Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - November/December 2004

Volume 2, Number 4


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,


AT Act of 2004 Receives Presidential Approval -
Improved access to assistive technology for individuals with disabilities was the primary goal of the authors of the Assistive Technology Act of 2004 (AT Act) [H.R. 4278], which was signed into law by President Bush on October 25, 2004. The bill makes states responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of their AT programs and explaining how they will use their AT grants to foster development in areas such as employment for persons with disabilities.

UPS Faces Class Action Lawsuit for Intentional Disability Discrimination -
In judicial news, a class action lawsuit has been filed in Pittsburgh against United Parcel Service (UPS), alleging that the company's policy of requiring a "full" medical release without restrictions in order to return to work violates the ADA. This is the second disability-related class action suit brought against UPS in the past year.

To read more about these and other important issues related to employment, disability and workplace accommodations, use one of the links below to the September/October issue of "Workplace Accommodations Policy Highlights."
HTML format -
PDF format -


AudioMORPH (Adapted Graphical Interface for Users with Visual Impairments) Project: Development of software that provides auditory access to computer applications without requiring outside professional customization.

The goal of the AudioMORPH project is to develop software to automate the customization of screen reader software, JAWS in particular, for proprietary software. Screen readers are used in the workplace to provide access to computer graphical user interfaces for users with visual impairments. For the screen reader to work optimally with most applications, some customization is needed. Generally these screen readers come adapted for use with commonly used software such as Microsoft Word, Lotus Notes, and other applications. Project staff Melody Moore and Dan Ratanasit have completed a literature review entitled, "Representing Graphical Interfaces with Sound: A Survey of Approaches", which has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. In addition, their paper "AudioMORPH: A Tool To Support The Conversion Of Graphical User Interfaces Into Auditory Interfaces" has been accepted for presentation at CSUN's 20th Annual International Conference, "Technology and Persons with Disabilities" in Los Angeles, CA, on March 14-19, 2005.

The literature review revealed that even though several different approaches have been taken to convert graphical user interfaces into auditory ones, the serial nature of sound was not thoroughly addressed. Translating a visual interface involves more than reading aloud the names of objects on the screen. It includes translating information presented in a two-dimensional manner into a linear, one-dimensional format. Some information that depends on spatial semantics, such as information organized in a table, may be lost to the user.

Our aim is to create a system that will allow a domain expert (such as a non-technical co-worker, rather than a programmer) to assist an employee with a visual impairment in customizing the interface and creating an auditory representation. We also hope to enable the employee to customize his/her own auditory interface once the base system is established.

For more Information, contact:
Project Director - Melody Moore at
Co-Investigator - Dan Ratanasit at
Located at the Georgia State University Brainlab


Is anyone out there laying down on the job?

The Workplace RERC is conducting a research study on the benefits and prevalence of computer workstations specifically designed to allow user access from a significantly reclined or supine position. Our product search has revealed a number of products that are currently available on the market, and we would like to learn about the application and effectiveness of these as well as other custom designs that have been developed over the years. Anyone who has experience working with, prescribing, or designing reclining/supine computer workstations and would like to participate in a 30-minute telephone survey, please contact Scott Haynes at or through our toll free number at 800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).

Join the RERC on-line discussion group on workplace accommodations for persons with disabilities 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 Advisory Network!

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:


Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2005 Conference & Exhibition
January 19-22, 2005
Orlando, FL
Visit the CATEA exhibit to learn more about our projects, and join us for the following educational sessions.

Other Upcoming Staff Presentations:

American Soc. on Aging / National Council on the Aging Conference
"The Changing Face of Aging in the Workplace"
March 10-13, 2005 in Philadelphia, PA

CSUN's, "Technology and Persons with Disabilities" Conference
March 14-19, 2005 in Los Angeles, CA
- Workplace Accommodations
- Workplace Accommodations and ADA Title I: Policy and the Metrics of "Reasonable"
- Web-Based Continuing Education On Workplace Accommodations
- AudioMORPH: A Tool To Support The Conversion Of Graphical User Interfaces Into Auditory Interfaces

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.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has developed a web site to educate young workers about their employment rights and responsibilities. Various types of discrimination are discussed as well as an opportunity for users to test their knowledge about employment rights.
The Diversity World web site includes articles, resources and other information focused on advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Sign up for their free e-mail newsletters or visit their on-line store of products to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the workplace.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has developed a fact sheet called "Questions & Answers About Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act." This new fact sheet addresses such topics as:



Pulse Data HumanWare has developed a new low vision auto-reading device called myReader(TM) ( A significant breakthrough in adaptive reading technology, myReader is a compact, transportable device that turns reading into an easy and enjoyable task for many people with impaired vision, including age-related Macular Degeneration and other degenerative eye diseases. myReader's full page document capture makes automatic reading possible. With one touch of a button, myReader captures an image of whatever is on the viewing table and rearranges it to fit on the screen according to your preferences. When reading with myReader you only have to scroll in one direction - no longer are you required to move back and forth trying to find the last line you were reading. Once text is captured it can be presented according to your specific preference. Choose text to be presented as a neatly wrapped paragraph, as a continuous line, or one word at a time. The portable device can be used at home, work, or school. It plugs into a personal computer, which allows you to use the same computer screen for computer work and for reading.

For more information:
Pulse Data
Phone: 1-866-773-2337
Price $4,995

Cell Phone-Based Screen Readers (TALKS and MobileSpeak)

Until recently, cell phone users who are blind or have low vision have been unable to access feature-rich phones due to a lack of speech output. This has now changed because of two new screen reading products that work with Nokia cell phones. TALKS is produced by Brand & Grober Communications and is distributed by Beyond Sight. The second product, MobileSpeak, is produced by Code Factory and is distributed by Optelec. Both products provide text-to-speech access to most cell phone applications, including phone book, e-mail, text messaging, and status indicators. Neither program currently supports web browsing applications. In addition, neither program works during a phone call -- information stored on the cell phone, such as the calendar or contact information, can be accessed only between calls. Both screen readers are designed to work with Nokia's Symbian operating system, on select phones, and use the Eloquence speech synthesizer. Sighted assistance is required to install the software, but Beyond Sight will sell telephones with the software already installed, and Optelec will install the software for an additional charge. Each product costs about $300.

For more information:

"Now They're Talking! A Review of Two Cell Phone-Based Screen Readers", AccessWorld, November 2004 issue -
Beyond Sight (TALKS) -
Optelec (MobileSpeak) -

If you have questions about AT or other issues related to job accommodations, please contact the Work RERC staff at 1-800-726-9119 (voice/TTY) or by e-mail at

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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