Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - August 2004

Volume 2, Number 2


This e-newsletter from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Workplace Accommodations is an update on our research, project activities, and resources of interest. The Work RERC is a NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center that identifies, develops and promotes new assistive and universally designed technologies that maximize independence and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. More information about the Work RERC can be found at our website,


Share Your Opinions About Workplace Technology, Products and Services for People with Disabilities

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Workplace Accommodations is conducting a consumer survey on workplace technology, products and services for people with disabilities. If you are a person with a disability who uses or has used assistive technology products or services in the workplace, we want you to join our Consumer Advisory Network (CAN). Once you join the CAN , you can participate in our online survey.

To participate in the survey, go to and follow the link "Participate in a Survey of User Needs" under the "Highlights" section.

Become a member of the CAN to provide feedback on existing products and services, future needs, and evaluation of new designs related to workplace accommodations. Your participation in the survey will provide a consumer perspective on workplace products and services, future needs and evaluations of new designs and technologies to make workplaces more accessible to people with disabilities.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this important project. Contact us if you have any questions about the survey or your participation. You may reach us by email at or call John Goldthwaite, toll-free, at 1-800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).


Industrial Design Curriculum Survey

Research in the form of a national survey and follow-up phone interviews is being completed to identify how universal design and/or assistive technology principles are included in industrial design programs across the United States and needs for training resources.

Supine Workstation

Every year, millions of people suffer from low back pain (LBP). For many, the condition is chronic and impacts their ability to find and maintain gainful employment. While workers with persistent LBP are often unable to perform labor-intensive tasks, they may be able to sustain employment in sedentary occupations, such as a video display terminal (VDT) operator. However, many VDT-based occupations may exacerbate their condition by requiring the operator to be seated for several hours at a time with only a few minutes rest. Relief from LBP often requires lying down on one's back (supine), in order to reduce the pressure on the lower spine.

The Supine Workstation Project of the Workplace RERC has submitted abstracts for review by two upcoming conferences (ATIA in January '05 and Applied Ergonomics in March '05). The proposed sessions will present existing computer workstations designed to allow a person to work from a reclined or supine position. Comparisons will be made based on the basic structure, capacity, and cost of the units. The benefits and drawbacks of each system, as a means to accommodate a person with LBP in an office environment, will be discussed. Current development efforts to improve on existing designs will also be described.

Coming Attractions from the July/August Issue of Workplace Accommodations Policy Highlights

In July, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) released summary data from its 2004 NOD/Harris Survey of Americans with Disabilities. According to the survey, 35 percent of survey respondents with disabilities who reported being employed full or part time, an increase from 32 percent in 2000. The findings were released in conjunction with a report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Annual Report on the Federal Workforce for fiscal year (FY) 2003. The EEOC report also found that the number of persons with disabilities employed by the federal government dropped by 19.8 percent since FY 1994.

President Bush signed an Executive Order on Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness, which requires that government agencies create emergency preparedness plans factoring in the needs of employees and customers with disabilities. The Order also creates the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities to coordinate this effort.

The U.S. Access Board published long-awaited design guidelines for facilities covered by the ADA and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). The consistent guidelines provided in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities will aid the federal government and other employers when constructing new facilities and remodeling existing structures to meet the needs of all employees, including those with disabilities.

To read more about these and other important issues related to employment, disability and workplace accommodations, read our "Workplace Accommodations Policy Highlights" at

Recent Staff Presentations on Workplace Accommodations

On August 18, Hunter Ramseur made a presentation in Atlanta, Georgia, to the Hartford Rehabilitation and Claims Department on assistive technology and work-related accommodations.

On August 19, Hunter Ramseur provided the keynote address for graduates of the computer skills class at the Harriett Darnell Senior Multipurpose Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He spoke about "Advancements in Assistive Technology That Empower Older Americans."

The National Council on Disability (NCD) celebrated the 14th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 20th anniversary of NCD as an independent federal agency at an invitation-only event on Saturday, July 24, 2004, at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The program included a musical performance by RERC staff member Hunter Ramseur and Scott McCall To view Hunter's performance, go to the Kennedy Center archive and look under the July 24th performances. You'll need Real Player to listen to it. The link is


Join the Work RERC on-line discussion group at

The Work RERC has an on-line discussion group on workplace accommodations, policy issues regarding employees with disabilities, and accessible design. The discussion group serves as a forum to ask our staff questions about specific issues and share resources. In addition, periodically we will moderate discussions on various topics related to workplace policy or accommodation services. The discussion is conducted via e-mail. To join the group, send a blank e-mail to with "subscribe workaccommodations" in the SUBJECT line.

Join our Consumer or Rehab Professional Advisory Networks!

The RERC is looking for employees with disabilities and rehabilitation practitioners to participate in future surveys and perhaps interview/focus groups on workplace accommodations. Sign up via our on-line forms:


American Foundation for the Blind Relaunches AccessWorld
The American Foundation for the Blind's (AFB) technology publication, AccessWorld(r): Technology and People with Visual Impairments, was relaunched as a free, web-based magazine at AccessWorld(r) offers in-depth coverage of assistive technology, while adding new, accessible features such as "e-mail this article to a friend" and "printer-ready" options. In addition, readers who are blind or visually impaired now have access to "braille embosser-ready" files that are translated and formatted to be sent directly to braille printers. Issues dating back to January 2000 are available online.

AFB Website Updated
The American Foundation of the Blind (AFB) has redesigned and updated their web site to include: a Glossary of Eye Conditions; resources for parents, educators and other professionals; etiquette tips for friends and co-workers; a list of resources organized by state/province for the US and Canada, and a searchable database of AT products, including children's toys. The Employment section includes information on workplace accommodations strategies, statistics and using AT. Visit the AFB web site at

Assistive Technology Database
Visit the web site at This global assistive technology explorer is a resource for assistive technology (AT) products and a link to a wide variety of AT and disability-related information. The searchable database is designed to help you target solutions, determine costs and link to vendors that sell AT products.

Workplace RERC Resources Web Page
The RERC web site has links to useful resources related to disability and workplace accommodations. Go to Search our database or suggest your own links to add.



International Facility Management Association (IFMA) World Workplace Conference
Workplace Accessibility: It's More Than Just Getting in the Building Presenters: Karen Milchus and Jon Sanford
October 19, 2004
Salt Lake City, UT
Today's workplace includes increasing numbers of people with disabilities and seniors, both of whom may need accommodations made to their workplace in order for them to be productive at work. Examples of accommodations may include a powered door opener, a rearrangement of office furniture, an ergonomic chair, an amplified telephone, or a Braille printer. The Americans with Disabilities Act describes specific design guidelines to make public facilities accessible to people with disabilities. But what should be done when a specific employee needs the workplace to be made more accessible? This session will discuss the legislative considerations when making accommodations, the process for determining what is needed, and resources to help implement these accommodations. The session will use case studies along with the personal experiences of the participants.

26th Annual Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Research Conference
October 28-30, 2004
Atlanta, GA
Paul M.A. Baker, Workplace Accommodations RERC and Wireless RERC, and Jon Sanford, Workplace Accommodations RERC and Wheeled Mobility RERC, will participate in a panel on "Information, Communication and Technology Policy for People with Disabilities: Designing Approaches to Reduce Access Barriers." Baker will moderate the panel and present a paper, "New Policy Tools: Using Policy Delphi Method to Craft Disability Policy to Increase Access to Wireless/Communication Devices." Jon Sanford will serve as a panelist.


This is a publication of the RERC on Workplace Accommodations, which is supported by Grant H133E020720 of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education. The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.

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