’s disability — some minimizing the effects and some overestimating the severity. Either way, making assumptions about someone’s disability can have a negative impact in the workplace. It can make an employee feel like he or she is not part of the team or not respected as an individual. It can also interfere with providing effective accommodations because these are based on an employee’s actual limitations, not assumptions. Why does this happen? It may be a lack of knowledge, experience, or that an employer is worried about the bottom line despite low cost of accommodation data. Instead of providing the minimum accommodation needed, if an employer focuses on the tools an employee actually needs to be successful, this leads to better productivity outcomes for both the employer and employee.
How can employers overcome this tendency to make assumptions about employees with disabilities? Listen to the individual. Provide disability awareness training for both employees and supervisors in some capacity so that everyone will be more aware of the range of conditions employees may experience in the workplace. Every employee with a disability is unique and should be treated that way. JAN provides resources on disability awareness that can be used for training purposes, or you can contact us directly for more specific resources.
Employees should feel a sense of relief, not anxiety, when engaging with their employer in an interactive process to determine effective and reasonable accommodations. The JAN publication The Interactive Process – JAN’s Effective Accommodation Practices Series provides step-by-step guidance so that employers and employees together can identify accommodations that will be successful and contribute to an inclusive workplace community.
All employees and supervisors share the responsibility in creating an inclusive work environment. Whether it is the employee’s first day on the job, or an extended tenure, there is always a way to become more aware. The JAN Workplace Accommodation Toolkit provides many resources to assist in developing a disability-inclusive and compliant workplace.
Inclusion can provide a healthy workplace environment for all employees and contribute to the success of any organization. More awareness and fewer assumptions can make a huge difference. If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, please feel free to reach out to us!